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Hut circle settlements and field systems at Hetha Burn Head

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5312 / 55°31'52"N

Longitude: -2.2123 / 2°12'44"W

OS Eastings: 386696.081326

OS Northings: 626402.702999

OS Grid: NT866264

Mapcode National: GBR D4ZH.V1

Mapcode Global: WH9ZL.Z7PK

Entry Name: Hut circle settlements and field systems at Hetha Burn Head

Scheduled Date: 20 May 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014504

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24589

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 cultivation terraces which have been
overlain by a later walled field system with a settlement consisting of two
hut circles. This settlement and walled field system is overlain in its turn
by a later settlement. In total there are therefore three phases of land use
possibly running from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period.
The cultivation terraces, which are the earliest features, run in a north-
south direction. They measure between 4m and 10m wide. In total there are
approximately eight terraces overlain by the later settlements.
The second phase of activity is evidenced by four field walls. Two of the
walls run roughly parallel to each other in a north-south direction. The third
easternmost wall forms half of a rectangular enclosure and abuts the middle
wall. The south west wall is immediately adjacent to, and therefore probably
contemporary with, a hut circle. A second hut circle is located at the extreme
west side of the settlement adjacent to a small stretch of wall which runs in
an east-west direction and is 5m wide. The length included within the monument
is 30m. The easternmost end has been cut by a later scooped enclosure close to
the hut circle. It is broken in the middle and this break may be the remains
of an entrance 2m wide. The other field walls measure between 4m and 5m wide.
The length of the south west wall, included within the monument, is 170m long.
The middle wall is 100m long with the remains of another wall diverging from
it 35m from the west end. The hut circles measure 7m wide in external diameter
and survive as stone foundations which are now grass covered.
The third and latest phase of activity is typical of a Roman period native
settlement. It consists of enclosures scooped into the old cultivation
terraces. The circular building platforms for timber buildings are still
visible in the scooped enclosure. There are at least four separate sets of
enclosures, with a possible fifth on the south side. The northernmost is the
most clearly defined. It measures approximately 15m in external diameter and
has three circular building platforms associated with it. The platforms
measure approximately 7m in external diameter each. The other settlements are
less clearly defined. An oval enclosure with a possible building platform on
its west side is situated 40m to the south of the above site. The enclosure
measures between 33m and 18m in diameter and the platform approximately 10m in
diameter. A further enclosure can be seen 20m to the west of this, with an
ill-defined platform on the north side. The enclosure measures 20m in diameter
and the platform 7m in diameter. The westernmost enclosure is adjacent to an
earlier hut circle and measures 18m in diameter. Within the enclosure are the
remains of two or three possible house platforms measuring 9m in diameter.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric
farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are
visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were
timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights
used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as
a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can
only be identified by the artificial earthwork platforms created as level
stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between
one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the
platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the
contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated
with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or
indicated by groups of clearance cairns.
Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but it
is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the Early
Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of enclosed
and defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the
same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument
types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation
and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

This site also includes a later Roman period native settlement. 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
seems 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. 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, as can be seen in this site at
Hetha Burn Head. 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 they can frequently only be located
through aerial photography. All homestead sites which survive substantially
intact will normally be identified as nationally important.
This site at Hetha Burn Head also includes cultivation terraces which are
earlier than the Roman period native settlement and the stone hut circle
settlement. Cultivation terraces are strips of land cut into hillslopes to
form level terraces for agricultural purposes. Such techniques were used from
prehistoric times through to the medieval period.
This settlement is a rare survival of three different phases of occupation
covering an extensive area of land. It survives in good condition and will
provide an insight into developing patterns of settlement and land use
throughout the later prehistoric period. The importance of these settlements
is enhanced by the survival of part of the field systems which is unusual in
settlements of these dates.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Northumberland Archaeology Group, , 'Obsvns on Stratigraphy of early agric rems in Kirknewton....' in Northern Archaeology, (1983), 23-5
Northumberland Archaeology Group, , 'Obsvns on Stratigraphy of early agric rems in Kirknewton....' in Northern Archaeology, (1983), 23-5
Gates, T, NT8628 A Mus Antiq Newcastle, (1986)

Source: Historic England

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