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Tow House Bastle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Tower House; Hiving House; Ivy Cottage

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY76746433
Latitude 54.97307° Longitude -2.36487°

Tow House Bastle has been described as a certain Bastle.

There are major building remains.

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Bastle, now house. Late C16 with late C18-early C19 rear outshut. Large roughly-squared stones; roof has graduated stone tiles on front and purple slates on rear; stone chimney stacks. Original entries, now blocked, on left gable end and first-floor rear. 2 storeys, 2 bays. Massive boulder plinth on front and returns. Huge roughly-squared quoins. Late C19 openings on front: replaced door in flush surround with alternating jambs at right; replaced sashes. Other small blocked window openings in front and returns are visible from inside only. Steeply-pitched roof with overhanging eaves. Large square- plan end stacks with top ledges and water tables; left end stack has re-set head corbel above ledge. Left return: roll-moulded, square-headed doorway with alternating jambs and massive lintel; chimney flue on stone relieving arch inserted behind doorway; blocked loop towards rear and small blocked opening above. Added rear outshut has late C20 fenestration; steeply-pitched pent roof interrupted at left by horizontal dormer window.
Interior: c.1.5-metre thick walls; wide stone chimney flues on both gable ends; several small blocked window openings with internal splays; ground-floor room has adzed ceiling beams and a spiral stone stair to right of front door (stair probably in situ and possibly a unique feature in a bastle-house); 2 first-floor rooms with ceiling beams of heavy scantling - room at right has blocked doorway on rear; roof has heavy A-frame truss on a cambered tie beam; blocked loops in attic flanking both chimney flues. Single-storey shed on right return is not of special interest. (Listed Building Report)

Tow House is a bastle now modernised as a cottage, 23-1/4 x 32-1/2 feet with walls 4-1/2 ft thick. The south front is plastered, obscuring any remains of original openings. In the west end the original entrance to the lower storey is blocked. A substantial stone chimney at the east end may be original. In the south east corner is a spiral stone stair which, if original, is unique in this type of building (Ramm et al 1970).
Solitary form bastle, measures 9.9 x 7.1m externally, with walls 1.4m thick. Byre entrance in gable wall, first floor form - beamed ceiling. Location of first floor door uncertain. Present state - house (Ryder 1990).
A well preserved bastle at Tow House; it has previously been named Hiving House, Ivy Cottage and Tower House, but is now called 'The Bastle'. The bastle measures 9.7m by 7.4m externally, with walls c.1.4m thick of large roughly shaped blocks, on a boulder plinth, and megalithic angle quoins; the quoin above the plinth at the south west corner measures 1.08m by 0.85m by 0.5m. There is an outshut of 18th or early 19th century date at the rear.
The present doorway, set east of centre in the south wall, is clearly an insertion; it has cut dressings of late 18th or early 19th century character. The sash windows with their timber lintels are similarly insertions; two were enlarged c.1930; the only old features in the wall are a blocked first floor loop near the west end and a possible blocked loop above and between the first floor windows. The west end gable end shows the central byre doorway of the bastle, with a square head and a roll moulded surround; there is a blocked drawbar tunnel in the south jamb, and an internal timber lintel with a square harr socket at its north end. The opening is blocked towards the line of the internal face of the wall, with below the rubble blocking the partly cut-away brick dome of a former bread oven. Above the doorway, at attic level are a pair of blocked loops, one on either side of the chimney. The plain square chimney stacks are clearly of some age. The lower part of the east end is partly concealed by a later outbuilding, on the north side of which is an inserted window; at first floor level is a blocked loop, set south of the stack. Internally, the ground floor has a fireplace at the west end, apparently of plain 18th or early 19th century type, refronted relatively recently; there is an old strainer beam above. The inner hearth incorporates an old lintel with an incised border, found probably already in a reused context, over the door of a privy in the garden. On the north side of the fireplace is a stone wall cupboard. In the south east corner of the ground floor is a stone newel stair, with treads shaped to form an integral newel post; the stonework beneath the treads was introduced as a support within living memory. In the centre of the east wall is a blocked splayed loop, with above it the projecting hearth stone of the first floor fireplace. In the north wall is a doorway of uncertain date opening into the outshut.
The first floor is carried on a series of transverse beams, generally 0.12m-0.15m square, some noticeably curved. The south end of the easternmost beam has been truncated to allow for the newel stair.
A recent partition divides the first floor into two bedrooms; the present doorway from the head of the outshut stair is relatively recent, replacing an older opening further east, which now provides cupboards both in the eastern bedroom and in the bathroom in the outshut. The blocked loops visible externally in the east and south walls form splayed recesses; there are stone wall cupboards at the east end of the south wall and at the north end of the west wall; the latter cupboard has a smaller recess directly above. There is a plain fireplace with a narrow chamfer to jambs and lintel against the east wall; there is no fireplace in the western bedroom, only the tapering stack of the ground floor hearth.
The transverse beams which carry the attic floor are more widely spaced, but of heavier scantling (0.2m-0.3m square) than those of the floor below. The attic has a central principal rafter truss with a collar of heavy scantling and probably original; the floor has old broad boards.
The house preserves a surprising number of original features for a bastle which has remained in domestic use. The wall thicknesses and immense quoins mark it out as an unusually substantial building of the type. Whilst a few 'superior' bastles do have contemporary internal stairs (see Woodhouses, NT 90 SE 2) the evidence of the truncated ceiling beam seems to indicate that the stair here is secondary - and possibly a quite late insertion, as the ceiling beams themselves, of smaller scantling than those of the attic floor, may well be replacements. The stone treads are almost certainly reused from a medieval building. If the stair is an insertion, then there should have been a doorway at first floor level. A possibility is a blocked doorway between the bathroom and the eastern bedroom which may be an original feature but is now plastered over. Few bastle doorways are on the north, although there are some local parallels (Ashcroft: NY 76 NE 32 and Alton Side: NY 76 NE 15); alternatively the southern window of the same bedroom may represent an original doorway as its opening forms a full height recess for half the wall thickness, unlike the window in the western bedroom which has a sill the full width of the wall (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

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