Black Cleugh Bastles

Has been described as a Certain Bastle

There are uncertain remains

NameBlack Cleugh Bastles
Alternative NamesBlackcleugh
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishPlenmeller with Whitfield

Extended bastle, measures 9.5 x 7.1m, with walls 1.4m thick. Byre entrance in long wall; first floor beamed ceiling (Ryder 1990).

A remotely sited bastle c.1km south of Shankfoot on the south side of the South Tyne valley. There has been a larger settlement here at one time; both east and west of the ruined bastle are complexes of footings and foundations; the remains to the north east of a building c.17m by 5.5m with boulder walls, look like a longhouse.

The bastle was originally one of a semi-detached pair, apparently of a single build, c.18m by 7.2m externally, with walls around 1.3m thick constructed of large rubble (including some elongate blocks in the lower courses) with roughly squared quoins. The walls of the western bastle (9.4m long externally) generally stand to first floor height, with the west gable end and most of the north wall remaining up to eaves level. The eastern bastle has, perhaps after structural failure, been rebuilt as a narrower and shorter outbuilding, retaining the original north wall; none of this part stands higher than 1m and its interior is filled with rubbish.

The western bastle has its byre doorway set close to the east end of the south wall; it has a plain square head, and jambs and lintel have a rounded arris; a harr socket can be felt in the soffit of the lintel, but any other internal details are concealed by a rubble blocking, except for the inner lintel, which is of timber. To the west of the doorway are the remains of a window, now also infilled by drystone walling; only the internal splay of the west jamb remains and this looks like an insertion.

In the west end is a gunloop set centrally, consisting of a small squarish opening splaying outwards on both sides of a slab with a circular piercing 0.07m in diameter, set two thirds of the way to the external face of the 1.37m thick wall. In the internal face of the wall are three other features at this level, all probably secondary

There are shallow and roughly hacked cavities low down at the south end, and alongside the gunloop on the north, and a smaller cavity south of the gunloop. Above these is a smaller socket at each end of the wall just below the set-back for the first floor timbers, and in the centre, above the gunloop, a ragged cavity that presumably relates to former hearth corbelling. Towards the west end of the north wall is a possible slit vent, visible externally, and near the east end a blocked window that is clearly a late (18th century?) insertion. Towards the east end of the wall two sockets remain for the transverse beams that carried the first floor, set just above the set-back that runs round all four walls of the building. The east wall of the bastle is much encumbered by fallen masonry; what remains of the original wall is leaning outwards at a considerable angle and it has been thickened internally by c.0.8m, probably after the structural failure that prompted the abandonment of the eastern bastle. The jambs of a blocked doorway are visible in the internal face of the (thickened) wall; it is not clear whether this extended through both parts of the wall to provide communication between the basements of both bastles.

Less remains at first floor level. In the west end are two wall cupboards, on either side of a former firehood position marked by three sockets in the wall above; the gable stands almost to full height, although none of its coping stones survive. In the north wall are sockets for two more timbers that may have related to the hood; in the centre of the wall is a ragged opening that appears to have been a window (parts of its jambs survive), and at the east end of the wall an intact (but blocked) splayed square headed loop. All that remains of the eastern bastle is the lower section of its north wall; it is clear that the fabric of the western bastle courses through with this. The rebuilt south wall, well inside the original line, has the remains of a doorway with splayed rebated jambs set just west of centre. Boulder footings indicate the positions of the eastern angles of the original bastle.

This is an unusual, if not unique, bastle both for its surviving gunloop and for the semi-detached arrangement. The remains of accompanying buildings (and especially the possible longhouse) make the site of considerable archaeological importance (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY749623
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  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 399
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 117 (slight)


  • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 4 Tynedale District Vol. 2 p. 128-9
  • Ryder, P.F., 1990, Bastles and Towers in the Northumberland National Park (Report for Northumberland National Park Authority) p. 9