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


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011643

Date first listed: 27-Jun-1973

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Jan-1994


Ordnance survey map of Two bastles, an 18th century farmhouse and associated enclosures at Black Middings
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Tarset


National Grid Reference: NY 77330 90034


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 23224

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing