Hill House Bastle, Tarset

Has been described as a Certain Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHill House Bastle, Tarset
Alternative NamesWoodhouse; Woodhead; Black Middens 2; Hill Howse; Haughe-hill-house
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishTarset

Hill House bastle survives reasonably well and retains significant archaeological deposits. The enclosing wall is an unusual feature which enhances the importance of the bastle as does the survival of other bastles in the immediate vicinity, taken together they will add to our knowledge and understanding of settlement and society at this time.

The monument includes the remains of a bastle, a form of defended farmhouse, situated in a strongly defensive position on a low promontory commanding the Tarset Valley to the north, west and east. The bastle is visible as the grass covered walls of a rectangular building 5m by 6m and standing to a maximum height of 1.5m. It stands at the centre of a large enclosure 36m north east to south west by a maximum of 60m north west to south east, defined by a bank of stone and earth 1m high. Within the enclosing bank there is a scooped ditch-like feature on average 4m wide which would have provided extra defence on the most vulnerable sides of the bastle. There is an apparent entrance through the enclosure bank at the north east corner. Adjacent to the bastle, on its south side, there are the remains of at least one rectangular building and an associated yard visible as the low stone founded walls. These are interpreted as the remains of a farmstead of similar or slightly later date to the bastle. Attached to the external side of the enclosure bank, immediately north of the entrance on the edge of the steep valley side, are the remains of two enclosures defined by low banks 0.6m high. The first is roughly square and measures 5m with an entrance in its south west corner. The second enclosure is irregularly shaped and measures 10m by 4m. Hill House is first mentioned in 1552, then called Haugh-Hill House and it was raided in 1583. During the 17th century it was occupied by the Hunters. It is not shown on a map of 1769 and may have been deserted by that time

(Scheduling Report)

A pele tower is alleged to have stood at Waterhead, but the site has not been found (Clarke 1905-56).

NY 77068977 The remains of a strong building visible as a grass covered mound, rectangular and measuring 5m x 6m; it stands to a maximum height of 1.5m. No dating evidence is available and without excavation it is impossible to ascertain the original thickness of the walls. The situation is upon the south-east slope of a low promontory and is strongly defensive. 20m to the north-east precipitous slopes drop to the Tarset Burn, on the three remaining sides the foundations of strong dry stone walls contain strips of marshland. The site commands the Tarset valley to the north-west, north-east and south-east, overlooking open moorland to the south-west.

In proximity to the main building are four mutilated steading foundations. It cannot be stated whether or not the latter mentioned foundations are contemporary with the mains feature. There are no surface indications of old trackways or plough lines; no field names were obtainable. The defensive nature of this site, together with the fact that the original main building appears to have been of considerable strength, leads to the possibility that these are the remains of the Pele tower quoted by Clarke. Waterhead - approximately 475m to the north west - is a small modern farmhouse (F1 FDC 31-AUG-1956).

The site is generally as described, except that the enclosing wall, now reduced to an earth and stone bank, continues round the edge of the steep river slope on the north side. The remains would appear to be those of a peel, together with a farmstead of contemporary, or later, date (F2 DS 29-JUL-1970).

The first reference to the site was in 1552 (Haugh-Hill House). It was raided in 1583 (The Hill House) and was a home of the Hunters in the 17th century (Hill House upon Tarset Water). Held as Bog Head in 1749 and 1766; not shown on Armstrong's map of 1769. A map of 1840 records the name Hillas on the west bank of the Tarset Burn and may be equated with the deserted buildings there.

The site consists of a well-defined enclosure with the Pele in the centre, towards one end and various smaller garths and steadings (Long 1988). (Northumberland HER)

The bastie, which is unusually small and square and measures only 5.8m by 5.6m internally, is still the most visible feature of the site and is the focus of the other surviving earthworks. Two short lengths of facing stones are discernible suggesting walls about 1,5m wide but essentially the building survives as turf-covered banks, up to 1.6m high externally. The location of the entrance is uncertain but it could be represented by a lowering in the centre ofthe south-eastern side. (Lax 1999)

Gatehouse Comments

The 'pele tower' mentioned by Clarke is, presumably, that recorded by MacLauchlan in 1867 and may actually not be this site but a grassy mound at NY76168692 (see Hill House Tower). One of a group of several bastles near Tarset Head, 8.5 to 12 km nw of Bellingham. Others in group include Black Middens 1 and 2, Waterhead, Highfield, Shilla Hill (Starr Head), Bog Head (Corby's Castle, Barty's peel), The Comb (Combe, Keame).

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceNY770897
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.

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  • Grint, Julia, 2008, Bastles an introduction to the bastle houses of Northumberland (Hexham: Ergo Press) p. 62-4
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 300
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 117 (slight)


  • Christopherson, R., 2011, 'Northumberland bastles: origin and distribution' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 26 p. 21-33 (listed in appendix)
  • < >Lax, Amy, 1999, 'Border Troubles and Border Farmers: A study of Bastle Houses in the Upper Tarset Valley, Northumberland' Northern Archaeology Vol. 17/18 (plan) p. 165-72 < >

Primary Sources

  • Bain, J.G. (ed), 1894, Calendar of Letters and Papers Relating to the Affairs of the Borders of England and Scotland (Edinburgh) Vol. 1 p. 109 online copy
  • Nicholson, Willaim, 1705, Leges Marchiarum or Border-Laws p. 262 (Order of marches watch in 1552) online copy


  • The Archaeological Practice Ltd., 2004, 'Tarset and Greenhaugh Northumberland an archaeological and historical study of a border township' Northumberland National Park Historic Village Atlas p. 42-3 (slight) (The Northumberland National Park Authority) online copy
  • Long, B., 1988, List of Ancient Monuments - The Kielder Forests. Unpublished (Forestry Commission)
  • Clarke, H.F., 1905-1956, Essex Arch. Soc. (Author of The Towers and Fortified Houses of Northum 1905-1956. Private work. Not published.)