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Prehistoric enclosure and hut circle, a Romano-British enclosure, and a Romano-British farmstead and associated field system north of Wolsty Hall

A Scheduled Monument in Holme Low, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.8469 / 54°50'48"N

Longitude: -3.3944 / 3°23'39"W

OS Eastings: 310559.852545

OS Northings: 551122.075284

OS Grid: NY105511

Mapcode National: GBR 4DQD.X9

Mapcode Global: WH6YX.TFSN

Entry Name: Prehistoric enclosure and hut circle, a Romano-British enclosure, and a Romano-British farmstead and associated field system north of Wolsty Hall

Scheduled Date: 8 August 1974

Last Amended: 31 August 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013504

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27662

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Holme Low

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Silloth Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a prehistoric enclosure containing a hut circle, a
Romano-British enclosure which is situated within the earlier prehistoric
enclosure, and a Romano-British farmstead and associated irregular aggregate
field system. It is located c.100m north of Wolsty Hall on a low curving ridge
of gravel. The site is visible as crop marks on aerial photographs which
highlight features such as infilled ditches. The aerial photographs show an
oval enclosure measuring a maximum of approximately 76m by 50m with an
entrance at the eastern side. In the western side of this enclosure the aerial
photographs show a hut circle, while in the eastern side of the enclosure the
aerial photographs show the ditch of a circular enclosure with an entrance on
its north east side. To the east of these features the aerial photographs show
a rectangular enclosure measuring c.48m by 45m and interpreted as a
Romano-British farmstead. To the north, east and south of the farmstead, and
to the south of the oval enclosure, traces of an irregular aggregate field
system associated with this farmstead can be seen on the aerial photographs.
Limited excavation of the monument undertaken between 1956-8 concentrated on
parts of the oval enclosure, the hut circle, the circular enclosure and the
rectangular enclosure. This excavation confirmed that the oval enclosure was
defended by a ditch and timber palisade. The hut circle within this enclosure
measures approximately 14m in diameter and had a cobbled floor and entrances
at opposite ends with postholes to support the doors. At the centre of the hut
four large deep postholes packed with cobbles originally held the main roof
supports. A small amount of Roman pottery found in the upper levels of the
enclosure ditch fill was dated to the Hadrianic period (AD 117-138) and this,
together with the fact that the hut contained no pottery of any kind,
indicated to the excavator that the oval enclosure and hut circle were of a
prehistoric date. The circular enclosure, by contrast, produced an assortment
of Roman pottery dated to the Hadrianic period, together with other finds
including two knife blades, a quern associated with remains of stone floors,
and a stone lined well which contained more pottery allowing the excavator to
date the enclosure to the first half of the second century AD. Limited
excavation of the rectangular enclosure found it to be defended by a ditch and
timber palisade. Internally the excavation found pottery and a complex of
structures which indicated to the excavator that it was a native farmstead of
the third/fourth century AD.
All modern field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling but the ground
beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

In Cumbria and Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlements
dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non-
defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. In many areas they were of stone
construction, although in the coastal lowlands timber-built variants were also
common. In much of Northumberland, especially in the Cheviots, the enclosures
were curvilinear in form. Further south a rectangular form was more common.
Elsewhere, especially near the Scottish border, another type occurs where the
settlement enclosure was `scooped' into the hillslope. Frequently the
enclosures reveal a regularity and similarity of internal layout. The standard
layout included one or more stone round-houses situated towards the rear of
the enclosure, facing the single entranceway. In front of the houses were
pathways and small enclosed yards. Homesteads normally had only one or two
houses, but larger enclosures could contain as many as six. At some sites the
settlement appears to have grown, often with houses spilling out of the main
enclosure and clustered around it. At these sites up to 30 houses may be
found. In the Cumbrian uplands the settlements were of less regimented form
and unenclosed clusters of houses of broadly contemporary date are also known.
These homesteads were being constructed and used by non-Roman natives
throughout the period of the Roman occupation. Their origins lie in settlement
forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. These homesteads are common
throughout the uplands where they frequently survive as well-preserved
earthworks. In lowland coastal areas they were also originally common,
although there they can frequently only be located through aerial photography.
All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be
identified as nationally important.

Irregular aggregate field systems are one of several methods of field layout
known to have been employed from the Bronze Age to the Roman period (c.2000 BC
- AD 400). They comprise a collection of field plots, generally lacking
uniformity of orientation and arrangement, containing fields of varying shapes
and sizes, bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches or fences. They
are an important element of the existing landscape and are representative of
farming practices over a long period.
Within the lowland landscape of Cumbria there are many discrete plots of land
originally enclosed by stone walls, ditches, timber palisades, or banks of
stone and earth, some of which date to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC), though
earlier and later examples also exist. They were constructed as stock pens or
as protected areas for crop growing and were sometimes subdivided to
accommodate stock and hut circle dwellings for farmers and herdsmen. The size
and form of these enclosures may therefore vary depending upon their
particular function. Their variation in form, longevity and relationship to
other monument classes provide important information on the diversity of
social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.
They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial
proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.
The prehistoric enclosure and hut circle, Romano-British enclosure, and
Romano-British farmstead and associated field system north of Wolsty Hall
survive reasonably well despite the absence of any upstanding earthworks.
Aerial photographs have identified below ground features which have been
confirmed by limited excavation undertaken during the 1950s. The
monument is one of a number of similar sites identified by aerial photography
in the Solway Plain area in recent years and it will contribute to any further
study of prehistoric and Romano-British settlement patterns in the area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Blake, B, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Excavation Of Native (Iron Age) Sites In Cumberland 1956-8, , Vol. LIX, (1960), 8-9
Blake, B, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Excavation Of Native (Iron Age) Sites In Cumberland 1956-8, , Vol. LIX, (1960), 7
Blake, B, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Excavation Of Native (Iron Age) Sites In Cumberland 1956-8, , Vol. LIX, (1960), 7
Blake, B, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Excavation Of Native (Iron Age) Sites In Cumberland 1956-8, , Vol. LIX, (1960), 9-10
AP No RB 110,24, Bewley, RH,
AP No. RB 110,24, Bewley, RB,
AP No. RB 110,24, Bewley, RH,

Source: Historic England

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