West Fenwick Farmhouse, Matfen

Has been described as a Possible Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameWest Fenwick Farmhouse, Matfen
Alternative NamesNorth Fenwick
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishMatfen

Bastlehouse, now farmhouse. Late C16 or early C17, altered mid C19. Random rubble with ashlar dressings. Welsh slate roof. Two and a half storeys. Two slightly irregular bays with central doorway. C20 door in chamfered surround. 2-light mullioned windows with chamfered surrounds and 8-pane sashes in each light. C19 gabled half-dormers. Small blocked windows between 1st floor windows. Gabled roof with ridged coping and kneelers. Corniced end stacks with 4 conjoined shafts. Former byre attached on left is now archway through to rear. Within the archway a single-storey C18 brick addition to the house. Interior: walls 45-50 inches thick. C19 staircase. (Listed Building Report)

The former farmhouse of West Fenwick is now incorporated into a range of farmbuildings. The farmhouse consists of a bastle 12.4m by 7m externally. It was extended in the late 18th or early 19th century by the addition of a two-bay block to the west and a rear outshut to the original block, which overlaps the western extension.

The bastle is constructed of large roughly-squared blocks, laid in regular courses. The walls are 1.05m thick, with quite well-squared angle quoins laid in a regular side-alternate manner. No original openings survive in the south wall; the insertion of a large pair of sliding doors c.1970 destroyed a square-headed first floor doorway with a drawbar tunnel in its jambs (two blocks of which now lie in the garden of North Fenwick Farmhouse (NZ 07 SE 28)). The present opening - a ground floor window and the remains of a doorway, on first floor window and traces of a second immediately east of the doors - all seem to relate to the remodelling, as do the present coped gables. The other three walls are covered externally by later additions. Set centrally in the west wall, between two later openings, is the original bastle byre doorway

This has an arch with a pointed head and a continuous chamfer; the head is cut into two inclined blocks, very much in the local medieval tradition. On the internal face of the wall later alterations have erased all sign of this doorway; there are remains of a later doorway immediately to the north, itself superseded by the present northern opening. Both ends of the building show evidence of former fireplaces and flues and are much patched. The side walls show the stubs of transverse beams at first floor level, which seem a little small in scantling to be original. A rough off-set at the east end, a little lower than the beam stubs, may mark an earlier floor level. At first floor level there is a broad recess, possibly a blocked window, at the west end of the north wall; its sill has an odd projecting block, perhaps related to a slopstone or sink.

A little to the south west of the house is a barn aligned north-south, formerly of five bays, which had raised cruck trusses prior to a partial reconstruction c.1970. The stubs of two crucks remain in the east wall. It may be of early 18th century date although it has been considered a more ancient building (Ryder 1994-5).

This building has been studied in a historic buildings survey of the whole of West Fenwick Farm by Alan Williams Archaeology during 2013. The bastle is at the core of the farmhouse and has been set in a row of agricultural buildings, adapted and extended and used as a farmhouse and eveventually converted to agricultural use. The building dates to the later 16th or early 17th century. It is rather bigger than average for a bastle as 12.4m by 7.0m externally and is constructed of sandstone rubble walls over 1.0m thick. The quoins of the building are large square side alternate angle quoins. The building is now a shell open from the floor to the roof. The original door into the byre, now blocked, survives in the west wall of the bastle between two later openings. This can only be seen in the external face, whilst the internal face has been removed by later insertions. The doorway is arched with a continuous chamfer and the head formed of two inclined blocks. The ends of the building show evidence for the presence of fureplaces and chimney flues at first floor level. The removal of a large part of the south wall around 1970 led to the closure of the building with a pair of metal sliding doors and the loss of an original first floor door with square head and drawbar tunnel in its jambs. A broad recess at the western end of the north wall at first floor level is possibly a blocked window or a slopstone or sink. The building has now been roofed with a Welsh slate roof of 19th century date (Williams 2013). (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
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ054728
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  • Christopherson, R., 2011, 'Northumberland bastles: origin and distribution' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 26 p. 21-33 (listed in appendix)


  • Williams, A., 2013, West Fenwick Farm, Fenwick, Northumberland: historic building survey. Unpublished Alan Williams Archaeology report p. 14
  • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 3 Castle Morpeth District p. 35