Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Shieling, 500m south west of Spy Crags

A Scheduled Monument in Greystead, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.0705 / 55°4'13"N

Longitude: -2.4928 / 2°29'33"W

OS Eastings: 368629.511084

OS Northings: 575229.925906

OS Grid: NY686752

Mapcode National: GBR C91T.34

Mapcode Global: WH90G.PT57

Entry Name: Shieling, 500m south west of Spy Crags

Scheduled Date: 7 March 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011839

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25152

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Greystead

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Greenhead

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a shieling of medieval date situated on a
river terrace on the right bank of the River Irthing at the junction with Spy
Sike. The shieling, orientated east to west, is visible as the footings of a
rectangular stone building measuring 8.2m by 3.7m. The walls, constructed of
large blocks of locally available stone, are 0.7m wide and stand to a maximum
height of 1m where a small shooting butt has been constructed within the south
east corner. There is an entrance in the long south wall where a single
upright stone or door jamb is visible on the west side of the entrance. The
north wall of the shieling has been robbed subsequently in order to construct
a larger enclosure which is attached to the shieling on the northern side.
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.

The shieling south west of Spy Crags 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)
NY67NE 02,

Source: Historic England

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