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Branshaw Bastle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY88039968
Latitude 55.29103° Longitude -2.18981°

Branshaw Bastle has been described as a certain Bastle.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The probable remains of a tower situated upon a gentle west slope of pasture in open moorland, at approx 900 feet above sea-level. The site overlooks falling ground to the north and south, and commands the opening to the Durtrees Burn valley which runs northwards. In the south west is low lying ground and to the east are rising slopes of moorland. A now-dry limestone ravine provides some natural defence, about 30m to the south-west. The extant fragment comprises the greater part of the barrel-vaulted basement. The Peel, orientated nearly east-west, measures, overall. 12.2m by 7.4m. The walls are 1.5m thick, constructed of rough fashioned stones and boulders, with massive quoins at the corners. They stand to 3.5m height on the north and east sides, and area a tumbled mass of turf-covered masonry on the other sides. The south-west corner is intact to 2m height. The barrel roof is collapsed at the west end. The entrance, low and narrow, with bar holes, is in the east end. There is a retaining arch above the lintel stone (F1 ASP 17-MAY-1957).
The barrel roof has now completely collapsed, otherwise as described (F2 DS 12-OCT-1970).
The byre doorway is in the centre of the east end; it has been square-headed, but the lintel has broken and partly fallen; a relieving arch above remains in a state of 'suspended collapse'. Part of a group including three other rectangular buildings, a corn-drying kiln(?) and several enclosure walls. On the edge of impact area of Otterburn ranges; recent deterioration may be due to shell fire. The whole site needs surveying. With a little repair work the bastle door could be cleared and consolidated (F3 PFR 03-AUG-1990).
Remains of a ruined farmstead incorporating earlier bastle remains. Earliest recorded date and references 1552; 1604 Survey (Sanderson); 1688-1748 Elsdon Parish Registers; 1769 map. Last occupied 1940 (Charlton and Day 1977).
Association of bastle and probable contemporary buildings, documented at Branshaw. The bastle became the nucleus for agricultural settlement (Charlton and Day 1979).
Branshaw Pele. Vaulted basement remains, in poor condition. Measures 30ft x 15ft 6ins. Other building remains close by (Long 1967). Survey by P Ryder, March 1996. The bastle stands at the centre of a group of associated buildings; these are all ruined structures. The bastle is probably the oldest structure on the site and may be early 17th century in date. The remaining buildings were built at various times between the early 18th and 19th centuries. Earlier, medieval occupation may be suggested by earthwork remains of buildings at the south west end of the site. Elevations of bastle from all sides and a topographical survey of the settlement. The buildings are in poor condition and at least one attempt at demolition appears to have been made since 1960 (Ryder 1996).
Branshaw deserted settlement and bastle. Scheduling revised on 11th July 1997, new national monument number 28546. The monument includes the remains of a deserted settlement including a bastle, part of an associated field system of medieval and post-medieval date (NY 89 NE 45) and a section of Roman road (NY 89 NE 105). The complex is situated on both sides of the Durtrees Burn, immediately below the point at which the burn descends below ground. The settlement contains the remains of at least six rectangular buildings including four standing ruins, two large enclosures and several smaller paddocks or garths. The bastle is situated at the centre of the group of buildings. It is rectangular in shape, orientated east to west and measures a maximum of 12.2m by 7.13m. The regular stonework is comprised of large roughly square blocks of stone and it stands to a maximum of seven courses high on the northern side. There is a plain square headed entrance into the ground floor byre which is placed centrally through the eastern gable end. The relieving arch above the lintel has slumped, although it is still in place. The basement of the bastle was originally covered by a stone vault, although little of this feature survives today. The remains of the upper floor of the bastle is visible in a small section of walling at the western part of the north wall. Immediately east of the bastle, but set slightly further north, is a short range of three buildings also orientated east to west; the middle, square, building which stands to a maximum of nine courses high, is thought to be the earliest structure of the group and dates from the 19th century. It has doorways through its north and south walls. This range of buildings and the bastle are attached to a large square enclosure built of roughly coursed stone standing up to five courses high. Some 30m east of the bastle and on the same alignment there is a further rectangular stone building. It stands to a maximum of five courses high and is thought to be 18th century in date. Some 15m south of the bastle there is another rectangular building, situated immediately on the edge of the deep gully of the Durtrees Burn. This building is orientated slightly differently to the other buildings at Branshaw. It stands to a maximum of five courses and has an entrance through its north wall and a narrow window in an opposing position through the south wall. It is thought that this building is related to the bastle tradition of defensible buildings and is thought to date to the late 17th or early 18th century. At the northern end of the monument there are the grassed over foundations of a fifth building and at the extreme south western edge of the monument there are the grassy foundations of a sixth building (see NY 89 NE 14) partly overlain by the second larger enclosure of similar construction to the first. It is thought that these two buildings may be the remains of an earlier medieval settlement at the site; an earlier settlement at Branshaw is recorded in a document of 1552. In a survey of 1604 'Brenshaw' and the adjacent settlement of 'Dudleise' were tenanted by Ralph and Thomas Hall; they each had a house and eight acres of meadow and the two farms shared acres of pasture. The bastle was occupied until c.1940 when it was abandoned. On the south side of the Durtrees Burn further remains of the settlement survive including a complex of three small enclosures. Two of the enclosures are contained within a larger field defined by substantial banks and the third, which is smaller and curvilinear in shape is attached to its western side. The complex of buildings and agricultural remains at Branshaw survive well and retain significant archaeological deposits. The vaulted bastle is a good example of its type and the associated deserted settlement and field system will contribute to our understanding of medieval and later settlement in the Cheviot margins (Scheduling Report).
Branshaw Bastle lies in an isolated position on the military ranges. The bastle, which has been reduced to a single storey, stands as part of a complex of ruined buildings and enclosures which leave one with the strong impression of the scale and appearance of a 17th century farmstead. The bastle is vaulted and in very poor condition. The doorway with its relieving arch partly survives (Grundy 1987).
An historic buildings and earthwork survey has been undertaken by Northern Archaeological Associates of structures associated with the settlement of Branshaw in 2004. This work has been undertaken as part of a consolidation and conservation scheme being undertaken by the Ministry of Defence with the support of the Northumberland National Parks Authority. It forms phase one of a two phase project comprising a survey of the historic buildings and earthworks (Phase 1) and a survey of the wider settlement environment and related field systems (Phase 2). The site comprises the remains of at least six buildings the earliest of which are two grassed over building platforms probably associated with the medieval occupation of the area. Extensive ridge and furrow earthworks surrounding the settlement indicate that during this period the site supported a mixed arable and pastoral economy. As the climate in the region deteriorated the area became too cold and wet to support mixed farming and became instead more reliant on the rearing of sheep and cattle. By the time of the 1603 border land survey, Branshaw is primarily a pastoral settlement tenanted by the Hall family who have one (possibly two) buildings on the site. This building is almost certainly the bastle, which would have been a substantial two-storey, barrel vaulted structure at the centre of the complex. However, a two-celled rectangular building overlooking the gully may also have been in existence at this time. The form and finish of the bastle suggest that Branshaw may have been of a superior build to others in the area, possibly reflecting something of its owner's status. During the 17th and 18th century the settlement expands to include a range of buildings to the north-east and a large rectangular building (possibly with an end stack) on the south-eastern edge of the site, but it is unclear if these buildings were domestic or ancillary. The settlement had reached its present form by the mid 19th century and appears to have changed very little until it was finally abandoned in the 1940s. After this date the buildings fell rapidly into decline (Northern Archaeological Associates 2004).
The bastle building is in a ruinous state with only the basement and a fragment of the upper storey surviving. Structure is aligned east to west measuring 7.5m along its short axis (N-S) and 12m along its long axis (E-W). The walls measure 1.5m thick at there greatest extent. The northern wall of the structure survives for seven courses standing to an overall height of 2.74m. The floor line of the upper storey is visible on the remains of this wall as well as the rising curve of the barrel vaulting, now largely collapsed. There is a plain square headed entrance to the bastle, situated in the centre of the east gable. The relieving arch above the lintel has slumped, but remain precariously in place (Northern Archaeological Associates 2004). (Northumberland HER)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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