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Ring Chesters defended settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5537 / 55°33'13"N

Longitude: -2.2123 / 2°12'44"W

OS Eastings: 386704.367811

OS Northings: 628904.733761

OS Grid: NT867289

Mapcode National: GBR D4Z6.VZ

Mapcode Global: WH9ZD.ZNPV

Entry Name: Ring Chesters defended settlement

Scheduled Date: 19 January 1968

Last Amended: 26 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008364

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24575

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Kirknewton

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Kirknewton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


This monument includes a multivallate defended settlement of a type
constructed during the Early Iron Age in northern Britain. The oval enclosure
is contained within three concentric stone banks. The interior of the main
enclosure contains the circular foundations of a number of stone built
prehistoric buildings and evidence of earlier timber buildings. A series of
well preserved cultivation terraces lie on the hill slope to the west of the
defended settlement and appear to be contemporary with it. The full extent and
nature of this field system is not yet fully understood, hence it is not
included in the scheduling
The site lies at the north end of a hilltop which is separated into two areas
of high ground by a gently sloping saddle. There are steep slopes to the
north, east and west of the settlement although there is some level ground
immediately around it on the north and east sides, the southern approach is
fairly gentle. The settlement comprises an oval area c.0.35ha enclosed within
a triple rampart, the whole monument extends over c.0.8ha. The ramparts follow
the contours of the hill, they are of earth and stone with stone revetments
clearly visible on the outer faces. The inner rampart is 4m-5m wide, it is
c.0.3m high on the interior and c.2m above the top of the centre rampart. The
base of the rampart is revetted in places by large freestone boulders but
appears to have been constructed principally of loose small stones, it has
suffered some damage on the west side with small areas of dense loose stone
being spread down the hill slope. The middle rampart is 4m-5m wide, c.0.3m
high and stands 3m above the top of the outer rampart, it has suffered some
levelling on the east and south east sides but is in very good condition
elsewhere. This rampart is not equidistant from the inner rampart all the way
round, the north, east and west sides are c.6m from the outer face of the
inner rampart but the south side projects 18.5m. This southerly projection
encloses an area of level ground between the two ramparts of c.0.07ha, this
space may have been used for holding stock. The outer rampart lies equidistant
from the middle rampart at a distance of 7m-8m, it is 0.2m-0.6m high on the
interior and c.1m high on the exterior. There are traces of a ditch between
the middle and outer ramparts, this is most clearly defined on the north west
side. There are two sets of entrances through the ramparts. The main entrance
is to the south east and is staggered at a fairly accute angle giving an
oblique approach to the interior, with the openings well covered by the
rampart within. The entrances are simple gaps 3.5m-6m wide. The entrance
through the middle rampart is out-turned on the south side and in-turned on
the north side of the gap, the south edge is defined by three large boulders
which extend into the ditch. A second, narrower, entrance cuts through the
north west ramparts. The entrance on this side is less acutely staggered but
each entrance is still well covered by the rampart within. The entrances are
simple gaps 3m-3.5m wide.
In the interior of the settlement there are circular stone foundations of at
least eight prehistoric buildings. These buildings are 4m-8m in diameter, the
walls survive up to 0.5m high and incorporate medium to large boulders. Two of
the buildings contain small oval areas of laid stone placed slightly
off-centre within the interior, these may represent hearths. A number of stone
and earth banks are associated with the buildings and form enclosures and
sub-divisions within the interior of the settlement. At least two clearly
defined scooped areas represent traces of earlier timber buildings. Traces of
a stone wall running at 90 degrees to the south edge of the main entrance may
represent a structure associated with this entrance.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

During the mid-prehistoric period (seventh to fifth centuries BC) a variety of
different types of defensive settlements began to be constructed and occupied
in the northern uplands of England. The most obvious sites were hillforts
built in prominent locations. In addition to these a range of smaller sites,
sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha and defined as defended
settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops,
others are found in less prominent positions. The enclosing defences were of
earthen construction, some sites having a single bank and ditch (univallate),
others having more than one (multivallate). At some sites these earthen
ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber
fence or palisade. Within the enclosure a number of stone or timber-built
round houses were occupied by the inhabitants. Stock may also have been kept
in these houses, especially during the cold winter months, or in enclosed
yards outside them. The communities occupying these sites were probably single
family groups, the defended settlements being used as farmsteads. Construction
and use of this type of site extended over several centuries, possibly through
to the early Romano-British period (mid to late first century AD).
Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element
of the later prehistoric settlement pattern of the northern uplands and are
important for any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during
this period. All well-preserved examples are believed to be of national

The defended enclosure at Ring Chesters is a very well preserved example of a
northern prehistoric defended settlement. It has suffered very little
disturbance, the earthwork defences survive well and the central settlement
area remains intact with the ground plan of scoops, stone founded hut circles
and banks clearly visible. The site is situated within an area of clustered
archaeological sites of high quality and therefore forms part of a wider
archaeological landscape. As such it will contribute significantly to the
study of the wider settlement pattern during this period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. XLIII, (1965), 21-62

Source: Historic England

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