Petit Bastille, Cumbria

Renovated by J. Seymour Grouth in 1993, near the town of Bewcastle, Cumberland

This is not really a castle or tower-house, but rather it is what is called a 'Bastle', which was a fortified farm house built during the constant Border Troubles of the late Middle Ages and Tudor/Stuart times. The area around Bewcastle was particulary notorious for constant raiding both by English and Scots. Little Bastille was built probably circa 1600, although there are no historical records, but was ruinous some 200 years, yet remaining part of the farm of Wastehaven as a cattle shed. J. Seymour Grouth, of Cincinnati, Ohio, bought the ruin and renovated it to serve as his country hermitage while doing his research for a book on the Border Reivers. The name Petit Bastille is whimsical, hardly historical; the postal address is still Wastehaven Farm.

Little Bastille


This Bastle is unusual in that it has a round tower attached to the northwest corner; it was used as a silo by the farmers in pre-Grouth years. The original bastle consisted of two stories only, the ground floor being used to house animals, the upper floor for the human residents. There was a sleeping loft above the main living room, tucked up under the roof. The gables originally were crop-stepped and rose vertically from the north and south walls. Mr Grouth demolished these badly decayed gables and installed the present hipped roofs and rebuilt the conical roof of the tower.

[The major areas constructed in the renovation are shown in dark grey, including the spiral stair turret, the lavatory/bath projections, and the extra floor built as the master bedroom]

Exterior: The most noticeable feature is the three-storied round tower with its conical roof, to which has been added a spiral staircase (which only serves the two top floors). The other three corners have the original 'church tower' buttresses. On the east side, Grouth constructed two projections or turrets to serve as lavatory and bath facilities. An external stairway leads up to the main floor, which had no internal access to the ground floor. Under this stair is a coal/wood storage chamber. Note that the ground floor door is fairly wide in order to provide easier access for the animals.

Ground Floor: The basement of the round tower is now used as the larder; it was always a food storage place (the eastern window slit has been blocked by the stair turret and now is a wine bin). The pantry was originally the quarters of the grooms and other farm laborers, but now contains provisions, cutlery and crockery, refrigeration, etc., and the scullery in the garderobe turret is also the laundry. A hatchway was cut through the internal wall during the renovation to provide easier passing of provisions and the like back and forth. Kitchen and dining area take up the space used by the animal byre (note the excrement drain at the southeast corner -- this was once the only 'facility' in the building). Grouth inserted two large sash windows into the walls, which were solid at these points and blocked up an old slit window to make a cupboard. The second garderobe turret now contains a hot water heater. Where the large Aga stove is located, he ripped out the inner part of the chimney to make a recess for it. By the entrance, he added partitions to provide a coat closet and a boot closet and to serve as a windbreaker. The staircase leading up to the first floor is also part of the renovation.

First Floor: Originally entered from the external staircase (which is hardly ever used now), the drawing room was once the principal accommodation for the farmer and his family -- kitchen, eating area, and living room all in one. Renovation supplied three larger sash windows where there were only narrow slits. And of course the w.c. and staircase are also new features. (A ladder and hatchway at one time was the only access to the sleeping garrett.) The library, with its small 'safe room' over the scullery, and the office in the tower are Mr Grouth's working area; a spiral stair leading out of the office goes up to the owner's bedroom suite.

Second Floor: There are two bedrooms and a bathroom above the drawing room. Access is via the staircase added during the renovation. Dormer windows were also added as well as panelling on the walls and under the sloping ceilings. There is a linen closet in the hallway and a closet in each bedroom. The top floor of the round tower serves as the owner's private parlor; it leads into the master bedroom with its large bathroom. This section of the building was built up during the renovation to avoid the problem of having the ceiling slope down to four feet above the floor as in the southern part.

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