Little Ryle Bastle, Alnham

Has been described as a Certain Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameLittle Ryle Bastle, Alnham
Alternative NamesLittle Ryal
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishAlnham

Bastle (late 16th century) at Little Ryle (Hadcock 1939).

The farmhouse of Little Ryle possesses several blocked-up mullioned windows in its south gable and east side, a Tudor doorway, and a vaulted ground floor. It is rather a bastle than a tower in plan, measuring about 57ft by 24ft and now shows no signs of fortification. Little Ryle is not mentioned in the 1541 survey, and its style of masonry suggests at least the second half of the 16th century. It was never anything but a farmhouse on the lands of the Collingwoods (Dodds 1935).

NU 01971109. Little Ryle is a two storeyed building 17m long by 7.7m wide, of rubble masonry with dressed quoins. The walls are between 1.5m and 1.8m thick. Mullion windows on the north and east walls, and the remains of a mullion window in the south wall are present. There is no trace of the Tudor doorway referred to by Dodds (1935), but a passage through the north wall has a flat but slightly pointed vault, and is possibly the original entrance.

The ground floor has a single span barrel vault. In the north wall at first floor level is a blocked opening with a segmental arch; this is possibly the remains of a doorway at first floor level.

It does not appear likely that this was an ordinary farmhouse, as stated by Dodds. The massive construction, and the possible first floor doorway are suggestive of a defended house common to the region and which date from the late 16th - early 17th centuries (F1 DAD 03-APR-1957).

NU 019110 Bastle with later additions. Little Ryle. Farmhouse, probably 16th century, later additions. Original building 55ft 6ins x 26ft 6ins, with part of original barrel vault. Blocked doorway in north side, and patch of disturbed walling of concave shape - possibly evidence that a staircase turret was removed.

South front partly rebuilt in 19th century. At east end of south front is a window of c.1700

Inside, the east end room is lined with panelling of c.1700 (Ramm et al 1970).

Little Ryle Farmhouse, Grade II. Late 16th-early 17th century with 19th century additions. Bastlehouse, two-storey, walls 5ft thick. Early 18th century panelling and fireplace in one ground floor room (Listed Building Report 1986)

The older part of the farmhouse is rectangular in plan and measures 17m by 8m externally, over walls around 1.5m thick of roughly squared coursed blocks, with some galleting and quite well squared angle quoins. At the north east corner is a boulder plinth; the boulder at the base of the angle projects some distance from the wall face and bears the incised date 'AxMvDXXXII' (in addition there is a small 'vi' beneath the 'M'). At the east end of the north wall, beyond the single storey outshut that runs most of the length of this side, is a blocked square headed doorway which has been converted into a two light mullioned window (with a recessed and chamfered surround) and later completely blocked. At first floor level there is a small square headed window above the east end of the outshut, which has been blocked and replaced by a two light mullioned window like that below. Then comes a second window, which has lost its mullion (lighting the present stair) and then a blocked opening adjacent to a projecting chimney stack of no great age. Beyond this is a blocked segmental arched opening, set in a section of wall of concave plan as if it were the inner face of a former newel stair. West of this appears the head of a small window (like that at the opposite end of the wall) but this may be a re-used piece, set in an area of disturbed walling.

The east gable end of the house is partly concealed by a later outbuilding. Within this indistinct traces of some sort of ground floor loop, or small window, set somewhat south of centre can be made out. At first floor level are two blocked two light windows; the southern has a relieving arch above and the northern has lost its mullion. The west end of the house is largely concealed by a two storeyed 19th century addition; the only feature visible is a window head, perhaps re-used, high in the gable.

The upper part of the south face of the house has been largely rebuilt, or at least refaced, in the 19th century. The original walling at the west end leans dangerously outward. The only pre-19th century feature is the ground floor window near the east end which has originally been a three light mullioned one, the mullions now gone, but retaining its recessed and chamfered surround.

Internally, the ground floor of the house has a longitudinal barrel vault, 3.05m high at its apex. A short length a little east of centre has been removed to allow the insertion of a 19th century staircase. The room east of the entrance/stair hall has panelling of early 18th century charcacter. At first floor level the only olf feature exposed is the fireplace at the east end which is of mid to late 17th century date, with a flat pointed arch within a wave moulded square frame. This is quite a puzzling building in some ways. Its dimensions are somewhat greater than a typical bastle and the apparent evidence of a stair turret or wing on the north also puts it into a superior class. It would seem to be better classed as a 'strong house'. The incised date on the foundation boulder, another oddity, appears to read 1531, which is a little earlier than one might expect.

The house was evidently remodelled in the later 17th century, when the mullioned windows were inserted and the basement was converted into domestic accommodation. The panelled room shows that the house remained of reasonable status in the early 18th century. The stair turret may have been removed at this time and replaced by the pent roofed outshut. The two storeyed wing at the west end looks of 19th century date; at around the same time (or a little earlier) the majority of the south wall of the old part of the house was rebuilt, probably because of structural failure (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)

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 ReferenceNU019110
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  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 160
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 76
  • Pevsner, N., 1992 (revised by Grundy, John et al), Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 129
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 33
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 360
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 228
  • Ramm, H.G., McDowall, R.W. and Mercer, E., 1970, Shielings and Bastles (London: HMSO) p. 82, no.26
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 132-3
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1935, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 14 p. 547-8


  • Christopherson, R., 2011, 'Northumberland bastles: origin and distribution' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 26 p. 21-33 (listed in appendix)
  • Hadcock, R.N., 1939, 'A map of mediaeval Northumberland and Durham' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 148-218 esp 188
  • 1899, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 9 p. 85-6 online copy


  • The Archaeological Practice Ltd., 2004, 'Alnham Northumberland an archaeological and historical study of a border township' Northumberland National Park Historic Village Atlas (The Northumberland National Park Authority) online copy
  • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 1 Alnwick District p. 2-3