Bastle Houses Northumberland
Bastle houses are unique to the Border region and Northumberland. For 300 hundred years up to when England and Scotland were finally united under one crown in 1603 this region had been plagued with
the curse of reiving. It was a society where it was normal to steal cattle and goods from your neighbours. So common was it that rules of combat were developed to try and ensure that it
was kept within what were then acceptable boundaries. People died, livlihoods were lost and out of this torment came fortified farmhouses which became known as Bastle houses.
The word Bastle comes from the french batir, "to build" as in Bastille, a fortified building.
The majority appear to have been built between 1550 and 1650 but it is difficult to be accurate as many dates reflect a change to the original much older building. Traditionally Bastle houses were believed to be within a 20 mile band of the border itself, but this isn't always the case with good examples being found in Allendale and Alston.
The Bastle house itself is simple in design. The ground floor was for the animals and the first floor for people. There would typically be no latrines and just a fireplace at one end. Access to the first floor was usually through a ladder and trapdoor within the byre below. Bastle houses were often built within sight of each other, basically to help provide early warning of raids. The Bastles which survive broadly fall into 4 areas - Allendale ~ Tarset ~ Redesdale ~ Otterburn
These Bastle houses are not beautiful - they are stark and solid with walls at least 1 metre thick. They arose out of the killing times and are a stark reminder of the troubles which
plagued this beautiful land.
If you are interested in the history of Northumberland, there are many castles you can visit such as Dunstanburgh Castle and Alnwick Castle. There are also castles in Bamburgh and Warkworth.