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Branshaw deserted settlement, bastle, field system and section of Roman road

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2904 / 55°17'25"N

Longitude: -2.1929 / 2°11'34"W

OS Eastings: 387849.370724

OS Northings: 599607.300548

OS Grid: NY878996

Mapcode National: GBR F748.1B

Mapcode Global: WHB0S.9913

Entry Name: Branshaw deserted settlement, bastle, field system and section of Roman road

Scheduled Date: 23 November 1967

Last Amended: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015840

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28546

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rochester

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Otterburn St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the remains of a deserted settlement including a bastle,
part of an associated field system of medieval and post-medieval date and a
section of Roman road. The complex is situated on both sides of the Durtrees
Burn, immediately below the point at which the burn descends below ground. The
settlement contains the remains of at least six rectangular buildings
including four standing ruins, two large enclosures and several smaller
paddocks or garths. The bastle is situated at the centre of the group of
buildings. It is rectangular in shape, orientated east to west and measures a
maximum of 12.2m by 7.13m. The regular stonework is comprised of large roughly
square blocks of stone and it stands to a maximum of seven courses high on the
northern side. There is a plain square headed entrance into the ground floor
byre which is placed centrally through the eastern gable end. The relieving
arch above the lintel has slumped, although it is still in place. The basement
of the bastle was originally covered by a stone vault, although little of this
feature survives today. The remains of the upper floor of the bastle is
visible in a small section of walling at the western part of the north wall.
Immediately east of the bastle, but set slightly further north, is a short
range of three buildings also orientated east to west; the middle, square,
building which stands to a maximum of nine courses high, is thought to be the
earliest structure of the group and dates from the 19th century. It has
doorways through its north and south walls. This range of buildings and the
bastle are attached to a large square enclosure built of roughly coursed stone
standing up to five courses high.
Some 30m east of the bastle and on the same alignment there is a further
rectangular stone building. It stands to a maximum of five courses high and is
thought to be 18th century in date. Some 15m south of the bastle there is
another rectangular building, situated immediately on the edge of the deep
gully of the Durtrees Burn. This building is orientated slightly differently
to the other buildings at Branshaw. It stands to a maximum height of five
courses and has an entrance through its north wall and a narrow window in an
opposing position through the south wall. It is thought that this building is
related to the bastle tradition of defensible buildings and is thought to date
to the late 17th or early 18th century.
At the northern end of the monument there are the grassed over foundations of
a fifth building and at the extreme south western edge of the monument there
are the grassy foundations of a sixth building partly overlain by the second
larger enclosure of similar construction to the first. It is thought that
these two buildings may be the remains of an earlier medieval settlement at
the site; an earlier settlement at Branshaw is recorded in a document of 1552.
In a survey of 1604 `Brenshaw' and the adjacent settlement of `Dudleise' were
tenanted by Ralph and Thomas Hall; they each had a house and eight acres of
meadow and the two farms shared 125 acres of pasture. The bastle was occupied
until c.1940 when it was abandoned.
On the south side of the Durtrees Burn further remains of the settlement
survive including a complex of three small enclosures. Two of the enclosures
are contained within a larger field defined by substantial banks and the
third, which is smaller and curvilinear in shape is attached to its western
side.
The settlement at Branshaw is the focus of an extensive field system of
several phases. The earliest phase is represented by extensive areas of
medieval broad rig and furrow cultivation, some of which are contained by low
lynchets or earthen banks, thought to be contemporary with the rig and furrow.
Superimposed upon this medieval framework are a series of substantial earthen
banks or dykes, many standing up to 2m high which have been further
sub-divided by less substantial banks to form smaller fields and enclosures of
a variety of shapes and sizes.
The medieval farmstead and field system are arranged on either side of a Roman
road. The road is an eastern branch of Dere Street and runs between the Roman
fort of High Rochester on Dere Street and Whittingham on The Devil's Causeway.
The road is visible as a slight earthwork at the south western corner of the
monument and elsewhere it survives below ground level as a buried feature.
All fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling as are
the upper courses of the large square enclosure superimposed upon the field
system in the north west quadrant, although the ground beneath all of these
features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Wear-Tweed sub-Province of the Central Province, an
area long characterised, except for the western margins, by nucleated
settlements, both surviving and deserted. Variations within the sub-Province
reflect landownership as well as terrain: on some estates in Northumberland
there was much dispersal of farmsteads and consequent village and hamlet
depopulation after the Middle Ages; whereas Durham saw greater stability
because of ecclesiastical control. An overlay of mining settlements adds
complexity to coalfield areas.
The Cheviot Margin local region is a narrow transition zone between two
contrasting areas, the high moorlands of the Cheviots and the agriculturally
favourable lowlands of the Tweed Valley and the Northumbrian Vales. Fieldwork
has shown that this region retains archaeological traces likely to date from
many periods, providing evidence for sequences of land occupation. Medieval
settlements are mainly in the form of small hamlets and isolated farmsteads.

Bastles are small thick-walled farmhouses in which the living quarters are
situated above a ground floor byre. The vast 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. The
great majority of bastles are solitary rural buildings, although a few
nucleated settlements with more than one bastle are also known. 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.

Roman roads were artificially made-up routes introduced into Britain by the
Roman army from c.AD43. They facilitated both the conquest of the province and
its subsequent administration. In addition, throughout the Roman period and
later, Roman roads acted as commercial routes and became the foci for
settlement and industry. Although a number of roads fell out of use soon after
the withdrawl of Rome from the province in the fifth century AD, many have
continued in use down to the present day and are consequently sealed beneath
modern roads. On the basis of construction technique, two main types of road
are distinguishable. The first has widely spaced boundary ditches and a broad
elaborate agger comprising several layers of graded material. The second
usually has drainage ditches and a narrow simple agger of two or three
successive layers. In addition to ditches and construction pits flanking the
sides of the roads, features of Roman roads can include central stone ribs,
kerbs and culverts, not all of which will necessarily be contemporary with the
original construction of the road. With the exception of the extreme south
west of the country, Roman roads are widely distributed throughout England and
extend into Wales and lowland Scotland. They are highly representative of the
period of Roman administration and provide important evidence of Roman civil
engineering skills as well as the pattern of Roman conquest and settlement. A
high proportion of examples exhibiting good survival are considered to be
worthy of protection.

The complex of buildings and agricultural remains at Branshaw survive well and
retain significant archaeological deposits. The vaulted bastle is a good
example of its type and the associated deserted settlement and field system
will contribute to our understanding of medieval and later settlement in the
Cheviot margins. The Roman road indicates human activity in the area a
millenium earlier.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Margary, I D, Roman Roads in Britain, (1973), 453
Ryder, P F, Branshaw bastle and deserted settlement, (1996)
Other
Gates T M, TMG 14743/25-35 TMG 16534/58-73 TMG 16535/ 8-18, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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