Falstone Farmhouse : P F Ryder: notes after visit - 4 7 90
Falstone Farm, incorporating a bastle, stands on the south side of he churchyard at Falstone, facing south at the head of a short but steep slope dropping to the North Tyne. The bastle measures 11.0 by 7.05 m externally, and is of two storeys, the lower unusually tall. An 18th century extension at the east end is of the same height but of three storeys; at the rear is a full-length 18th or early 19th century outshut.
The bastle is built of massive rubble, roughly coursed in parts, with some galleting; the east extension and outshut are of coursed roughly-tooled stone and the small 19th century south porch is of neatly-squared tooled stone. The bastle walls are c 1.45 m thick at basement level, reducing a little above.
The original byre doorway, a little north-of-centre in the east end, now forms a recess within the modern kitchen formed within the 18th-century extension. It is square headed, and has a roll-moulded surround (cf Ridge End), cut back to a broad chamfer on the north jamb. The lintel has a sunken panel with the relief-carved ‘inscription’ ‘ABCDEFG 1604 H.K’; this provides interesting evidence of the degree of literacy of the builders and owners of even a rather superior bastle such as this one.
On the south of the basement is a square-headed and chamfered doorway, inside the 19th century porch, and further west a two-light mullioned window, perhaps of c1700, enlarged and altered but retaining its original head. Above the porch is an 18th century stair window, and at first floor level a late 18th or 19th century window with to its l. parts of the jambs and sill of a small window that may have had a roll-moulded surround. The exterior of the bastle has been harled or rendered at some stage, and heavy pointing obscures any detail. The west end of the bastle has a 20th century doorway, with a possible blocked slit above and a little to the north of centre, and at first floor level a 20th century window. The 18th century eastern extension has various sash windows; those on the south appear to be late 18th or 19th century insertions, and those on the east of 20th century date.
The ground floor of the bastle has quite a tall semicircular barrel vault, its apex 3.3 m above the present floor. At the east end part of the vault has been removed to allow the insertion of a mid-18th century stair; this stair is now divided from the vaulted basement by a cross-wall 0.55 m thick, which is carried up to attic level. The present first-floor room has a modern wooden floor about 0.3 m above the original level. In its south-west corner are two small stone wall cupboards, one in each wall; there is an 18th-century basket-arched fireplace.
A trapdoor above the landing halfway up the stairs allow access to a small attic above the southern part of the stairwell, from which a number of interesting features are visible. At this level the inner face of the south wall of the bastle has a curved recess at its east end, lit by a small window (blocked) in the south end of the east wall. This recess and window position duplicate those at Woodhouses bastle, where they are associated with an original staircase. A large corbel on the east all and flat slabs capping the cross wall both appear to be associated with the floor of a former attic, which was lit by another small window in the apex of the east gable.
The Falstone Farm bastle thus appears to have been a member of a small group of rather upmarket bastle houses distinguished by their possession of an internal staircase. The height of the basement vault would have meant that an external stair or ladder of the usual type would have been rather long to be practicable.
The site of the bastle may also be of archaeological significance; adjacent to a churchyard of ancient origins (Falstone was a medieval chapel-of-ease) it may well have replaced a medieval house (see above). In addition, fragments of an important 8th or 9th century cross shaft were found re-used the walls of both the farmhouse and its garden, in the late 19th century (see framed notes in church), suggesting that a pre-Conquest ecclesiastical site lies close at hand. The house, described by Grundy (1988, 146) as ‘one of he most interesting vernacular buildings within the Park’ is worthy of a detailed architectural survey. It also has associated farm buildings of considerable interest.