Ancient Monuments

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Heiferlaw defended settlement and Second World War Zero Station, 100m north of Holywell

A Scheduled Monument in Denwick, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.4528 / 55°27'10"N

Longitude: -1.7161 / 1°42'57"W

OS Eastings: 418056.128455

OS Northings: 617697.762455

OS Grid: NU180176

Mapcode National: GBR J5GD.84

Mapcode Global: WHC1C.M61M

Entry Name: Heiferlaw defended settlement and Second World War Zero Station, 100m north of Holywell

Scheduled Date: 28 November 1932

Last Amended: 13 March 2014

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014080

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25192

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Denwick

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: South Charlton St James

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


A defended settlement of Iron Age date situated on the summit of a rise, incorporating the underground remains of a Second World War control station known as a zero station.

Source: Historic England


Prehistoric defended settlement

The enclosure, roughly circular in shape measures a maximum of 63m in diameter within two ramparts of earth and stone and traces of an outer ditch. The main rampart measures on average 8m wide and stands to a maximum height of 1.3m. There are opposing entrances through the rampart 4m wide. A second rampart is situated 5m beyond the first which is 5m broad and stands to a maximum height of 1m; this rampart is fragmentary and is best preserved on the north west and south east sides. There are traces of an outer ditch 3m wide and 0.4m deep surrounded by a counterscarp bank on the south west side of the enclosure but this cannot now be traced on the other sides as the ditch has become infilled and the bank levelled. It is thought that the visible remains may represent more than one phase of activity. In 1867 the surveyor Henry Maclaughlan described the enclosure as being divided by internal walls and divisions and other observers have describe the existence of circular huts; today the only obvious internal feature is a wall 5m wide running from the western entrance in a southerly direction to form an internal compartment.

Second World War Zero Station

The underground Zero Station is situated within the interior of the hillfort, and its presence is indicated on the surface by some settling of the earth infill; an adjacent tree has an associated aerial cable concealed within its bark. The station is of standard rectangular plan measuring about 2.8m by 6.35m and comprising three separate chambers with a vertical access shaft at one end and a cylindrical escape tunnel 14m long at the opposite end; the latter exits into a second vertical shaft. The hide is of corrugated iron construction of 'Elephant' type form, and formerly painted white. It has a floor of concrete slabs and its internal partitions are of blockwork, plastered and painted white. Access is gained via a vertical entrance shaft, which enters directly into the first entrance chamber; within this room there are two metal tubes connected to a larger underground glazed pipe system. A small opening leads from this chamber to the main chamber, which has ventilation holes connected via two large concrete tubes in the escape room to a point outside the hide, as well as evidence for former wall-hung fittings. A number of wooden fixtures and fittings, not in situ, remain including three doors and a remnant of one of the shaft hatch covers. From the main chamber a second small hole leads to the third chamber, or escape room, from which the concrete escape tunnel leads; there are a number of small pipes considered to relate to the radio generator.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Heiferlaw Iron Age defended settlement incorporating the underground remains of a Second World War control station is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: despite the fact that part of the interior has been disturbed by the insertion of the Second World War control station, the settlement is well preserved with double ramparts and traces of an outer ditch; the control station survives reasonably well despite the loss of its internal fittings;
* Potential: it retains significant archaeological deposits representing more than one phase of prehistoric settlement, which will inform our knowledge and understanding of its construction, use and abandonment;
* Group value: it is one of a group of Iron Age settlements in the region and will
add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric settlement and
activity in the area;
* Documentation: settlement sites of Prehistoric Britain are without contemporary documentation and hence the value of the archaeological remains as our main evidence of their social organisation and economy is enhanced;
* Rarity: defended settlements are rare nationally and are normally scheduled; it is also considered that the Second World War zero station is a rare survival nationally.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Lampe, D, The Last Ditch, (1967, reprinted 2007)
MacLaughlan, H, Additional Notes on Roman Roads in Northumberland, (1867), 15
Tate, G, History of Alnwick, (1866), 7-8
Special Duties Branch, accessed from
Special Duties Branch locations around the UK, accessed from
Ian Hall, Heifer Law Auxiliary Unit Hide: Survey Report, 2010,

Source: Historic England

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