Nettle Hall, Alston Moor

Has been described as a Possible Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameNettle Hall, Alston Moor
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishAlston Moor

Nettle Hall, situated on the north-facing slope of the Nent valley in the dispersed settlement of Galligill, illustrates many of the main evolutionary trends encountered in farmsteads in the parish of Alston Moor in the period between 1600 and the present day. The earliest part of the building is a bastle house, probably dating from the first half of the 17th century. An 18th-century agricultural range was added to the west and an extension to the north, principally domestic and incorporating a separate living unit, was added probably circa 1800. (Jessop and Whitefield, 2010)

The oldest surviving part of Nettle Hall occupies the south-east quadrant of the house. Its pre-1700 form can be seen in its basic outline, extending from the east gable as far as the straight joint to the west of the chimney stack, an area equating on the ground floor to the modern kitchen and sitting room. Features belonging to this phase include the rough rubble footings and quoining, random rubble walls, a small chamfered window with iron bar visible on the upper storey close to the west end of the south elevation, and the faint but unmistakeable indications of a blocked ground-floor entrance in the middle of the east gable wall. Subsequent refenestration, the raising of the upper portion of the east gable wall and the rebuilding of the adjoining part of the south wall have obscured much of the form of the house

Internal investigation revealed a further small chamfered first-floor window towards the east end of the north wall with a narrower splayed recess beneath it on the ground floor indicating a former slit-vent or loop, now hidden externally by the north extension.

The thickness of the walls (varying between 68cm on the front wall and 82cm on the east gable wall), the position of the ground-floor gable entrance, the lack of evidence for original heating on the ground floor and the minimal fenestration throughout (but especially on the ground floor) suggest that the core of Nettle Hall was built in the tradition of the defensible bastle, with the living accommodation placed over a ground- floor byre, as is typical for 17th-century houses in Alston Moor. There is no evidence at Nettle Hall for a first-floor doorway, as would be usual for the period and building type; this is probably due to the refenestration and partial rebuilding of the south wall, where such a doorway is most likely to have been placed. Any external stair would probably have been redundant once the north extension, with its internal stair, was built.

The position of the exposed chamfered window on the southern elevation of Nettle Hall and its proximity to the west gable wall suggests that it served as a fire window, lighting the fire area under a smoke hood. Traces of a smoke hood can be seen in the roof, on the east face of the gable wall, where a steeply diagonal plaster scar, slightly lipped, can be seen on either side of the present chimney, indicating where the projecting hood has been removed; some smoke blackening can also be seen on the inner face of the west gable within the former smokehood. The smoke hood tapered to a stone chimney, which pierced the roof and was supported on stone corbels near the top of the west gable, one of which can be see inside the modern galleried bedroom created in the first-floor room of the west extension. The smoke hood would have taken up much of the western bay of the building, defined by the surviving oak roof truss of the period (the position of which suggests a three-bay roof structure, as now); the curved feet of its principal rafters can be seen in the first-floor rooms below. (Jessop and Whitefield, 2010)

Gatehouse Comments

It may be open to some question as to if a building "built in the tradition of the defensible bastle" is quite the same as a bastle. The building was recorded as thatched in the C18 and there is nothing to suggest it was stone vaulted. One might equally suggest it is a compact longhouse with the residential part of the house on top rather than beside the animal byre section of the house. This may be yet another bastle discovered by a better appreciation of this long disregarded vernacular architectural form or it may represent a simple early modern farmstead brought into a 'bastle' category by an increasingly open, wide and, perhaps, meaningless use of a term which, Philip Dixon has argued, never referred to this sort of building in its original contemporary usage. Gatehouse thanks Catherine Bancroft for bring this site, and the Jessop and Whitefield report, to our attention.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY759447
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  • Jessop, Lucy, Spring 2010, 'The vernacular buildings in the North Pennines AONB' Research News Number 14 p. 10-14 online copy


  • Jessop, Lucy and Whitfield, Matthew, 2010, Nettle Hall, Galligill, Alston Moor, Cumbria Survey, History and Interpreation (English Heritage Research Dept Report Series 063-2010) online copy