Black Middens Bastle 2

Has been described as a Certain Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBlack Middens Bastle 2
Alternative NamesBlack Middings; Black Myddynes
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishTarset

The monument at Black Middings is an exceptionally fine example of a pair of bastles with an associated field system and a later farmhouse demonstrating continuity of occupation within a period of approximately two hundred years. Although the standing remains of one bastle and the farmhouse do not survive well, the other bastle is extremely well preserved and retains numerous original features as well as later ones which contribute to an understanding of its subsequent development. Occupation debris relating to all phases of use will survive as buried features throughout the area of the scheduling.

The monument, which is sometimes also referred to as Black Middens, includes a well preserved 16th century bastle or defensible farmstead, an 18th century farmhouse, the remains of a second bastle which survives in use as a sheepfold, and a group of enclosures representing an associated inner field system and the beginnings of a larger outer field system. The second bastle, most of the walls of which now stand only to a few courses, is the usual rectangular structure, measuring 9.5m x 7.5m, with a small walled enclosure to the north east. It is identified as a former bastle because of the thickness of its surviving walls which, in places, are over 1m wide. The east wall survives up to 2m high. Bastles were, on occasion, built in groups for common protection, hence it is likely that both bastles at this site were constructed and used around the same time. (Scheduling Report)

NY 77389001. The remains of a probable bastle discovered during field investigation. It measures 10.2m x 7.5m with walls 1.4m thick and stands to a maximum height of 1.8m (F1 DS 21-JUL-1970).

Agreed. The remains are incorporated in a modern stone wall and measure externally 18.5m north east-south west by 7.5m transversely. The best preserved fragment is the south east wall which reaches a maximum height of 1.8m and width of 1.4m

There are no internal features nor are there any traces of window slits or doorways. The plan and general dimensions, however, are comparable to the bastle at NY 77318999 (F2 AGM 09-MAY-1977).

Ruined bastle 70m ENE of Black Middings Bastle. Rectangular building 9.5m x 7.5m with walls 1.4m thick of massive rubble, with roughly squared quoins, standing to 2m high on east. Byre entrance possibly in west part of south wall. Footings of a second building close to north end, apparently 10.5m x 6.9m, but largely grassed over (Ryder, P F 26-JUN-1990 Site visit). (Northumberland HER)

The second bastle house lies 60m upsiope of Black Middens and measures about 7.5m long and 4.7m wide, internally. The south-eastern wall and part of the south-western wall are now incorporated into a field wail, The walIs are up to 1.4m thick and 2.2m high, but they have been substantially rebuilt, Some original masonry is visible in the outer face of the south-east wall, comprising large stone blocks with galleting and is similar to that observed in the other bastle. The north-west wall survives largely as a turf-covered scarp of tumbled stone but its footings, although a stub, measuring 1.35m in width and 1,0m high, can still be discerned. The north-eastern wall has been rebuilt but probably follows the course of the original wall. (Lax 1999)

Gatehouse Comments

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, Waterhead, Highfield, Shilla Hill (Starr Head), Bog Head (Corby's Castle, Barty's peel), The Comb (Combe, Keame), Hill House.

- 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 ReferenceNY773900
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

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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  • Ryder, Peter, 2004, 'Towers and bastles in Northumberland National Park' in Frodsham, P., Archaeology in the Northumberland National Park (CBA Research report 136) p. 262-271
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 298
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 117 (slight)
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 72
  • Ramm, H.G., McDowall, R.W. and Mercer, E., 1970, Shielings and Bastles (London: HMSO) p. 91, no.60
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 69-70
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1940, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 15 p. 271


  • 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 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


  • 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