Ritton White House

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

There are uncertain remains

NameRitton White House
Alternative NamesWest Ritton; Westryghton; Rytton
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishNunnykirk

Described in the late 1541 Survey as a stone house and a little barmkin, lately belonging to the suppressed monastery of Newminster: scarcely in good repair (Bates 1891).

NZ 05509442. The farmbuildings at Ritton White House incorporate three walls of what appears to be much older structure. The building, which has been of two storeys has rubble walls 1ft 2ins thick with large roughly dressed quoins. In the west wall at upper floor level is a large fireplace with a large rectangular stone slab as a lintel. The south wall has been pierced by two modern arches but there are traces of an older semicircular arch near the south west corner. The east wall has a small square headed window opening at ground floor level. There are no traces of vaulting in the lower part; the intervening floor was probably of wood although no joist holes could be seen. Although the few architectural details remaining are not dateable the thickness of the walls and the fact that the living quarters were on the first floor suggest that the remains are possibly those of a defended house, which, in the early surveys were usually referred to as a 'stone house' or 'bastle'. No trace remains of the 'barmkin' referred to. The building referred to is in good condition and in use as a cart shed and straw store (F1 EG 20-FEB-1957).

The building is incorporated in a group of 19th century planned farmbuildings, towards the east end of the main east-west range. It measures 10.8m by 8m externally, with walls c.0.9m thick of rubble, with quite well squared quoins. Little survives in the way of original features; there is a bastle-style slit vent low in the north wall, a broader blocked window (with a narrow chamfer to its lintel) in the east end and a first floor fireplace in the west end, 1.6m wide, with a thin but tall slab as its lintel, carrying a narrow chamfer

There are two semicircular cart entrances (19th century?) in the south wall, with remains of an older semicircular arch near the south west corner. This has a keystone and seems likely to be earlier than the late 18th century in date.

A stony bank running north from the east part of the north wall probably indicates the remains of another building, of uncertain date.

The building may possibly be a bastle or bastle-derivative house. Despite the 1541 reference there is no visible evidence of a pre-17th century date (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)

John Birtley, Abbot of Newminster from 1467, built fortifications at Rothley and Nunnykirk for certain, and most probably here and at Greenleighton at the same time. All were completed before 1500.

There is no sign of the tower today, not even the smallest clue. This is rather ironical as it is one of the few medieval monuments marked on the O.S. Pathfinder map - admittedly as a bastle, which it never was. (Dodds 1999).

Gatehouse Comments

King appears to list this site twice, once as Ritton and then as West Ritton. The 'fortification' John Birtley may have built here in the late C15 would be a later example of the 'pele tower' if it was a tower as assumed by Dodds and some other authors. If, as is reasonable to conclude, it was the Rytton recorded in the 1541 survey it is described as 'a strong house and a lytle barmekyn' which suggests something perhaps of only two storeys and not a three storey tower, that is a particularly early example of a pele-house type bastle which appears to be what it was despite Dodds opinion. However it should be noted the 1541 survey does call other building towers or bastles or pele house so a 'stone house' may have been something somewhat different although generally the term does seem to be synonymous with pele-house form of bastle.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ055944
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Calculate Print


  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 197
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 11, 50
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 352 (vanished), 356 (possible)
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 306
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 150
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 46 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)


  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 46 online copy

Primary Sources

  • 1541, View of the Castles, Towers, Barmekyns and Fortresses of the Frontier of the East and Middle Marches Survey of the East and Middle Marches
  • Fowler, J.T. (ed), 1878, Chartularium Abbathiae de Novo Monasterio, Ordinis Cisterciensis, fundatae anno mcxxxvii (Surtees Society 66) p. 311


  • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 1 Alnwick District p. 39