Tarset fortified house, 180m east of Tarset Hall


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015528

Date first listed: 19-Aug-1938

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Apr-1997


Ordnance survey map of Tarset fortified house, 180m east of Tarset Hall
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 20-Nov-2018 at 16:18:54.


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 78831 85473


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

Reasons for Designation

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Tarset fortified house survives reasonably well and is a rare survival of this form of medieval settlement in Northumberland. It is well documented and will add to our knowledge and understanding of the wide variety of medieval fortified structures.


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


The monument includes the remains of the fortified residence known as Tarset Castle, situated upon a steep sided promontory commanding the valley of the Tarset Burn to the north and the North Tyne to the west, south and east. The promontory is surrounded by a substantial artificially dug ditch on the east and south sides 20m wide and on average 5m deep. The remaining two sides are bounded by steep banks which have the appearance of having been artificially scarped for added defence. The fortified house occupies the eastern half of the promontory, and is largely visible as the grassed over remains of a rectangular structure, oriented north to south. Standing masonry is visible to a maximum height of 1.5m at the north east and the south east corners of the structure standing upon the uncovered remains of a stone plinth. This masonry is thought to represent two of the four square corner turrets known to exist at Tarset Castle. The fortified house has a long documented history: John Comyn was given licence to crenellate his residence here with a stone wall and a ditch in 1267, the earliest surviving licence to do so in Northumberland. It was clearly a site of some importance, situated as it is above the North Tyne and the Tarset fords and hence also commanding traffic on two old routeways. In 1523 the fortified house was occupied by Sir Ralph Fenwick and 80 men but was taken and burnt in 1525. A sketch of the house in 1773 shows it to be a long narrow rectangular building with square turrets at each of the four corners surrounded by a stone wall of the same shape; this is thought to be the wall for which licence was given in 1267. The monument was partly explored by excavation in 1888 but no records of the findings were left. It is thought that there is a timber palisade on the inner edge of the ditch and that there must have been a bridge across the ditch to give access to the house.

The fence posts and upstanding railway sleepers used as posts are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.

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: 25100

Legacy System: RSM


NY 78 NE 07,

End of official listing