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


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015840

Date first listed: 23-Nov-1967

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Branshaw deserted settlement, bastle, field system and section of Roman road
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This copy shows the entry on 09-Dec-2018 at 19:46:26.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Otterburn

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Rochester


National Grid Reference: NY 87809 99591


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

Reasons for Designation

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.


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


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

Legacy System number: 28546

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing