The existence of bastle houses on the Anglo Scottish borders have long been known and recorded in England by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England) who produced an excellent introduction to the monument type and to several locations known at that time (Ramm et al, 1970). Since then Peter Ryder has recorded many further examples of sites and actual buildings, “Around 230 are known in Northumberland” (Ryder 1996), and it is widely accepted that many more existed along the border. The subject matter appears of little general interest as the following report suggests, but it has been the writer’s privilege to have recorded such sites further north of the border than was hitherto thought, the work appears in the Bastle Project.
During the early attempts to understand the subject of bastle houses and their architectural and historical importance in the 1990’s, visits were made to the borders to visit and record sites and part of that was to look at the gravestone considered here. At that time it was considered to be the only instance of the word ‘bastel’ being contemporaneously given in stone, and the same remains true today. It is therefore a unique record of the use of the word to describe one of Britain’s last defensible houses, the type known as bastle houses, although the word appears in various spelling formats. The gravestone was seen on that early visit and a photograph of the corner which gives the word ‘bastel’ was taken, however the full text of the stone which was visible then was not recorded apart from the name and dates given on it.
Visited again by the writer in 2021 to obtain a full record, the stone could not be found. Eventually it was located and the reason for its elusiveness was that it was completely covered in moss and was hardly recognisable. Therefore for several decades at least the inscription has been out of sight and clearly no one has made any attempt to view it.
To the writer, this fact speaks volumes as to interest in the subject matter of bastle houses, uniquely found on the Anglo Scottish borders’ region, being part of Britain’s story in architectural and social history terms and found nowhere else in the UK. While books have been written on the subject of Border Reivers and their despicable behaviour, hardly any mention is given to their abodes, the last defended houses to be built in Britain, and worse still when references are made, the authors more often than not describe the houses as peles, peel towers and other derivations of peel, but seldom bastle! In a tourist leaflet produced in 2000; “In Search of the Border Reivers” sixty three sites are listed worthy of a visit to learn about the subject, only two are given for bastle houses, the rest are for grand castles and houses, little wonder the public may have difficulty learning about these unique houses of the borders, the ones most associated with border rieving.
The downloadable pdf A monumental stone commemorating the life of George Ramsay of Foulden Bastle has more details on the location, the Ramsays, Foulden and the stone – below is the inscription.
Thus surrounding the edges:
HEIR LYETH ANE HONORABIL MAN GEORGE RAMSAY IN FVLDEN BASTEL WHO DEPARTED 4 JAN 1592 AND OF HIS AGE 74
FYFE. FOSTERING. PEACE. ME. BRED
FROM. THENCE. THE. MERCE. ME. CALD
TO. BYDE. HIS. BATTELIS. BALD
WERIED. VITH. VARES. AND. SORE. OPPREST
DEATH. GAVE. TO. MARS. THE. FOYL
AND. NOV. I. HAVE. MORE. QUYET. REST
THAN. IN. MY. NATIVE. SOYL
FYFE. MERCE. MARS. MORT. THESE. FATAL. FOVR
AL. HAIL. MY. DAYES. HES. DREVEN. OVR
Unfortunately for the most part the verse has defied attempts by the writer to clarify its meaning as the spelling of several words remains unclear. If anyone can help with this the writer would appreciate that information.