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Barrasford Pele, Chollerton

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Head House

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY915732
Latitude 55.05385° Longitude -2.13368°

Barrasford Pele, Chollerton has been described as a Fortified Manor House although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Bastle, and also as a Pele Tower although is doubtful that it was such.

There are no visible remains.


Bastle (supposed) at Barrasford. (Hodgson consulted but contains no reference to a bastle). (Hadcock).
There is no local knowledge of or any remains of a Bastle, in Barrasford (F1 ASP 10-FEB-1956)
'The Head House was a 'pele' with a stone house added to it at a later date (Long 1967). (Northumberland HER)

It is not clear what sort of fortified house existed at Barrasford. An unidentified 'head man' lived in the head house which was burnt down by the Scots before 1289 and replaced by a new, fortified dwelling. This was extended by the Heron family in the 16th century, but was replaced by the present building in 1897. Some stones and slabs from the original building have been incorporated into the new building. (PastScape ref. Dodds 1999)

The village also contained a 'head house', the home of the 'Head Man'; it had been burnt down by the Scots in 1289 and replaced by some sort of fortified building, perhaps a small manor house. This was extended and updated by the Herons in the sixteenth century, and after the Union of the Crowns a wing was added. It was still standing in 1897, but soon after replaced by the existing mansion, the east wing of which suggests that some stones and roofing slabs for the original have been used again. (Dodds 1999)

This is believed to be the site of Barrasford Pele, though the evidence is very uncertain. Nothing can be seen at the site today. Peles were fortified towers built as a defence against raids from Scotland in the medieval period (1066 to 1540). (Keys to the Past)

Dodds's historical references are obscure but clearly included Hodgson 1827 and Hodgson 1897. Neither state that the precursors of Head House were fortified. The Northumberland HER references Long as writing the Head House was 'a 'pele' with a stone house added to it at a later date' but the various meanings of the term 'pele' need clarity. Did Long mean a small tower or a wooden house? The late C13/C14 date for a fortified house given by Dodds would exclude a bastle but Dodds also seems to be excluding a tower. There are some suggestions of an earthwork enclosure around Head House on earlier editions of the OS 25000 map and it is entirely possible the house was surrounded by a bank and wooden fence and was a 'pele' in the supposed original sense of a wooden fenced enclosure.
The 'Head Man' was probably not of sufficient social status or income to have even a small pele tower and that possibility can be probably excluded. An embanked fenced croft must have been fairly typical and can hardly be called a fortification. The house shown in Hodgson 1897 may be an adapted bastle of the pele-house type of late C16/early C17 which would be in the income range of the Head Man and might reasonable be expected in this area although the evidence is mainly by analogue.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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