Ancient Monuments

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High Grains bastle and shieling 130m west of High Grains Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Askerton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.0712 / 55°4'16"N

Longitude: -2.6491 / 2°38'56"W

OS Eastings: 358645.186942

OS Northings: 575379.926613

OS Grid: NY586753

Mapcode National: GBR 99YS.8Y

Mapcode Global: WH90D.8SRR

Entry Name: High Grains bastle and shieling 130m west of High Grains Farm

Scheduled Date: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017461

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27771

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Askerton

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Gilsland St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes High Grains medieval bastle, a roofless structure
formerly of two storeys but now standing to ground floor height only, and an
adjacent later medieval shieling which incorporated the remains of the bastle.
It is located on slightly elevated ground on the narrow flood plain of a
tributory of Kirk Beck 130m west of High Grains Farm.

The bastle is constructed of calciferous sandstone rubble and measures
approximately 9.5m north east to south west by 6.5m north west to south east
externally with walls up to 1.3m thick and up to 1.9m high. All the external
walls other than that at the north east side are original; this fourth wall
has been rebuilt to form the present entrance and includes the original
chamfered and rebated jambs with a drawbar tunnel. At the western end of the
bastle three projecting stones are thought to have supported the hearth of a
fireplace on the upper floor; also at the western end there is a detatchable
stone revealing a small spy-hole which gave views down the valley from the
bastle's interior. Rubble from the upper storey of the bastle has fallen
outwards and lies adjacent to three sides of the building and in places forms
heaps of debris almost as high as the adjacent bastle wall. Attached to the
north eastern end of the bastle is a later stone-built medieval shieling
having internal dimensions of 5.5m by 4.5m with two walls surviving up to
c.1.6m high. A crosswall dividing the bastle into two rooms is not an original
feature and is considered to be associated with the building of the shieling,
indicating that the bastle was reused to form part of a three roomed shieling.
Both the bastle and shieling are depicted on a map dated 1603 accompanying the
Gilsland Survey. The bastle is Listed Grade II.

A drystone wall attached to the southern corner of the bastle is excluded from
the scheduling although the ground beneath it is included.

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 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.

Medieval shielings were small seasonally occupied huts which were built to
provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on
upland or marshland. They have a simple sub-rectangular or ovoid plan normally
defined by drystone walling and most have a single undivided interior although
two roomed examples are known. Some have adjacent structures such as pens or
enclosures. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently
represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here.
Those examples which survive well and help illustrate medieval land use are
considered to be nationally important.
Despite being reused as a shieling High Grains bastle survives reasonably
well and retains a number of architectural features. The monument is a rare
example of the juxtaposition of a bastle and shieling, which also survives
reasonably well, and it will add greatly to our understanding of the wider
border settlement and economy during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 76
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 16, 76
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
To Robinson,K.D. MPPA, Roberts, Mr and Mosscrop, Mr (Neighbours), (1996)
To Robinson,K.D. MPPA, Roberts, Mr and Mosscrop, Mr (Neighbours), (1996)

Source: Historic England

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