homemaker featured property - 8 February 2014

This former bastle house in Allendale is steeped in history having been built around 1550 by Thomas Wilson

Ruth Finn at Oakpool farm, Allendale, Northumberland
Ruth Finn at Oakpool farm, Allendale, Northumberland

Looking at Oakpool today, it’s hard to imagine the property’s former life as a bastle house – built to withstand savage attacks from cruel Border Reivers.

However, it’s four foot thick stone walls are a gentle reminder that this house was built to last. And last it has for more than 453 years in Allendale, Northumberland.

Built around 1550 by Thomas Wilson, the Grieve of the Keenly Grieveship, the house became a safe haven for Thomas and his famiy during a period of violent raids.

Today the area lies within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has one of the greatest concentrations of bastles in the country.

“When we first moved into the property, it was tough. It had stood empty for 20 years, so we had no heating, no water and no drainage system. We did, however, have a telephone,” said owner Ruth Finn, now 68.

She added: “We didn’t have carpets or curtains for 10 years after we moved in, so it was the best feeling in the world when we eventually got them.”


Back then, Ruth and husband Rodney, now 78, had adopted the ‘Good Life’ with their young children.

She said: “I made my own bread and churned my own butter. We even ended up becoming a bit of a B&B for a while. Rodney had his own estate agents business in Washington.”

Ruth will be sad to leave her characterful home which has given her such pleasure over the years. She has so many good memories of the property that she has even written a book about its past.

She said: “My husband Rodney had fallen in love with Oakpool Farm when he was a boy. He used to fish here with his grandad at the pool which gives the house its name.

“Rodney’s mother used to tell the tale about one evening when she was taking a stroll along the river when she heard a lion roar.

“Her husband told her to stop being silly, but she was adamant and when they peered in the window, there was a lion in what is now our lounge! It turned out that a local circus was using the house for their animals during the winter. That’s how I came to write my book called ‘Lions In My Lounge’.”

Today, oak beams in the lounge and stone fireplaces serve as a reminder of the property’s past. While the barn outside hints at the property’s more playful side.

Ruth said: “We have held many parties over the years in the ‘party barn’. We had so many themed events, from gangster nights to mexican evenings, and even a cowboys and indian themed event to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Two of our guests even rode in on horseback. It was wonderful.”

Over the years, Oakpool has grown from its two-bedroom beginnings into a truly exquisite seven-bedroom family home with a picturesque riverside setting. And the couple have lovingly refurbished every inch of the property to make it theirs. And today it has a warm, rosy feel to it.

Ruth said: “One of the most memorable times here was when my youngest daughter Sonia and I slept in front of the Aga in the kitchen one evening while our Labrador Poppy was in labour. She gave birth to 10 black and white pups.”

The property has an entrance vestibule, grand reception hallway, drawing room, sitting room, utility, kitchen and a conservatory.

To the first floor landing there is a master bedroom with an en-suite, five additional double bedrooms, a feature guest wing with a balcony overlooking the grounds, a family bathroom and also a family shower room.

Externally the property lies on around 41 acres of mature woodland and pasture.

Offering views over the beautiful River Allen which streams round an equally beautiful middle island, the grounds also offer shooting and fishing rights within the estate, a garden terrace with sitting areas, multiple outbuildings and a large gravelled parking area with two additional garages to accommodate further vehicles.

And Ruth has fond memories of the wooded area close to Oakpool as it’s where the couple spent time courting and having picnics.

“We’ve had some wonderful times here, it’s time for another family to enjoy the same,” said Ruth.

  • Oakpool, Allendale, near Hexham, Northumberland is for sale through Signature by Mark Small at £775,000, tel: 0191 2513344.


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