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Verity Relph

MA work

Title of Dissertation: The Medieval Tower-house Transformed: Gentry Housing in the English West March, 1540-1603

The fortified towers or ‘pele towers’ of the Anglo-Scottish border have generally been discussed in relation to the violent activities of the ‘reivers’ in the centuries leading up to the Union of the Crowns, and there has been little attempt to bring the region, its people and architecture into wider debates about the ‘age of transition’.

I set out to uncover what happened to these late medieval towers in the sixteenth century, to explore how members of the gentry adapted their existing strongholds to meet the demands of the modern age. Focusing on the English West March, which consisted of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, my dissertation argues that the alterations that were made shadowed cultural and architectural developments taking place throughout England at this time. However, it also points to the persistence of defensive features and local planning methods. Rather than dismissing these elements as anachronistic, it interprets them as a conscious choice on the part of owners and as articulations of a distinct regional identity.

One of my fundamental aims was to engage with these buildings first-hand, to try to understand what drove specific design decisions. I also employed probate inventories to explore how the spaces within them were experienced and thought about. Crucially, I wanted to think about these houses in relation to the men who remodelled them, to consider what their building work can tell us about their values and aspirations and about their relationship to their locality and their country at large.

Info

  • Verity Relph profile image
  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2013

  • Title of Dissertation: The Medieval Tower-house Transformed: Gentry Housing in the English West March, 1540-1603

    The fortified towers or ‘pele towers’ of the Anglo-Scottish border have generally been discussed in relation to the violent activities of the ‘reivers’ in the centuries leading up to the Union of the Crowns, and there has been little attempt to bring the region, its people and architecture into wider debates about the ‘age of transition’.

    I set out to uncover what happened to these late medieval towers in the sixteenth century, to explore how members of the gentry adapted their existing strongholds to meet the demands of the modern age. Focusing on the English West March, which consisted of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, my dissertation argues that the alterations that were made shadowed cultural and architectural developments taking place throughout England at this time. However, it also points to the persistence of defensive features and local planning methods. Rather than dismissing these elements as anachronistic, it interprets them as a conscious choice on the part of owners and as articulations of a distinct regional identity.

    One of my fundamental aims was to engage with these buildings first-hand, to try to understand what drove specific design decisions. I also employed probate inventories to explore how the spaces within them were experienced and thought about. Crucially, I wanted to think about these houses in relation to the men who remodelled them, to consider what their building work can tell us about their values and aspirations and about their relationship to their locality and their country at large.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History of Art, University of York, 2010
  • Experience

  • Volunteer, European Galleries Project, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013; Volunteer researcher, Fenton House, National Trust, London, 2012; Volunteer, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, 2011; Internship, Lyon and Turnbull Auctioneers, Edinburgh, 2011
  • Awards

  • Winner, Oliver Ford Trust Scholarship, Royal College of Art, 2011–13