Ancient Monuments

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Bastle immediately east of Mortley

A Scheduled Monument in Wark, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.0905 / 55°5'25"N

Longitude: -2.277 / 2°16'37"W

OS Eastings: 382419.401394

OS Northings: 577380.168271

OS Grid: NY824773

Mapcode National: GBR D9JK.VZ

Mapcode Global: WHB1Q.090V

Entry Name: Bastle immediately east of Mortley

Scheduled Date: 21 October 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021285

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32801

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Wark

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Wark St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a bastle, a form of defended farmhouse of
late 16th or early 17th century date, situated on an elevated site on the
north side of the valley of Warks Burn.

The bastle, rectangular in shape, measures 10.4m east to west by 7m north
to south externally, with walls of large roughly squared and roughly
coursed blocks between 1.3m to 1.4m thick. Now roofless, it stands
generally to between 2m to 3m high, although the west gable of the bastle
and part of its south wall survive as buried foundations. There is an
original byre doorway in the centre of the east gable giving access to the
ground floor basement. The square-headed doorway is unchamfered with a
relieving arch above. Its door jambs contain very large blocks and the
lintel is formed by a large, flat slab, which projects, into the wall of
the bastle for about a third of its thickness. The doorway contains a
rebate for a single door and the remains of two drawbar tunnels are
visible in the south jamb. Within the basement of the bastle, the
springing stones, which carried the stone vault, are visible on the north
wall of the bastle at a height of approximately 1.75m.

The fence posts and stone wall at the north east corner of the bastle, the
raised patio at the north west corner of the bastle and the adjacent
building to the west are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these features 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 of the later Middle Ages, which
in these border areas lasted until (indeed after) the union of the English and
Scottish Crowns in 1603. 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.

Despite the fact that it survives as a ruined structure, the bastle at Mortley
retains much original fabric and important original features including a fine
doorway and evidence for the stone vaulted basement. Despite some disturbance
to the upper levels of the interior, significant archaeological deposits,
including earlier floor and occupation levels are thought to survive. These
will provide important information about the lives of the people who occupied
the bastle and indicate its main phases of occupation. The importance of the
monument is enhanced by the survival of further bastles in the vicinity which,
taken together, will add to our knowledge and understanding of settlement and
society at this time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 93
Ryder, P F, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland: A Survey, (1995), 154

Source: Historic England

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