Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Blacka Burn shieling

A Scheduled Monument in Wark, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.095 / 55°5'42"N

Longitude: -2.355 / 2°21'18"W

OS Eastings: 377439.978

OS Northings: 577901.606

OS Grid: NY774779

Mapcode National: GBR C9ZJ.YC

Mapcode Global: WH90J.S6RF

Entry Name: Blacka Burn shieling

Scheduled Date: 12 December 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010038

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25123

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Wark

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Wark St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a shieling of medieval date situated on
level ground on the north bank of the Blacka Burn. The shieling is visible as
the foundations of a rectangular dry stone building measuring 15m east to west
by 4.5m north to south. The walls appear to be constructed of large boulders
and stand to a maximum height of 0.4m. There are traces of a sub-division 5m
from the eastern end of the shieling which divides the building into one third
and two thirds. This shieling formed part of a larger group of at least nine
shielings lying along the north bank of the Blacka Burn. The remainder of the
group have been destroyed by forestry and this example is the only one to
survive undamaged.

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 shieling at Blacka Burn survives reasonably well and retains significant
archaeological deposits. It is part of a larger group of shielings in this
marginal area 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), 34
NY 77 NE 05,

Source: Historic England

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