Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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The easternmost of two shielings below Rowantree Crag

A Scheduled Monument in Kingwater, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.0289 / 55°1'44"N

Longitude: -2.5827 / 2°34'57"W

OS Eastings: 362848.512221

OS Northings: 570645.738167

OS Grid: NY628706

Mapcode National: GBR BBD9.N2

Mapcode Global: WH90M.9VDM

Entry Name: The easternmost of two shielings below Rowantree Crag

Scheduled Date: 23 May 1974

Last Amended: 9 March 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011829

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25139

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Kingwater

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Gilsland St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the remains of a shieling of medieval date situated on
the valley floor within a meander of the steep sided King Water burn. The
shieling, orientated north east to south west, is visible as the footings of a
rectangular stone building measuring 8m by 3.5m. The walls are 1m wide and
stand to a maximum height of 0.8m. The shieling is divided internally into two
rooms of unequal size with a clear entrance into the smaller of the two rooms.
Attached to the south west end of the shieling there are the remains of a
small annexe 2.5m long. This shieling is one of many in this area which is
known to have formed part of the extensive summer pastures serving the
permanent settlements of several local manors.

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.

This shieling at Rowantree Crag is reasonably well preserved and retains
significant archaeological deposits. It is one 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), 27, 14

Source: Historic England

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