The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Iron House, Highshaw

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Ironhouse; Herne House; The pele near Watts Sike

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY93359834
Latitude 55.27911° Longitude -2.10615°

Iron House, Highshaw has been described as a certain Bastle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The monument includes a deserted medieval settlement situated on the south side of the narrow valley of Watty's Sike. The settlement consists of a line of at least nine steadings (farmhouses), one of which, towards the west end of the settlement, is occupied by the ruined remains of a defended farmhouse or bastle. The bastle, constructed of roughly squared stone and surviving in parts to first floor level, is rectangular in plan, measuring 10.5m by 4m within stone walls 1.4m thick. The basement or byre is entered through a doorway at the centre of the east gable and was lit by slit windows in the south and east walls. Unlike other bastles in the vicinity, that at Ironhouse does not have a vaulted basement and the first floor living area was carried on a wooden floor; the beam holes which supported the floor are visible in the north wall. At first floor level there are the remains of wall cupboards in both gables and traces of a hearth at the east end. To the east and west of the bastle there are the remains of the stone foundations of at least seven other buildings; these turf-covered buildings measure 9m by 6m and their stone walls stand in places up to 1m high. A circular well is located immediately outside the bastle on the south-west side. Also to the south-west of the settlement there are the well-preserved remains of walled enclosures; the paddocks, garths and fields in which animals were kept. Local legend gives the name Ironhouse to the settlement whose main industry was iron working. Although the extant remains are sixteenth century in date, the earliest known documentary reference to the settlement is of 1398. (Scheduling Report)

Remains of a strongly-built structure situated upon a gentle south east slope of moorland pasture, at approx 830 feet above sea-level, and above the south-west banks of a little burn flowing to the south. The steep banks on the opposite side afford some natural defence to the site. Beyond, and to the north and west, are rising slopes of open moorland. To the south, the ground falls to the valley of the Penchford Burn. The structure, orientated nearly east-west, measures overall 13.1m by 7m. The walls, 1.4m thick at ground level, and 1.3m above an offset on the interior sides at first floor level, are constructed of rough-fashioned stones, with large quoins at the corners and are raised upon foundations of large boulders, exposed and partially undermined above the banks on the north side. There is little attempt at coursing or bonding in the stonework. The south-west and south-east corners have collapsed and the south wall stands to a max height of 2.3m. The north wall stands to 4m height and the end walls to a max height of approx 5m. The entrance in the east end is built of large fashioned boulders and is equipped with bar-holes. No original apertures remain in the walls. The structure is generally in a ruinous condition. There are no traces of the original access to the upper storey. Absence of a barrel vaulted roof to the basement suggests the structure to have been a Defended House rather than a Peel. Similar structures were encountered at Gate Houses (NY 788889) and were dated 'Tudor'.
The structure has been used for a sheepfold, and a dry stone wall has been constructed within (F1 ASP 29-MAY-1957).
Late 16th or early 17th century bastle, built of massive blocks of random rubble. Gable end walls stand to about 20ft. One side wall stands to about 16ft, the other to about 8ft. Doorway in south gable has a chamfered alternating-block surround with a relieving arch over. The walls are about 60 inches thick. The doorway is rebated with drawbar tunnels. Very impressive enclosure walls in similar masonry attached to south-east corner (Grundy 1987).
Bastle of roughly coursed rubblestones, with a basal course, of large boulders measuring 13.1m by 7m externally, and 1.4m thick walls. Standing highest at the eastern gable with the doorway. Internal features include draw-bars and pivot holes for a door on the ground floor. There are cupboard recesses surviving in each of the gable walls (Hale 2007).
Topographic survey carried out in 2007. The bastle measures 13.3m long by 6.8m wide with walls about 1.3m thick and standing about 4.5m high on the northern side and east gable, and to about 4m high at the west gable end. The upper floor is supported by timber beams rather than a stone vault, and this suggests a different builder to the nearby bastles at High Shaw and The Raw, or a different period of construction. The bastle was in ruins by the mid-19th century when it was already roofless. Detailed description of structure. The bastle is just one part of a more complex pattern of settlement and activity at Ironhouse (Archaeological Services WYAS 2008). (Northumberland HER)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling        
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact