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Old Rothbury multivallate hillfort and cairnfield

A Scheduled Monument in Rothbury, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3122 / 55°18'43"N

Longitude: -1.9281 / 1°55'41"W

OS Eastings: 404658.215184

OS Northings: 602016.635067

OS Grid: NU046020

Mapcode National: GBR G7Z0.CJ

Mapcode Global: WHB0Q.CQ2Y

Entry Name: Old Rothbury multivallate hillfort and cairnfield

Scheduled Date: 12 July 1934

Last Amended: 23 September 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011616

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20887

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rothbury

Built-Up Area: Rothbury

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a hillfort, associated house platforms and a cairnfield,
all of later prehistoric date. It is divided into two areas situated above
precipitous rocky crags commanding extensive views over the Coquet valley to
the south. The hillfort is roughly oval in plan measuring a maximum of 165m
east-west by 125m north-south within a complex defensive circuit of ramparts,
ditches and outworks. There is an inner rampart on all sides except on the
south-west where the precipitous slopes have been utilized to provide natural
defence. There is also an external ditch on the north and east where the
rampart is very well preserved and survives to a height of over 1m above the
bottom of the ditch. Additional defence has been given at particularly
vulnerable parts of the circuit: a second rampart and ditch survive well at
the north-east and south-west corners of the hillfort where the natural slope
of the ground becomes less steep. Traces of an outer rampart and ditch are
also visible on the northern side of the enclosure. There is an entrance
through the double ramparts and a causeway over the ditches at the eastern end
of the hillfort.
On the north, west and south sides at a distance of between 60m to 90m outside
the hillfort there are the remains of an additional defensive outwork; it is
laid in a series of straight lines and very well preserved on the northern
side where it also has a large outer ditch 1m deep. On the western side it
has been reduced by ploughing to a scarp and on the southern side it is barely
visible. From its north-west corner the rampart apparently climbs a steep
craggy slope and is continued for 100m in the form of a less massive bank and
Within the hillfort enclosure there is a prominent bank running from the
southern end towards the centre of the enclosure where it is truncated by the
modern field wall. There are three hut circles along the eastern edge of this
bank measuring 5m-8m in diameter, and a small D-shaped enclosure, all of which
are apparently bounded by a second internal bank. Two further hut circles are
visible in the south-east corner and at the southern end of the enclosure.
Above the hillfort, 30m to the north there is a level area of land, measuring
70m square, on which a group of six cairns survive. The cairns measure 3m to
6m in diameter and survive to a height of 0.3m. Two of the cairns have been
partially excavated. This cairnfield represents a period of minor clearance
for agriculture associated with the hillfort. The small field is bounded on
its western side by the extension of the hillfort outwork up the very steep
Immediately to the east of the hillfort there are several platforms scooped
into the hillside, some may be the result of local quarrying but others are
identified as house platforms located immediately outside the eastern entrance
to the hillfort.
Several features are excluded from the scheduling including all modern walls,
fences, the water tank at the south-east of the enclosure, and the small
cottage at the eastern end of the monument but the ground beneath all of these
features is included.

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

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are
defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set
earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the
interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or
more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been
constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first
century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements
of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest
that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with
display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a
rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks
and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by
one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or
inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists
of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures
interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety
of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of
small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a
similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples
recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west
with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the
rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding
the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of
national importance.

The hillfort of Old Rothbury survives in a good state of preservation with
little sign of major disturbance. It is one of several hillforts overlooking
the River Coquet and it will contribute to any study of later prehistoric
settlement and activity along this river valley. The survival of associated
outworks and a cairnfield enhance its importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hedley, R C, 'Archaeology Aeliana 2 ser 15 1892' in Archaeology Aeliana 2 ser 15 1892, (1892)
Honeyman, H L, 'Proc. Soc. Antiq. Newcastle 4 ser 5 1931-32' in An Unrecorded Feature Of Old Rothbury, (1932)
Dept. Arch. Uni of Newcastle, Gates, T,
No. 2249,
No. 2270,

Source: Historic England

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