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Five shielings 620m NNE of Elsdonburn Shank

A Scheduled Monument in Kilham, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.5623 / 55°33'44"N

Longitude: -2.2169 / 2°13'0"W

OS Eastings: 386414.717286

OS Northings: 629863.259762

OS Grid: NT864298

Mapcode National: GBR D4Y3.VX

Mapcode Global: WH9ZD.XGH7

Entry Name: Five shielings 620m NNE of Elsdonburn Shank

Scheduled Date: 24 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014772

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24643

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Kilham

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Kirknewton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the remains of five medieval shielings situated on the
lower slopes of a north facing spur below Elsdonburn Shank. The steep sided
valley of a small stream lies immediately to the east. The shielings are all
orientated NNW to SSE, with an entrance in the short north wall and no
indication of any internal division. They are well defined and visible as the
turf covered foundations of rectangular dry stone buildings.
The most northerly shieling measures 9m by 6.5m with walls spread up to 1m
wide which stand to a maximum height of 0.3m. The second shieling is situated
5.8m to the SSW and measures 6.5m by 5.5m with walls up to 1m wide which stand
to a maximum height of 0.3m. The third shieling is situated 9.4m to the SSW
and measures 7m by 6m with walls spread up to 1.5m wide which stand to a
maximum height of 0.3m. The north wall has a clearly defined entrance 0.7m
wide. The fourth shieling is situated 3.5m to the south and is almost
horseshoe shaped; it measures 5.5m by 6m with walls spread up to 2m wide which
stand to a maximum height of 0.2m. The fifth shieling is situated 4.7m to the
west and measures 7m by 5.6m with walls spread up to 2.5m wide which stand to
a maximum height of 0.2m. The north wall has a clearly defined entrance 0.9m
wide.

MAP EXTRACT
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 shielings NNE of Elsdonburn Shank are reasonably well preserved and will
retain significant archaeological deposits. They are part of a wider group of
shielings found in the northern Cheviots built in similar locations on
slightly raised ground adjacent to water.

Source: Historic England

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