Woodhouses Bastle, Harbottle

Has been described as a Possible Pele Tower, and also as a Possible Bastle

There are major building remains

NameWoodhouses Bastle, Harbottle
Alternative NamesHepple Woodhouses; Holystone Grange; Harecleugh
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishHarbottle

Woodhouses pele (map in NCH 15 shows 'Dues Hill Grange' as 'Woodhouses') was probably the last erection of its kind in Coquetdale, and belongs to the class of fortified dwellings sometimes called bastle houses.

Although 1602 is cut on the doorhead, the pele was probably started a hundred years before, and the date probably refers to completion or additions by a family named Potte, whose initials also appear.

The pele's measurements are 35 feet east to west, and 28 feet north to south. It is built on a south-east slope about 300 yards from the Coquet. The walls are 5 feet thick at the basement, about 22 feet high to the eaves and are of freestone ashlar work. There is a steep-pitched roof. The basement has a barrel vaulted roof. In the south-east corner are remains of a newel stair. The upper windows are deeply splayed. The original doorway is on the east gable and has bar-sockets either side (Dixon 1903).

D D Dixon suggested that Woodhouses pele, was the same as the unfinished tower at Harecleuch/Harehaugh (see NY 99 NE 14) but there seems to be no ground for the identification beyond the fact that Woodhouses is not mentioned in 1541 and that there is now no trace of of the tower at Harehaugh or Harecleuch.

In 1904, the late F W Rich most carefully restored and re-roofed the pele, the necessary new portions being in keeping with the old. The plan of the pele was that of the usual late Tudor strong house (Dodds 1940).

The old pele, or bastle-house, in an excellent state of preservation, is now used as a byre. The arched vault, spiral staircase and stone spout above the doorway for pouring melted lead may still be seen. Over the door is carved, WP - BP - 1602 TAM (Tomlinson 1916).

The Peel stands upon a south-east slope, within the grounds of a large private house. The site commands the valley of the River Coquet to the north, east and south-east and the valley of the Harehaugh Burn to the south-west

The ground floor rises to the west to open moorland. The Peel, orientated north-east and south-west, measures overall, 11.6m by 7.5m. The walls, 1.5m thick, are constructed of large rough fashioned stones, without coursing or bonding, raised upon foundations of packed boulders, and with massive quoins at the corners. The original entrance is in the north-east end and is equipped with bar-holes. In the south-west end is a widely splayed ventilation aperture, and in the south-east side a small opening, giving light onto the steps which rise from within the entrance to the upper storey, in the east corner. A doorway, inserted in the north-west side, has been blocked up. The ground rises either side of the Peel towards the south-west end, and the original entrance to the upper storey is less than 1m above ground level, with the little aperture to the basement beneath it. Upstairs, are two 3-light mullioned windows in the north-west wall, and two small square headed windows, once fitted with iron bars, in the opposite wall. The gabled roof is covered with stone flags. The basement has a barrel-vaulted roof, which springs from 1.5m above ground level to approx 2.5m height at the centre (F1 ASP 29-MAY-1957).

This fortified house, known locally as Hepple Woodhouses or Woodhouses, is of the type now commonly accepted as a pele house or bastle. It is falling into disrepair, the north-eastern half of the roof having collapsed (F3 DS 23-APR-1970).

The three-light mullioned windows referred to in report of 29/5/57 are obviously of modern origin, probably added during the restorations of 1904. The majority of the roof has now collapsed only a small section remaining in the south-west. Surveyed at 1:2500 (F4 SA 08-DEC-1976).

Grade II star Woodhouses Pele. This pele, or more correctly bastle, is late in date, 1602, but well preserved and it was roofed and conservatively restored by the late F.W. Rich, F.R.I.B.A., whose property it was. Illustrations in NCH 15 (Listed Building Report Sept 1948).

Rectangular building 11.5m x 7.5m, of massive roughly-coursed rubble with squared quoins. Doorway in centre of NE gable end is square-headed with rounded arris to head and jambs, with slab above inscribed 'WP.BP.1602 TAM'. At first floor level two original windows, with holes for iron bars, on south east side and loop in north east end; later doorway in south west end and windows on north west. Steeply pitched gables, with attic loop at north east end. Basement has barrel vault and stair (partly restored) at east corner; first floor has wall cupboards in gable ends and slopstone beneath window on south east. Consolidated and re-roofed c.1900 by F W Rich. The gables are in poor condition; coping partly fallen. Repair works, especially to gables is urgently needed. In the long term this important building may be best preserved by re-roofing. Surveyed in January 1990 for National Park (Ryder 1990).

Rectified photographic survey undertaken by Northern Archaeological Associates in October/November 1990. Results in SMR, County Hall, Morpeth; report in the shelves of event reports. (Fraser 1990)

Bastlehouse, Grade II-star. Dated 1602, though building may be 16th century and datestone an insertion. Mainly roofless - some slates. Two storeys, 37ft x 25ft. Interior: tunnel vaulted ground floor (Listed Building Report 3 Sep 1986)

Woodhouses Pele. A long narrow one-storeyed thatched cottage was built at one end of the house in 18th century. Both in ruin in 1886, restored in 1904 (Long 1967).

Bastle, 100m south-west of Holystone Grange. Scheduling revised on 23rd February 1994, new national monument number 20952.

The monument includes a bastle and an associated circular structure situated on the left bank of the River Coquet commanding extensive views of the Coquet valley. The bastle, constructed of roughly coursed rubble, is rectangular in shape and measures 11.5m by 7.5m. The vaulted basement is entered through a central doorway in the north-east gable, above which is an inscribed lintel carrying the date 1602. There are windows in the south and the south-west walls. A small wooden loft occupied the south-west end of the basement, the only remains of which are a line of beam holes in the walls. A stair leads from the eastern corner of the basement to the first floor living area. The first floor is lit by windows in the south, north-east and south-west walls; the two windows on the north-west wall are 20th century additions. Other features of interest on the first floor are two wall cupboards set either side of the window in the north-east wall, a stone sink beneath the eastern window and traces of an original fireplace in the south-west wall, later made into a doorway. The bastle was originally lower and was raised to its present height in the 18th century when an attic above the sirst floor was added. The monument is also a listed building grade II star. The bastle was restored and reroofed in 1904. Attached to the south-west end of the bastle is a turf-covered circular structure; this is the probable remains of a stack stand associated with the use of the bastle.

Despite some restoration work in the early 20th century, the bastle at Holystone is very well preserved and is a good example of its type. It retains many original features and is one of few bastles to bear an in situ datestone (Scheduling Report).

In the summer of 1993 the bastle was re-roofed in order to safeguard the building with minimum disturbance to its original features. Conservation involved consolidation of the upper walls, extensive repointing of the stonework, erection of new roof timbers, and reslating using salvaged stone slabs. The work was grant aided by English Heritage (Weir 1993-4). (Northumberland HER)

Gatehouse Comments

King writes "rather dubiously identified with an unfinished 'pile' mentioned at a place called Harecleugh in 1541" see Harehaugh Old Farm as an alternative site for this.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceNT965002
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  • Grint, Julia, 2008, Bastles an introduction to the bastle houses of Northumberland (Hexham: Ergo Press) p. 110-15
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  • Christopherson, R., 2011, 'Northumberland bastles: origin and distribution' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 26 p. 21-33 (listed in appendix)
  • Weir, A., 1993-94, Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 4 p. 13
  • 1990-91, Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 1 p. 2, 8-9
  • Ward, T., 1990 May, 'Bastle Houses of the Anglo-Scottish Borders' Fortress: The Castles and Fortifications Quarterly Issue 5 p. 35-43
  • Graham, A., 1945-6, 'Notes on Some Northumbrian 'Peles' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 80 p. 37-43 online copy
  • 1890, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 9 p. 241-4 online copy
  • Dixon, D.D., 1885-6, 'Woodhouses Pele, Coquetdale, Northumberland' History of the Berwickshire Naturalist Club Vol. 11 p. 174-6 and plate iv online copy


  • Ryder, P.F., 1990, Bastles and Towers in the Northumberland National Park Unpublished p. 23-5
  • Fraser, R., 1990, Rectified Photography of Woodhouses Bastle. Unpublished Northern Archaeological Associates report