Bastle In Chillingham, Northumberland
A ruined, Grade II listed Scheduled Monument, 16th Century Tower House / Bastle House.
When is a Bastle House not a Bastle House? When it is Hepburn Bastle House it seems! Dating from the 16th Century this ruined building is often referred to as Hepburn Bastle House but it seems that its origins and architectural history are complicated and it may actually be a Fortified Medieval Tower House.
The ruins of this building can be found within the grounds of Chillingham Park and are easily visible from near to the Hepburn Woods Forestry England car park. As mentioned above it dates from the 16th Century, although it may actually have been built in the 1300s and was first mentioned in the year 1509 where it was described as a “hold”. It was subsequently modified during the later 16th and 17th Century and there is evidence of the roof of a wing that has totally disappeared on its southern side. This may account for it being referred to as a “Tower” in 1542 and a “Mansion House” in 1564.
The structure is rectangular in plan and is around 16.6m x 10.8m with walls between 2.7 and 3.5m thick. The stone work is tooled, sandstone ashlar. The ground floor comprises a barrel vaulted basement, the first floor is divided into three rooms and there is also an attic level above this. All of the rooms appear to have had fireplaces, although the basement level one was introduced later. The twin gables at the attic level are thought to be 16th of 17th Century in date.
Hepburn Bastle House was owned by the Hebburn Family and was in use until the death of Robert Hebburn, the last male heir of the family in 1755. Given what we know of the history of Northumberland it is clear why the Hebburn family would need a fortified structure such as this one to live in. There was much inter-family feuding and the ever present risk of border raiding Scots, so anyone who had anything worth stealing needed to protect it.
Although it is now known as Hepburn Bastle it was probably originally called “Heburn” or “Hebburn” Bastle after the family who owned it. There is some evidence for this in a 1715 survey where it is described as “a handsome house belonging to Robert Heburn esq”. As you can see though, there was even some variation on how the Hebburn family name was spelt!
The Bastle is only a short walk from the car park although it is worth making a day of it by heading to nearby Ros Castle and Hepburn Woods for a longer wander.
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Head out of the car park entrance and the Tower House / Bastle is in the field adjacent.
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Parking is available nearby in the Forestry England Car Park over the road.
Contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
The trig point sitting on top of Ros Castle (316m).
A ruined lime kiln sitting between Cateran Hole and Ros Castle in the Alnwick area.
Ros Castle is the highest of the Chillingham Hills, with a height of 315m.
A ruined bastle which may not have been a bastle after all.
A ruined bastle and cottage located in a remote area of Bellingham.
Starting from Eglingham, this route takes your over Bewick Moor to Cateran Hole, a trip up Ros Castle before a visit to the Hepburn Bastle. Then we're back on the moor to the Blawearie Shepherds Hut and some cairns.
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