Ancient Monuments

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Palisaded settlement on Hart Law

A Scheduled Monument in Alnham, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.4093 / 55°24'33"N

Longitude: -2.0196 / 2°1'10"W

OS Eastings: 398854.5157

OS Northings: 612818.088459

OS Grid: NT988128

Mapcode National: GBR G5BW.KQ

Mapcode Global: WHB08.Y9FH

Entry Name: Palisaded settlement on Hart Law

Scheduled Date: 12 January 1985

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006417

English Heritage Legacy ID: ND 647

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Alnham

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of a palisaded settlement of late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age date, situated on the summit of Hart Law. The sub-circular enclosure is approximately 97m in diameter within the low earthworks of a partial bank. In places the encircling bank has been levelled and is visible on aerial photographs as a cropmark. On the south side the settlement is afforded natural defence by steep slopes and in this area the surrounding bank is visible as an outward facing scarp. There are entrances on the north east, north and north west sides and there are intermittent traces of a double palisade trench around the perimeter spaced about 2.4m to 2.7m apart. Within the interior, a scarp standing to a maximum height of 0.8m, divides the interior into upper and lower parts. Also within the interior there are the remains of at least 20 circular ring-groove houses, which vary in diameter from 5.2m to 10m; many exhibit clear entrances and a slight outer bank. An Ordnance Survey triangulation point within the settlement is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath this feature is included.

PastScape Monument No:- 1033841
NMR:- NT91SE29
Northumberland HER:- 1358

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A palisaded hilltop enclosure is a small defended site of domestic function dating to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age (c.550-440 BC). Their distribution is largely restricted to north-eastern England, the Borders and southern Scotland. They are generally located on spurs, promontories or hilltops covering areas of less than 0.4ha. The boundaries of these sites are marked by single or double rock-cut trenches which originally formed the settings for substantial palisades. Remains of circular buildings are found
within the palisaded areas, along with evidence for fenced stock enclosures. Palisaded sites are the earliest type of defended settlements recorded in the area and are thought to be a product of increasingly unsettled social conditions in the later prehistoric period. They imply an extensive use of
timber, confirmation that large areas were heavily wooded at this time. Although the palisades at individual sites may have undergone several phases of replacement or refurbishment it is thought that the tradition of building this type of site spanned only around 150 years. After this the use of earthen
banks and ditches to form the defensive perimeter became more common. Excavation has demonstrated that at several sites the earthen defences were preceded by timber palisades. Palisaded enclosures are a rare monument type with fewer than 200 known examples. They are an important element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern and are important for any study of the developing use of defended settlements during the later prehistoric period. All identified surviving examples are believed to be nationally important.
The palisaded settlement on Hart Law survives reasonably well and retains significant archaeological deposits. As a rare monument type it will add to our knowledge of the construction, use and abandonment of such settlements. Taken together with other prehistoric remains in the vicinity, it will provide insight into the changing character of upland settlement and subsistence at this time.

Source: Historic England

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