Shittleheugh Bastle

Has been described as a Certain Bastle

There are major building remains

NameShittleheugh Bastle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishOtterburn

Shittleheugh bastle survives reasonably well without any post-bastle modifications and retains many unusual architectural features. The existence of a possible attic storey, a porch structure and the positioning of its main doorway suggest that this is an example of a rare 'superior' type of bastle occupied by a resident of higher status than usual.

The monument includes the remains of a bastle, a form of defended medieval farmhouse, situated on a west facing slope of moorland with extensive views of Redesdale to the north, west and south. The structure, composed of roughly hewn stone is rectangular in shape and measures 13m by 6.5m externally with walls 1.2m thick. The gables of the bastle stand to full height but the upper courses of the front and back walls have fallen and the bastle is roofless. An original ground floor entrance, placed rather unusually in the front wall rather than the usual gable end, remains intact with a lintel and two drawbar tunnels. Immediately in front of the doorway there are the remains of a porch structure with an outer doorway showing features similar to those of the inner door. It is thought that this structure either contained or carried a stairway to the upper storey living area. The basement of the bastle is furnished with several narrow slit windows, two in the north wall and one in each of the other three walls and there are traces of a support for a first floor fireplace. At first floor level, two wall cupboards are visible in the western gable and one in the east. Socket holes for timbers in the east wall suggest that there was an attic above the first floor. Attached to the east wall of the bastle there are the foundations of a smaller rectangular building measuring 7m by 5.5m; this structure is clearly later than the bastle. (Scheduling Report)

Ruined bastlehouse. Late C16 or early C17. Very large blocks of roughly-coursed and dressed stone with pieces of smaller infill. c.42 x 22 ft

Walls c.41 inches thick. Long walls stand to c.6 ft., gable ends stand to full height.

Original ground-floor doorway, right of centre on long east wall, has alternating-block surround with rounded arrises and very large lintel; hole for harr post and two pairs of drawbar tunnels. Remains of porch, or possibly stair tower in front:- lower parts of rebated jambs with rounded arrises. Interior has slit windows with widely-splayed reveals in both gable ends, also remains of 3 similar windows on long walls. Boldly corbelled-out lower parts of south wall to support 1st-floor hearth. Remains of wall cupboards on 1st floor. (Listed Building Report)

The bastle measures about 12.9m long by 6.4m wide and is constructed of large masonry blocks. The walls mesaure about 1.1m thick.

The east and west gables stand to almost their presumed original height although all the quoins have now gone. The north and south walls have deteriorated, presumably robbed for stone.

The western gable is relatively featureless except for a single narrow slit (for ventilation or drainage). The north elevation stands to about 2.2m high at the western end. The only notable feature is a small aperture which may have been a ventilation slit or drain. The eastern gable is also relatively featureless apart from a single ventilation slit. In front of this elevation are the footings of a small building which had been built against it. There is an apparent doorway in the south side of this extension.

The south elevation contains a ventilation slit and the only surviving entrance to the building. The doorway is made of large, squared masonry blocks for the jambs, with a single rectangular piece of masonry for the lintel. In front of the doorway are the remains of a porch with a single course of masonry surviving to show that the jambs for the outer door were rebated internally showing the door opened inwards. To the right of the doorway are the possible remains of a staircase which would have provided access to the first floor.

One step seems to survive at the base, measuring about 0.58m wide and located beside the main entrance; it is not clear if the staircase was internal or external to the building.

The bastle doorway has internal rebates showing the door opened inwards. In the right-hand jamb there are two square holes, the uppermost measures 0.11m wide by 0.14m high and 0.10m deep. The lower hole also measures 0.11m wide and 0.14m high, but extends into the wall for about 1.70m. There are corresponding holes with the same dimensions in the left-hand jamb, however the upper hole is only 0.08m deep and the lower one about 1.35m. The holes are evidence of two horizontal drawbars, used to secure the door. In the left-hand jamb is an irregular hole which may have housed an iron fitting for a latch. In the base of the lintel is a circular hole measureing 0.11m diameter and which seems to have housed a spindle for the door.

The internal west elevation has several courses of masonry towards the base of the wall which project outwards. This is generally considered to have supported a first floor fireplace. Above the projecting corbelling are two small cupboards, one of which has lost its right-hand jamb. A ventilation or drainage slit lies at the base of the wall.

The east internal wall has a single ventilation slit at ground floor and a small cupboard to the south side at first floor level. Close to the top of the wall are three small holes, with a further single hole near the apex of the gable; they may provide evidence for a further floor (a garret) or for a firehood.

It is likely the north and south walls originally contained small windows and a doorway at first floor level. There may also have been access between the ground floor and first floor through the timber flooring via a ladder. The walls may also once have contained evidence for timber joists to support the first floor. Set in the eastern wall was a piece of squared masonry with apparent parallel lines of moulding; this was the only piece of stonework noted with any architectural detail (Northumberland HER ref. North Pennines Archaeology 2009))

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 ReferenceNY869950
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  • Pevsner, N., Richmond, I., Grundy, J., McCombie, G., Ryder, P. and Welfare, H., 2001, The Buildings of England: Northumberland (London: Penguin Books)┬áp. 537
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  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 157
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 197


  • Christopherson, R., 2011, 'Northumberland bastles: origin and distribution' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 26 p. 21-33 (listed in appendix)
  • Town, Matthew, 2011, 'Shittleheugh: Otterburn Surveying a bastle and its landscape' Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 20 p. 58-9 online copy
  • Graham, A., 1945-6, 'Notes on Some Northumbrian 'Peles' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 80 p. 37-43 online copy
  • Hadcock, R.N., 1939, 'A map of mediaeval Northumberland and Durham' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 148-218 esp 167


  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 14 (account of removal from list) online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 39 online copy
  • North Pennines Archaeology, 2009, A Management Plan for the Conservation and Consolidation of Shittleheugh Bastle, Shittleheugh, Otterburn (Countryside Consultants)