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Former bastle at How Hill, converted to a two-storey farmhouse

A Grade II Listed Building in Castle Sowerby, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.7156 / 54°42'56"N

Longitude: -2.9465 / 2°56'47"W

OS Eastings: 339120

OS Northings: 536037

OS Grid: NY391360

Mapcode National: GBR 7FVX.WC

Mapcode Global: WH80V.QQ2S

Entry Name: Former bastle at How Hill, converted to a two-storey farmhouse

Listing Date: 14 February 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1454465

Location: Castle Sowerby, Eden, Cumbria, CA11

County: Cumbria

District: Eden

Civil Parish: Castle Sowerby

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria


Former bastle, late C16/early C17, re-modelled to a two-storey farmhouse mid-to-later C18; early-C21 alterations.


Former bastle, late C16/early C17, re-modelled to a two-storey farmhouse mid-to-later C18; early-C21 alterations.

MATERIALS: rubble stone with roughly coursed boulders; Westmorland slate roof.

PLAN: rectangular, oriented north to south.

EXTERIOR: two-storeys beneath a pitched roof of Westmorland slate, with stone slab coping stones and an east brick gable chimney stack set upon an earlier stone chimney base. The building measures roughly 8.5m north to south by 7.5m east to west, with a pitched roof of slate. The walls measure approximately between 0.9m and 0.95m thick. The north elevation retains rough, gritty stonework of loosely-coursed boulders with massive quoins, both of which are consistent with typical bastle stonework of the late C16 or early C17. There is a single small, splayed first floor window immediately beneath the eaves considered to be an C18 insertion and set within stonework of a different colour and size. To the right is a recent (early 2018) large opening, and a recently created ground floor opening also pierces the elevation. The east gable appears to be constructed of variable-sized rubble stonework but is mostly obscured by a thick render to the ground floor, and the roof of the attached building. There is a ground floor entrance which might be a modified original byre entrance. An adjacent ground floor entrance to the left is considered to relate to the C18 use of the building. The south elevation is partially obscured by render but appears to be composed of smaller rubble stonework with neater, but still substantial quoins. This elevation is pierced by three internally splayed window openings with finely-tooled square and chamfered C18 surrounds. There are blocked historic windows to both the ground and first floors. The west gable is blind, and contains large stonework consistent with an early date. In the north west corner there is a full-height recently created hole in the masonry about a metre wide.

INTERIOR: the east wall retains a first floor entrance with an historic timber lintel, interpreted as the original first floor entrance, originally reached externally by a ladder. To the right, a rectangular recess within the thickness of the east wall is interpreted as a cupboard. A substantial first floor beam with a chamfered underside remains in place, which formerly supported the stone slate floor of the room above. There is no trace of the former first floor heat source, which typically would have been located at the centre of the east wall between the ground and first floor entrances. In the south-west corner of the building there is a small stone chimney piece containing a stone hob-grate with a brick flue, thought to be C18 in origin and related to the present external chimney stack. The modified historic roof structure has double purlins, a ridge piece and rafters. A single composite roof truss (early tie-beams and some sawn elements) is supported on a corbel at the north end and contains a king post braced to the ridge.


Bastles are small thick-walled farmhouses in which the heated living quarters are situated above an unheated ground floor byre. The vast majority are simple rectangular buildings with the byre entrance typically placed in one gable end, an upper door in the side wall, small stoutly-barred windows and few architectural features or details. Some have stone barrel vaults to the basement but the majority had a first floor of heavy timber beams carrying stone slabs. They were occupied by middle-rank farmers, and the great majority of bastles are solitary rural buildings, although a few nucleated settlements with more than one bastle are also known. Most were constructed between the late C16 and the early decades of the C17, although earlier and later examples are also known. Bastles are confined to the northern border counties of England, in Cumbria, Northumberland and Durham. They are found on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish Border, the need for such strongly defended farmsteads being related to the troubled social conditions of the later Middle Ages, where thieving and lawlessness (known as reiving) is well-documented, and which lasted until well after the union of the English and Scottish Crowns in 1603.

Buildings constructed in this tradition, with similar dimensions, ground-floor byre doorways, first floor doorways and heating at first floor level only have been identified in what might be regarded as more peripheral areas to the Anglo-Scottish border. For example, those within the recently studied parish of Alston Moor, where reiving is also well-documented. Examples in this area generally lack the vaulted basements and many have the major openings and heating source concentrated on a single gable wall. It has been suggested that such buildings in these more southern parts of the region might be better categorised as 'house-over-byre' buildings rather than as bastles proper as they may not have been constructed defensively. However other experts suggest that the term bastle should be used across the spectrum, whether constructed defensively or not as long as a majority of bastle features are present, most notably preserving the concept of living above one's beasts. Such buildings were routinely converted to ground and first floor living during the course of the C18.

The building at How Hill conforms to a bastle in both plan and dimensions, and the earliest visible stonework is consistent with a later C16/early C17 date. During the mid-to-later C18, the building was modified to create a two-storey farmhouse, with a principal south elevation. Early C21 alterations (January/early February 2018) include: the loss of two C18 sash window frames from the south elevation, the insertion of a ground floor door opening and a large window opening above, a full height opening about a metre wide through the northern part of the west gable, and internally, the loss of a ground floor partition wall and historic pantry/dairy fittings. The insertion of the new openings removed C18 splayed windows and a small, blocked ground floor bastle ventilation slit.

Reasons for Listing

This former bastle, converted to a two-storey farmhouse in the C18, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* an evolved dwelling of two phases constructed before the end of the C18, which sits firmly within the period when there is a presumption in favour of listing;

* originating as a bastle, a nationally significant vernacular building type, that retains key characteristics and significant original fabric;

* C18 modifications reflecting the region's quality vernacular traditions such as the graduated Westmorland slate roof and the finely-toothed, chamfered stone window surrounds.

Historic Interest

* as a bastle located in what might be considered a peripheral area, it confirms our increased understanding of the geographical range of the form.

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