Investigations into the historic buildings and structures of the Wallington estate, Northumberland (Part 2)

The mid-late 18th century two-storey two-unit farmhouse at Rugley Walls Farm © ARS Ltd 2023
The 1846 ‘L’ plan farmhouse at Elfhills Farm, by Walter Calverley Trevelyan © ARS Ltd 2023
The former bastle house at Catcherside Farm © ARS Ltd 2023

Today we look further at the Historic Buildings and Structures Assessment Survey we conducted for the National Trust, on fifteen farmsteads on the Wallington estate, Northumberland. You can find part 1 here.

Building Typologies

The survey identified a range of historic building typologies (classifications) on the Wallington estate, which contribute to our understanding of building formations, features, and trends for the north-east region.

For farmhouses, two-storey two-unit houses had been the dominant formation in the 18th century, while ‘L’ plan houses were favoured in the mid-19th century—particularly associated with Walter Calverley Trevelyan. Cottages were also prominent on the estate, with the majority formed of two-storey single-unit dwellings. One of the cottages represented a late 16th to early 17th century former bastle house, constructed of substantial rubble sandstone and with a low animal access door. The survey also noted the range of farm building typologies, considering their date ranges, trends in construction and features of interest. The 18th century buildings had predominantly comprised core farming structures, such as threshing barns, stables, and byres, with the 19th century seeing the diversification of farm buildings, with typologies such as hemmels, combined granaries, and dovecotes.

The threshing barn at Broomhouse Farm © ARS Ltd 2023
The mid-19th century hemmel with granary over at Dyke Head Farm © ARS Ltd 2023
A through byre at Rothley West Shield Farm © ARS Ltd 2023
The attractive dovecote feature at Greenleighton Farm © ARS Ltd 2023

The structural remains of a late medieval or early post-medieval chapel were also identified during the survey. The exact origins of the former chapel are unclear, though documentary references to a chapel are on the site at Greenleighton Farm in the late medieval period. This structure had previously been understood as a former house with a piggery attached. However, the survey work was able to identify a stone piscina set within the fabric of one of the walls, which connected with a stone chute known as a sacrarium on the opposing side. The piscina would have been used for washing the communal vessels and for the disposal of sacred substances, such as holy water, with the sacrarium allowing the substances to be drained to the earth, rather than through a sewerage system.

The structural remains of the former chapel at Greenleighton Farm © ARS Ltd 2023
The piscina feature associated with the structural remains of the former chapel at Greenleighton Farm © ARS Ltd 2023

Building Materials

Trends in building materials at the estate were also identified as part of the survey, with the traditional buildings constructed in a variety of locally-sourced yellow sandstone. Rubble sandstone was more indicative of early buildings, while later 18th to mid-19th century buildings largely featured irregularly sized squared and coursed sandstone blocks. Well-dressed sandstone had also been used on most farmhouses, as well as more high-status farm buildings. Distinctive stone dressings are also seen on the estate, with long vertical and horizontal jambs, lintels, and chamfered edges indicative of the 18th century, and ashlar surrounds with deep chamfered edges associated with Walter Calverley Trevelyan. The dominant roofing material was slate, though there were examples with stone slabs, as well as a single example of pantile roofing. One example represented a stone slab roof pegged with sheep bones.

Types of Wallington masonry © ARS Ltd 2023
Examples of the varied stone dressings © ARS Ltd 2023
The stone slab roof pegged with sheep bones at Broomhouse Farm © ARS Ltd 2023

Setting and Landscape

The setting of the farmsteads had also been a crucial component of their importance. The farmsteads had all been located in isolated positions, largely surrounded by historic ridge and furrow, which are highly illustrative of past agricultural practices. There had clearly been a considered effort in designing the farmhouses to place the buildings in a commanding position, with the majority located at the head of the farmstead facing down the hillside. This provided panoramic views of the agricultural landscape, but also allowed for visibility towards important landscape features, such as the Grade II* Listed Rothley Castle. Landscape features such as these created a strong visual connection to the authority of the Wallington estate—reinforcing the systems of hierarchy and ownership on the Wallington farmers. The historic plan forms and vernacular style of the farmsteads also contribute to the agricultural character and setting of the estate.

View of the historic ridge and furrow to the north of Tuthill Farm © ARS Ltd 2023
View towards Newbiggin House Farm from the road to the south © ARS Ltd 2023
View of the Grade II Listed Rothley Castle from Donkin Rigg Farm © ARS Ltd 2023


The survey works also included an assessment of significance for each building. The significance of the farmsteads and their buildings are mainly derived from their historic formations, their age, their attractive qualities, their formations, and features of interest that denote historical functions, and their association with important individuals in Wallington’s long history. As a group, it is concluded that the Wallington farmsteads are of exceptional significance, comprising a highly valued component of the Wallington estate and its Grade I Listed Hall. It is clear from the findings of this survey that these Wallington farms have represented important assets for the historic agricultural estate from the 18th century onwards.

View part 1 of our look at the Wallington estate here.

Interested in visiting Wallington? You can find out more through the National Trust website.

Archaeological Research Services Ltd