Iron House, Highshaw

Has been described as a Certain Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameIron House, Highshaw
Alternative NamesIronhouse; Herne House; The pele near Watts Sike
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishHepple

The monument includes a deserted medieval settlement situated on the south side of the narrow valley of Watty's Sike. The settlement consists of a line of at least nine steadings (farmhouses), one of which, towards the west end of the settlement, is occupied by the ruined remains of a defended farmhouse or bastle. The bastle, constructed of roughly squared stone and surviving in parts to first floor level, is rectangular in plan, measuring 10.5m by 4m within stone walls 1.4m thick. The basement or byre is entered through a doorway at the centre of the east gable and was lit by slit windows in the south and east walls. Unlike other bastles in the vicinity, that at Ironhouse does not have a vaulted basement and the first floor living area was carried on a wooden floor; the beam holes which supported the floor are visible in the north wall. At first floor level there are the remains of wall cupboards in both gables and traces of a hearth at the east end. To the east and west of the bastle there are the remains of the stone foundations of at least seven other buildings; these turf-covered buildings measure 9m by 6m and their stone walls stand in places up to 1m high. A circular well is located immediately outside the bastle on the south-west side. Also to the south-west of the settlement there are the well-preserved remains of walled enclosures; the paddocks, garths and fields in which animals were kept. Local legend gives the name Ironhouse to the settlement whose main industry was iron working. Although the extant remains are sixteenth century in date, the earliest known documentary reference to the settlement is of 1398. (Scheduling Report)

Remains of a strongly-built structure situated upon a gentle south east slope of moorland pasture, at approx 830 feet above sea-level, and above the south-west banks of a little burn flowing to the south. The steep banks on the opposite side afford some natural defence to the site

Beyond, and to the north and west, are rising slopes of open moorland. To the south, the ground falls to the valley of the Penchford Burn. The structure, orientated nearly east-west, measures overall 13.1m by 7m. The walls, 1.4m thick at ground level, and 1.3m above an offset on the interior sides at first floor level, are constructed of rough-fashioned stones, with large quoins at the corners and are raised upon foundations of large boulders, exposed and partially undermined above the banks on the north side. There is little attempt at coursing or bonding in the stonework. The south-west and south-east corners have collapsed and the south wall stands to a max height of 2.3m. The north wall stands to 4m height and the end walls to a max height of approx 5m. The entrance in the east end is built of large fashioned boulders and is equipped with bar-holes. No original apertures remain in the walls. The structure is generally in a ruinous condition. There are no traces of the original access to the upper storey. Absence of a barrel vaulted roof to the basement suggests the structure to have been a Defended House rather than a Peel. Similar structures were encountered at Gate Houses (NY 788889) and were dated 'Tudor'.

The structure has been used for a sheepfold, and a dry stone wall has been constructed within (F1 ASP 29-MAY-1957).

Late 16th or early 17th century bastle, built of massive blocks of random rubble. Gable end walls stand to about 20ft. One side wall stands to about 16ft, the other to about 8ft. Doorway in south gable has a chamfered alternating-block surround with a relieving arch over. The walls are about 60 inches thick. The doorway is rebated with drawbar tunnels. Very impressive enclosure walls in similar masonry attached to south-east corner (Grundy 1987).

Bastle of roughly coursed rubblestones, with a basal course, of large boulders measuring 13.1m by 7m externally, and 1.4m thick walls. Standing highest at the eastern gable with the doorway. Internal features include draw-bars and pivot holes for a door on the ground floor. There are cupboard recesses surviving in each of the gable walls (Hale 2007).

Topographic survey carried out in 2007. The bastle measures 13.3m long by 6.8m wide with walls about 1.3m thick and standing about 4.5m high on the northern side and east gable, and to about 4m high at the west gable end. The upper floor is supported by timber beams rather than a stone vault, and this suggests a different builder to the nearby bastles at High Shaw and The Raw, or a different period of construction. The bastle was in ruins by the mid-19th century when it was already roofless. Detailed description of structure. The bastle is just one part of a more complex pattern of settlement and activity at Ironhouse (Archaeological Services WYAS 2008). (Northumberland HER)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY933983
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Grint, Julia, 2008, Bastles an introduction to the bastle houses of Northumberland (Hexham: Ergo Press) p. 106-9
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 189
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 118 (slight)
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 41
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 359
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 219
  • Ramm, H.G., McDowall, R.W. and Mercer, E., 1970, Shielings and Bastles (London: HMSO) p. 88 no. 48
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 127
  • Dixon, D.D., 1903, Upper Coquetdale Northumberland: Its History, Traditions, Folk-lore and Scenery (Newcastle-upon Tyne: Robert Redpath) p. 287 online copy


  • Christopherson, R., 2011, 'Northumberland bastles: origin and distribution' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 26 p. 21-33 (listed in appendix)
  • < >Pollington, M., 2010, 'Ironhouse Bastle: A survey of a Northumberland border farmstead' Northern Archaeology Vol. 21 p. 1-17 < >
  • Hale, D., 2007, 'Archaeology on the Otterburn Training Area, 2002-2007' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 36 p. 31-77 esp. 71-72
  • Abramson, P., 2005, 'Recent Archaeology in the Otterburn Training Area' Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 15 p. 4 download from Northumberland CC
  • Graham, A., 1945-6, 'Notes on Some Northumbrian 'Peles' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 80 p. 37-43 online copy


  • Archaeological Services WYAS, 2008, Ironhouse Bastle, Otterburn Training Area, Northumberland Archaeological topographical survey. Unpublished
  • Grundy, J., 1987, The Historic Buildings of the Northumberland National Park HEP 16