Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Two shielings 90m north of Irthing Head

A Scheduled Monument in Greystead, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.0998 / 55°5'59"N

Longitude: -2.5826 / 2°34'57"W

OS Eastings: 362921.322

OS Northings: 578526.169

OS Grid: NY629785

Mapcode National: GBR B9DG.NP

Mapcode Global: WH90F.92FS

Entry Name: Two shielings 90m north of Irthing Head

Scheduled Date: 13 January 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010035

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25119

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Greystead

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Falstone with Greystead and Thorneyburn

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of two shielings of medieval date situated
on a level terrace on the edge of the Gair Burn. The first shieling is well
defined and is visible as the foundations of a rectangular dry stone building
measuring 4.5m east to west by 3m north to south. There is an entrance through
the western end of the south wall which retains its two door jambs or upright
stones on either side. This shieling is apparently overlying an earlier
shieling which projects some 2.5m beyond the eastern end of the first, and is
likewise 3m wide. It is visible as a rectangular outline and is also of dry
stone construction.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide
shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or
marshland. These huts reflect a system called transhumance, whereby stock was
moved in spring from lowland pasture around the permanently occupied farms to
communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns
reflecting transhumance are known from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC)
onwards. However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive
from the normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval
period onwards (from AD 450), when the practice of transhumance is also known
from documentary sources and, notably, place-name studies. Their construction
appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. Shielings vary in size but
are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups. They have a simple sub-
rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling, although
occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes
surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two
roomed examples are known. Some examples have adjacent ancillary structures,
such as pens, and may be associated with a midden. Some are also contained
within a small ovoid enclosure. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands
but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming
practice here. Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate
medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important.

The two shielings 90m north of Irthing Head are reasonably well preserved and
retain significant archaeological deposits. They are part of a group of
shielings situated along the River Irthing and its tributaries which taken
together will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the wider
Border settlement and economy during this period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 32
NY 67 NW 05,

Source: Historic England

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