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Old Man's Sheel, Bellingham

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Scele; The Shield; Oldmanshield; Old Man's Shield

In the civil parish of Bellingham.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY80588386
Latitude 55.14879° Longitude -2.30612°

Old Man's Sheel, Bellingham has been described as a Pele Tower although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Bastle.

There are masonry footings remains.


In 1303 it is stated that a house called the Scele (Shield) was worth 4s yearly. The Shield (now Oldmanshield) is on the south of the river (North Tyne) in the modern Hesleyside (Dodds 1940).
A small single-storey, gabled stone cottage, situated upon a north-facing slope of pastureland. The building has recently been repointed with cement, and its age cannot be ascertained (F1 ASP 05-JUL-1956).
'This cottage is not more than 200 yrs old, and, as far as I am aware, is the original building on this site.' The site of the Scele mentioned AD 1303 could not be identified (F2 FDC 06-JUL-1956).
Old Man's Sheel, NY 806839. Traces of a shieling and possible bastle under the hayshed. Cottage is later - 18th century? (Pers Comm, B Long).
Old Man's Sheel is now a solitary cottage standing on a spur on the south side of the North Tyne valley. The single storey cottage is heavily pointed and shows no particular features of antiquity; it appears to have been truncated at the west end, where a projecting wall stub is of no great thickness. The building appears of 18th century date, although there is a local tradition that it is much older. A short distance south west of the cottage are slight remains of other buildings. Footings, largely under grass, appear to delineate a rectangular building c.10m by 6.5m, with a metre thick cross wall a little west of centre. To the west of this is a more recent structure with walls 0.6m thick, its west end standing to 1.5m. There are traces of the wall of a small enclosure to the south. Insufficient is exposed to confirm the existence of a bastle here, although the character of what little fabric is exposed would not discount this interpretation (Ryder 1994-5).
A single-storey, two-bay cottage with two 19th century sash windows. Built of sandstone rubble with a stone slate roof and a brick chimney. The door is in a late wooden lean-to on the gable end. Of interest because of its fine roof and partly because of its name, situation and size which together give something of the impression of the shieling it must have been. A stretch of projecting wall on the left gable indicates that the building was once larger (Grundy 1987). (Northumberland HER)

There is no evidence that the C14 house was a tower house and the site does not seem to be high status enough for such a gentry status house and the identification of this site with Scele is anyway far from certain. However the site is entirely consistant with a tenanted farmstead. The cottage itself can be dismissed as the site of a bastle but the buildings to the south, shown as a range of roofed buildings on the 1866 six-inch OS, may well have contained a bastle. The site is just south of the River North Tyne, on the slopes of the high moor land of Shillington Common. In the C16-C17 this sort of area was usually the location of tenanted farmsteads with some arable elements and there may be some suggestion of rig and furrow east of the cottage. However such areas were often put over to sheep in the late C17-C18 (c.f The Highland Clearances). The shieling name and function may date from that later period and would not exclude a bastle here.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

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