Haunting Sites: Woodhouses Bastle, Northumberland

Woodhouses Bastle, , 16th July 2011

Woodhouses Bastle, NorthumberlandWoodhouses Bastle is a Grade II Listed Building near Harbottle in Northumberland (Ordnance Survey Grid reference NT 96582 00288). The bastle is likely 15th century in date, though the date stone (thought now to be a later insert) suggests AD 1602 (the beginning of the 17th century).

A bastle house was a fortified farmhouse found through Northumberland and the Borders, usually constructed  as defence against raiders. The ground floor of the bastle was used to secure animals, with the upper floor the human occupation level.

Later inserted datestoneThe datestone at Woodhouses Bastle is inscribed ‘WP BP TAM’, with WP thought to refer to William Potte who owned the land at the beginning of the 17th century. The reasoning behind the datestone being a later insert lies in the unusual layout and design of the hoodmould and relieving arch above, which is an arrangement not usually seen in bastles. The building has certainly been altered since its original construction, with the two mullioned windows on the west side along with the first floor doorway in the south gable being inserted in the 19th century. The internal staircase is also a later insert.

JOhn does a good stork impressionThe Otherworld North East team undertook the site investigation of Woodhouses Bastle on the 16th July 2011, with access to the building granted by the Northumberland National Park Authority. At the time we were looking for access to a fairly confined building with no known ghost stories that we could use as a massive baseline experiment for methods and equipment, and the two-room bastle was perfect, with the National Park ranger unlocking the site for us then locking it again after we left.

External investigation was hampered by rain and midgies… the latter if which also decided that their new source of food investigating the building needed to be sampled as often as possible. 

The experiments undertaken without any recorded anomalies were the following:

  • Long exposure torch beam anomalyDigital photography (light anomalies caused by motion within long exposure frames and insects only);
  • Video (light anomalies caused by insects only);;
  • Trigger objects;
  • General audio recording;
  • Electronic Voice Phenomenon recording;
  • Environmental temperature & humidity logging;
  • Frank’s Box (minimal radio interference).

Woodhouses Bastle, 2011So what does this mean? Obviously other than blood loss from the vicious Northumbrian midgies, this investigation can only be seen as a snapshot: true site investigation requires repeated experiments and visits, so all we can say is that on our July 2011 visit, nothing dropped by the say hello.

But, maybe the poet Longfellow was wrong after all…

"All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors."

Extract from the poem "Haunted Houses" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - 1807-1882

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