Ancient Monuments

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Shieling at Southernknowe, 530m SSE of Whitehall

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5234 / 55°31'24"N

Longitude: -2.1758 / 2°10'32"W

OS Eastings: 388999.841021

OS Northings: 625535.474375

OS Grid: NT889255

Mapcode National: GBR F47K.RT

Mapcode Global: WH9ZM.KF4H

Entry Name: Shieling at Southernknowe, 530m SSE of Whitehall

Scheduled Date: 20 May 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014498

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24617

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Kirknewton

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Kirknewton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a medieval shieling. It is situated on a
small island of raised ground on an old river terrace adjacent to the College
Burn. The ground falls away steeply to the north and west.
The building is aligned north-south. It is rectangular in plan, measuring
23.5m long by 5.5m wide. The exceptionally thick walls are of dry stone
construction and are faced with roughly dressed stone. They survive up to 0.4m
high and up to 1.4m wide. There is an entrance, with a threshold stone,
situated approximately mid-way along the western side. The building is
sub-divided into three rooms, the southernmost has internal dimensions of 6.5m
by 3m, the central room is 7m by 3.25m and the northernmost, which comprises a
slightly raised platform, is 5.25m by 3.25m. The dividing wall between the
central and northern rooms has an entrance at the west end. A roughly
circular, slightly raised, area of dark earth and dense nettles lies c.20m
to the north east of the site, this may represent the site of the midden but
has not been included within the scheduling because it is insufficiently

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 at Southernknowe survives well and will retain significant
archaeological deposits. It forms one of a group of shielings found along the
valley bottoms of the College Burn and its tributary, the Lambden Burn. All
these shielings are built in very similar locations, on slightly raised ground
immediately adjacent to water. They are often found in close spatial
association with earlier sites. They form a group of contemporary structures
associated with medieval agriculture and will form a significant contribution
to the study of medieval settlements and land use in the Cheviots.

Source: Historic England


Topping, P, A Survey of College Valley, North Northumberland, 1981, BA dissertation, Durham University

Source: Historic England

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