Bog Head Bastle, Thorneyburn

Has been described as a Certain Bastle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBog Head Bastle, Thorneyburn
Alternative NamesBoghead; Bartys Pele; Corbie; Corbys Castle, Comb; Borbie Castle
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishTarset

Ruined bastlehouse. C16 or early C17. Large blocks of random rubble. Walls standing from c.8-15 feet high, c.57 inches thick. Ground-floor doorway, in north gable end, has alternating-block surround with rounded arrises, and relieving arch of which only one voussoir remains. A slit window in the south gable end. Inside the doorway is rebated and has hole for harr post and drawbar tunnels. The springing of the vault remains. (Listed Building Report)

The bastle and its associated buildings 730m north west of Comb survive reasonably well and preserve a rare doorway feature. The importance of the monument is enhanced by the survival of other bastles in the vicinity. Taken together they will add to our knowledge and understanding of post medieval settlement in the region.

The monument includes the remains of a bastle, a form of defended farmhouse, situated at the foot of a steep slope in the valley of the Tarset Burn. The bastle, rectangular in shape and orientated north west to south east, measures 9.6m by 7m externally with walls of large unhewn stone blocks 1.4m thick. The walls stand to a height of 4.5m on the north west and south west sides and 2m-4m elsewhere. Roughly shaped boulders have been used as quoin stones at the corners of the building. There is an entrance in the centre of the western gable wall giving access into the ground floor basement; it is square headed with rounded door jambs and has been provided with two doors, each furnished with draw bar tunnels. Above the doorway there is a narrow channel cut through the thickness of the wall; this is interpreted as a channel through which water would be poured to douse fires lit against the door and is a very rare feature of bastle construction. There is a single slit window in the east end of the bastle. The basement or byre clearly shows the remains of a vaulted roof which has mostly fallen into the bastle

It is thought that the upper storey living area was reached by a wooden ladder or staircase. The bastle is a Grade II Listed Building. Immediately to the west of the bastle, and on the same orientation, there are the remains of two steadings; the most easterly is visible as the grassed over foundations of a two compartment long house 17.5m by 4.5m wide, the end walls of which are 1.4m wide. The most westerly building is stone built and measures 24m long by 6m wide. It is considered that buildings such as these, which occur in close proximity to a bastle represent part of the bastle complex, and although secondary in construction to the main building they are associated with it. (Scheduling Report)

Barty's Peel stands at the foot of a steep slope where the Highfield Burn joins the Tarset Burn. The walls are of rubble with very large quoins and the lower floor has been vaulted. Above the vault the walls are 4ft thick. The doorway is at the west end. There are no traces of any stairs to the upper floor which must have been reached by ladder or wooden steps. Near the tower are the ruins of a three-compartment cottage (probably 17th cent or later) a massively built two room cottage which may be medieval, and an irregular enclosure, probably a sheepfold (Dodds 1940).

Situated amidst boggy ground on the west side of the Highfield Burn, and overlooked by steep slopes 30m to the south west. The tower commands the Tarset Burn valley to the north, east and south east, and overlooks a wide stretch of gently rising moorland to the north, east and south east. The ground measurements are 7m north east-south west, 9.8m north west-south east. The walls stand to approx 4.5m on the north west and south west sides, and 2m to 4m on the opposite sides. Their thickness at ground level cannot be ascertained but at first floor level they are 1.4m thick. There is evidence of barrel vaulting of the basement, which is now nearly filled with fallen masonry. A small entrance 0.7m wide with bar holes occurs in the north west side and a small window in the south east side.

To the north west and in line with the Pele are the foundation remains of two steadings and remains of an irregular shaped sheepfold, constructed of loose stone. The side walls of the steadings are 0.8m thick the end and partition walls, 1.4m thick; they stand to a maximum height of 2m. Lack of architectural features does not allow an accurate date of construction to be given to the steadings. The pele is probably of 16th or 17th century construction. Similar structures in the region have been so dated ()F1 ASP 31-JUL-1956).

On west bank of Tarset Burn, just below its confluence with the Highfield Burn. Ruined rectangular building 9.6m x 7m with walls of large unshaped blocks with galleting. North end wall 1.4m thick has central square-headed byre doorway with rounded jambs; doorway is rebated for two doors, each with harr socket in lintel, and drawbar tunnels. Relieving arch above lintel has largely fallen, obscuring outlet of channel in wall presumably intended for pouring water through to douse fires lit against door. Central slit vent in south end. Basement has had semicircular vault 3m high at apex, mostly fallen. No features remain at first floor level. Consolidation of area around doorway needed. Several other buildings around, mostly under grass except for ruins of cottage to north, perhaps 18th century (Ryder, P F 24-JUL-1990 Site visit). Boghead Bastle: also called 'Corbie Castle' (Long 1967) derived from Hodge Corbet or Corby should be applied to The Combe (600m south east) as this was his residence. Long terms this bastle 'Boghead' or 'Barty's Pele' (Ryder 1990)

The jambs of the bastle were cut at a later date to allow replacement drawbars to be installed. The other two buildings are aligned east-west with the bastle being the most easterly. The most westerly building is a long house. Several internal walls remain with other fittings. A D-shaped enclosure terminates the group (Long 1988).

Barty's Pele (Bog Head). Walls up to 15ft high in places. Vaulted basement has fallen in. Door at west end 2ft 2-1/2ins wide, murder hole above. No trace of a stair (Long 1967).

Boghead bastle, surveyed at 1:500 scale by RCHME in July 1997. The site comprises a bastle house, two ruined farmstead buildings and a sheepfold. The earliest reference to Boghead is a letter of 1583. Detailed description of the site. The bastle stands as the most prominent feature on the site. To the west of the bastle are the remains of a farmstead comprising a rectangular building, probably a house. A second farmstead lies north east of the first and comprises a large subdivided building. It is better preserved than the first and is probably the later of the two. A sheepfold lies beside the second farmstead. Two other features lie on the site but are of unknown dates and functions: an irregular scooped depression, c.15m by 12m internally, lies north of the bastle house and may be of recent origin; and a small rectangular hollow and bank of upcast material (Lax 1997).

During a watching brief in 2009 few previously unknown features of archaeological significance were revealed. No trace of the remains of an original entrance doorway (and possibly window recesses) in the south wall, where such remains had been postulated, but the actual level of the original first floor remains uncertain so it remains impossible to be confident that there was no entrance here. The question of access to the upper floor remains open; a peculiar ascending series of slabs at the north end of the east wall have a stair-like appearance, but is more likely just a constructional oddity. However, the provision of a mural stair cannot quite be ruled out, but further archaeological clearance of the interior would be required in order to detect such remains (The Archaeological Practice, 2009). (Northumberland HER)

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 and 2, Waterhead, Highfield, Shilla Hill (Starr Head), The Comb (Combe, Keame), Hill House. A site with a surfeit of names, some of which probably originally related to other, nearby, bastles.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceNY761909
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  • Headlam, C., 1939, The Three Northern Counties of England (Gateshead) p. 334


  • 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 < >
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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


  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 19 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 33 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 32 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 30 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 40 online copy
  • The Archaeological Practice, 2009, Boghead Bastle and Shilla Hill Bastle, Tarset, Northumberland: report on an archaeological watching brief carried out during conservation works between May and June 2009. Unpublished
  • 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
  • Lax, A., 1997, Boghead Bastle, Northumberland. An archaeological survey report. RCHME
  • Ryder, P.F., 1990, Bastles and Towers in the Northumberland National Park (Report for Northumberland National Park Authority) p. 37
  • Long, B., 1988, List of Ancient Monuments - The Kielder Forests. Unpublished (Forestry Commission)