Bale Hill House, Wolsingham

Has been described as a Rejected Palace (Bishop), and also as a Rejected Pele Tower, and also as a Certain Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBale Hill House, Wolsingham
Alternative NamesBaal Hill; Baylehilhouse
Historic CountryDurham
Modern AuthorityDurham
1974 AuthorityCounty Durham
Civil ParishWolsingham

Baal or Bale Hill House situated one mile northeast of Wolsingham. It has exceptionally thick walls. The lower floor is occupied by a stone-roofed barrel vault, now divided across the middle. It has its entrance at the west end, which is a pointed arched doorway. It is said to have been the residence of the Bishop's bailiff, and there is a 1558 reference in the rolls of the Bishop's chancellor for a payment of £18 16s for the repair of 'the Lodge within the park of Wolsingham, otherwisae called Baylehilhouse'. This is where the name may originate from. The term 'bail hill' could also of course relate to an open-air lead-smelting furnace. There is no appearance of a moat, but the position in the landscape is strong. There is a reference to the repair of the "lodge", perhaps this house, in 1558. It is similar in form to a typical borders bastle but of an earlier date and finer architectural detail. (Durham HER)

Bastlehouse. Late C16 with additions and alterations. Thinly-rendered sandstone rubble with irregular quoins; stone-flagged roof with stone gable copings and stone and brick chimneys; Welsh slate roofs on front additions. 2 storeys raised to 3; 2 wide bays; one-storey front pent additions at each end. Right wing 2 storeys, 3 bays. Main house has long, wide flight of stone steps, with flat-coped side walls, to wide first-floor stone-walled porch, renewed double door and single inner door. Pent additions flank steps. First floor has C20 casements; second-floor 3-light casement at left. Right wing has 3 doors under flat stone lintels, and varied windows:- sashes, one horizontal casement, and fixedlight; 3 small square blocked windows at eaves. Left return has 2-centred-arched chamfered stone doorway, partly blocked and with Dutch door inserted; right return (of wing) has side steps to first-floor door under pigeon holes in gable peak

Interior: ground floor divided by stone wall; blocked 2-centred arch in right gable; barrel vault with possible ladder-hole beside left door. Boarded dado in first-floor entrance hall; stop-chamfered beams in first-floor rooms. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Emery writes this is a two storeyed C15 hall house and records is a residence of the bishop, although the evidence he gives for this is an account of repairing which would not exclude it being the bailiff's house.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ074385
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles and Tower Houses of County Durham (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 10
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 51-4
  • Corfe, Tom (ed), 1992, 'The Visible Middle Ages' in An Historical Atlas of County Durham p. 28-9
  • Pevsner, N., 1983 (Revised by Williamson, Elizabeth), Buildings of England: Durham (London, Penguin) p. 513
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 138
  • Hugill, Robert, 1979, The Castles and Towers of the County of Durham (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 28
  • Ramm, H.G., McDowall, R.W. and Mercer, E., 1970, Shielings and Bastles (London: HMSO) p. 66
  • Conyers Surtees, 1929, History of the Parish of Wolsingham p. 42-3


  • Ryder, P.F.,1994, 'Bastles in Weardale' The Bonny Moor Hen: The Journal of The Weardale Field Study Society No. 7 p. 4
  • 1896, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 7 p. 246
  • Featherstonehaugh, 1891-2, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 5 p. 101-2