Ancient Monuments

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Two bastles, an 18th century farmhouse and associated enclosures at Black Middings

A Scheduled Monument in Tarset, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.204 / 55°12'14"N

Longitude: -2.3576 / 2°21'27"W

OS Eastings: 377336.91979

OS Northings: 590028.634918

OS Grid: NY773900

Mapcode National: GBR C8Z8.CB

Mapcode Global: WH8ZY.RGJD

Entry Name: Two bastles, an 18th century farmhouse and associated enclosures at Black Middings

Scheduled Date: 27 June 1973

Last Amended: 27 January 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011643

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23224

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Tarset

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Falstone with Greystead and Thorneyburn

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument, which is sometimes also referred to as Black Middens, includes a
well preserved 16th century bastle or defensible farmstead, an 18th century
farmhouse, the remains of a second bastle which survives in use as a
sheepfold, and a group of enclosures representing an associated inner field
system and the beginnings of a larger outer field system. The second bastle,
most of the walls of which now stand only to a few courses, is the usual
rectangular structure, measuring 9.5m x 7.5m, with a small walled enclosure to
the north east. It is identified as a former bastle because of the thickness
of its surviving walls which, in places, are over 1m wide. The east wall
survives up to 2m high. Bastles were, on occasion, built in groups for common
protection, hence it is likely that both bastles at this site were constructed
and used around the same time. The first bastle remains largely intact, with
only its roof missing, and measures 7.3m x 10.4m x c.8m high to the gable
ridge. Its walls are 1.4m thick and it illustrates the usual arrangement of a
two storey structure with steeply pitched gables; the ground floor was used
for storage and occasional shelter of animals, and the upper floor served as
living quarters. The stumps of the original raised cruck roof survive. It is
of the rarer type of bastle in which the ground floor had a timber ceiling
instead of a vaulted stone roof. An original ventilation slit can be seen on
the ground floor of the north west gable end and two later windows in the
upper storey of the south west wall. There are two doorways in the south west
wall, one leading into the basement and the other into the upper floor. Both
are 18th century replacements of original doorways and are wider than the 16th
century doors would have been, since the defensive function of narrow doors
was no longer necessary by that time. The upper door was also heightened by
incorporating two original windows whilst the original ladder access to the
upper floor was replaced by an outer staircase. At about this time or slightly
later, a new farmhouse was built immediately south east of the bastle,
partially on the foundations of an older building or enclosure which extended
6m beyond the south east end of the farmhouse. Little remains standing of this
later farmhouse but the bastle survived due to its continued use as a cattle
shed. In the vicinity of the buildings are numerous low banks which represent
the remains of an associated field system. The building remains illustrate the
development of a small upland farming community into a single linear
farmstead, probably inhabited by a single family.
The intact bastle is a Grade II* Listed Building and has been in State care
since 1978.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Bastles are small thick-walled farmhouses in which the living quarters are
situated above a ground floor byre. The majority are simple rectangular
buildings with the byre entrance typically placed in one gable end, an upper
door in the side wall, small stoutly-barred windows and few architectural
features or details. Some have stone barrel vaults to the basement but the
majority had a first floor of heavy timber beams carrying stone slabs. In
general, bastles are part of a dispersed settlement pattern and represent
single defended farmsteads, some having associated outbuildings and
enclosures. A few nucleated settlements with more than one bastle are also
known; these can take a variety of forms. In some a number of free-standing
bastles may exist, occasionally grouped together around a green. At others,
bastles were built in terraces end to end, each retaining their integrity as
separate units. Elsewhere original bastles were extended by construction of a
second such building onto their byre-end, the two being inter-linked to form
an enlarged building which functioned in the same way as the original. Most
bastles were constructed between about 1575 and 1650, although earlier and
later examples are also known. They were occupied by middle-rank farmers.
Bastles are confined to the northern border counties of England, in Cumbria,
Northumberland and Durham. The need for such strongly defended farmsteads can
be related to the troubled social conditions in these border areas during the
later Middle Ages. Less than 300 bastles are known to survive, of which a
large number have been significantly modified by their continuing use as
domestic or other buildings. All surviving bastles which retain significant
original remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

The monument at Black Middings is an exceptionally fine example of a pair of
bastles with an associated field system and a later farmhouse demonstrating
continuity of occupation within a period of approximately two hundred years.
Although the standing remains of one bastle and the farmhouse do not survive
well, the other bastle is extremely well preserved and retains numerous
original features as well as later ones which contribute to an understanding
of its subsequent development. Occupation debris relating to all phases of use
will survive as buried features throughout the area of the scheduling.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 91
Ryder, P F, Bastles and Towers in Northumberland National Park, (1990), 34
Ryder, P F, Bastles and Towers in Northumberland National Park, (1990), 33-34

Source: Historic England

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