TWO Teesdale peel towers within an arrow’s flight of one another are up for sale with a combined price tag for the two piles of about £10m.

Over the centuries, the cost of these towers has been considered so beyond the pale that it has even been raised in the House of Commons. The good news, though, is that with one of them, the purchaser will get a free “dobbie”, whether they like it or not.

A peel tower – some people write it “pele” – is a defensive structure, built by a lord who was worried by marauding Scots but not important enough to have his own castle. The tower acted as a look-out – a 1455 Act of Parliament ordered that all towers should have an iron basket on their tops for a fire or smoke signal to warn of invasion – and as a place of safety. In time of danger, the valuable livestock would be locked in the downstairs while the humans would climb a movable staircase, or ladder, and huddle on the first floor until the marauders had moved on.

The word “peel” ultimately comes from Latin “palus” meaning stake or fence. If someone is beyond the pale, they would have been left outside the fence when the Scots came attacking, and we still refer to a posh country house as a “pile” because it began life as a peel.

For sale in Teesdale are:

Thorpe Hall

THE hall sits at the top of the hill up from the Whorlton suspension bridge over the Tees – the road runs past the site of the deserted medieval village of Thorpe-on-Tees.

At the hall’s heart is a 13th Century peel tower built by the Wycliffe family. Its Palladian front was added by property speculator Christopher Wilkinson who bought it in 1743. His daughter, Elizabeth, married Sheldon Cradock, of Hartforth Hall, near Gilling West.

Their son, another Sheldon, was an MP at the time of the Great Reform Bill of 1832, but is more notable for dying unmarried in 1852 – yet he had 10 children by his mistress, Jane Wilson, who was 20 years his junior and lived at Marske, near Richmond. Their eldest son had entered Cambridge University as Christopher Wilson, his mother’s name, but it was as Christopher Cradock that he inherited the estates, and he sold Thorpe Hall to the Morritt family of nearby Rokeby Park.

The 20th Century wasn’t kind to Thorpe, and it ended it divided into nine flats and almost derelict.

Now, though, the peel tower is a 12 bedroom mansion, which has eight bathrooms, two shower rooms, and 85 acres, and is yours for £6m.

Mortham Tower

A MILE or so due west of Thorpe Hall is Mortham Tower. The original manor house here was burned to the ground in 1343 by rampaging Scots who also destroyed the villages of Rokeby and Mortham which were near the River Greta.

The Morton family had to build themselves a peel tower “two bow-shots” from their burned out home so they could keep an eye out for any future Scottish incursions: this was Mortham Tower.

The Morton heiress married into the Rokeby family, which enlarged the Tower, and, in 1610, it became home to the Robinsons, whose most famous son was Sir Thomas (1702-77). He was a man of great extravagance, great parties and a great love of fashionable architecture. Not content with having turned the Tower into a comfortable country residence, he built Rokeby Park nearby in the grand Palladian style.

With houses in London to live in and balls on a grand scale to attend to, Sir Thomas’ financial resources became so stretched that he accepted the post of Governor of Barbados. When he still couldn’t make ends meet, he was forced to sell the Mortham/Rokeby estate in 1769 to the Morritt family.

Two years later, the estate was ravaged by the biggest flood of the century. Enormous boulders swept down the Greta and knocked out Greta Bridge and then the Dairy Bridge below Mortham Tower.

Despite the widespread damage, this may have been a blessing in disguise because it released “the Mortham Dobby”.

“Dobby” is a word not previously encountered by Memories. Once, though, it was a fairly common term for a ghost. For example, the whole town of Barnard Castle is haunted by the “Briggy Dobbie”, who causes all sorts of spooky unpleasantness.

The Mortham Dobby was female. She was Lady Rokeby, murdered so that someone else could inherit Mortham, or shot in cold blood by robbers who came to plunder Mortham. Somewhere along the way, she lost her head, poor thing.

“She appeared dressed as a fine lady, with a piece of white silk trailing behind her, without her head but with many of its advantages, for she had long hair on her shoulders, and eyes, nose and mouth in her breast,” wrote someone who saw her a long, long time ago.

A vicar arrived one day and by talking Latin to the Mortham Dobby managed to confine her under the Dairy Bridge, so she could no longer walk freely around Mortham, spooking the visitors.

However, when the bridge was smashed down, the Mortham Dobby was released. Some sources say this was a good thing, as she was washed away, never to be seen again; other sources say this was a bad thing, because she was now free to haunt whoever she wished.

The picturesque nature of the countryside around Mortham attracted many early tourists – Prospect House, which is on Dairy Bridge above the meeting of the waters where the Greta joins the Tees, was in the late 18th Century a tea room to refresh the day-trippers.

The area’s fame increased at the beginning of the 19th Century when John Bacon Sawrey Morritt created a secluded cave in a cliff near Mortham Tower, complete with a stone table, in which the poet Sir Walter Scott soaked up inspiration and wrote the epic poem, Rokeby.

He described the countryside at Mortham as a “romantic variety of glen, torrent and copse”, and even wrote a chilling encounter with the Mortham Dobby into his poem.

It was published in 1813 and was soon top of the pops, attracting more visitors to Teesdale.

The artist John Sell Cotman visited and bathed beneath Greta Bridge; JMW Turner sketched the meeting of the waters at Mortham in 1816.

Despite this artistic interest, Mortham Towers became derelict towards the end of the 19th Century. It was completely restored in 1939, and in 2015, it was bought for £3.2m by William Morrison, head of the Bradford supermarket. That he paid £200,000 over the asking price was grist to the mill of the local MP, Helen Goodman, when she discovered that her constituents who worked for the supermarket were only £1.64-a-week better off due to changes in the Living Wage.

She told that House of Commons that the sale of Mortham “paints a picture of modern capitalism which is ugly and exploitative… there does seem to be something very Victorian about ‘The rich man in the castle, the poor man at his gate’.”

If only she’d said “the rich man in his peel tower…”

Mortham Tower is now a Grade I listed as it is regarded as “one of the best-preserved and most picturesque medieval fortified manor houses in the North of England”. The seven-bedroomed country house can be yours for about £3m. Mr Morrison may even say: “Buy one, get one dobby free.”

SIR THOMAS ROBINSON (1702-1777) was, for all his extravagance, a talented architect. His best known creation is probably the Auckland Castle clocktower which leads into the Bishop of Durham’s grounds from Bishop Auckland Market Place.

Overlooking Dairy Bridge is a dramatic property called Prospect House which clings to the side of the chasm through which the River Greta runs. In 1770, it was a tea room.

Sir Thomas headed a syndicate which, in 1741, developed Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea as the most fashionable pleasure gardens in all London – it is now the site of the Chelsea Flower Show. He built himself a home there, which we can assume was not inexpensive, and called it Prospect House.

ON our map, we have marked Thorpe Grange Farm, near the A66, which is believed to have a link to literature history. It was a farmhouse until its owner, Colonel S Cradock of Hartforth Hall, spotted how the coaching trade across the Pennines was growing and turned it into a hotel. As it was new, he called it The New Inn.

He then enticed George Martin, the well-regarded landlord of the Morritt Arms, in Greta Bridge, to come and run it. To advertise the hospitality a traveller could expect to receive from Mr Martin, it was renamed The George and New Inn.

It is believed that here Charles Dickens stayed on January 31, 1838, when he visited Bowes to research the boarding schools that became such an explosive feature of his novel, Nicholas Nickleby.

Dickens was impressed by Mr Martin’s hospitality for he posted a letter to his wife at The George and New saying it was “the very best inn I have ever been put up in”.