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Roman period native enclosed settlement 370m WNW of Great Hetha defended settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5413 / 55°32'28"N

Longitude: -2.1899 / 2°11'23"W

OS Eastings: 388111.841109

OS Northings: 627522.733137

OS Grid: NT881275

Mapcode National: GBR F44C.PF

Mapcode Global: WH9ZF.BZFC

Entry Name: Roman period native enclosed settlement 370m WNW of Great Hetha defended settlement

Scheduled Date: 18 March 1969

Last Amended: 20 May 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015193

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24606

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 an enclosed native settlement dating to the Roman period
situated on the lower north west slopes of Great Hetha, about 370m WNW of
Great Hetha defended settlement and 280m east of Hetha Burn. It consists of a
series of terraces, one above the other, cut into the steep hillside. The
terraces contain the remains of platforms and scoops and the remains of
circular, stone founded prehistoric houses. To the east, immediately above the
terracing, are a number of individual scoops cut into the hillside. The
settlement is partly enclosed by stone and earth banks. Limited excavation
of the site has revealed that it has had a complex history.
The monument is situated on dry ground, immediately above the boulder clay
which extends along the lower reaches of the Hetha Burn Valley. It commands
views northwards along the valley. The site consists of at least eight
circular stone buildings arranged in rows on three terraces, with at least two
more buildings built on separate scoops above these. It shows traces of at
least two main phases of development. The lower part of the site consists of
the middle and lower of the three terraces and is surrounded on three sides by
a substantial bank. The terraces are cut deeply into the hillside to form
level areas up to 12m wide. The middle terrace contains the remains of at
least four circular house platforms, slightly levelled into the surface to
form platforms up to 8.5m in diameter. One of the house platforms has been
excavated and this revealed the remains of a stone founded round house, 6m in
diameter, with a doorway facing north east. The remains of a foundation for a
timber house, with an associated hearth, were discovered sealed beneath the
building. Timber buildings of this type are common in the pre-Roman Iron Age
and this discovery is evidence of an earlier phase of occupation on the site.
The lowest terrace would probably have formed a yard area, although traces of
substantial structures were also detected in this area during excavation. The
middle and lower terraces are enclosed by a substantial bank on the north,
south and west sides, forming three sides of a rectangle. On the south west
side the bank extends up the hill, in a much lowered state, to partly enclose
the upper part of the site. The bank varies in width from 3.5m to 9.5m and is
up to 1.5m high, traces of stone facing are visible in the outer face.
Excavation has shown that the front of the wall was retained by a boulder
kerb, with some of the stones being set in a natural slot in the bedrock and
braced there with chock stones. Evidence of an earlier wall existing beneath
the remains of the present wall on the north east side was also discovered.
The entrance into the enclosure lies near the north east corner. It consists
of a passage, 5m long and over 2m wide, through the enclosure bank. Excavation
has revealed that the sides of the entrance passage were revetted with stone
walling and that on the uphill side it ended in a pronounced `horn' at its
inner end. Evidence for the position of a gate was also obtained and this
indicated that the original width of the gated passageway was 1m wide.
Excavation beneath the bank on the east side of the settlement indicated that
there may have been an earlier entrance on the east side, leading directly
down to Hetha Burn.
The upper part of the site consists of the upper terrace, which contains the
remains of at least four deeply scooped house platforms, up to 8m wide.
Immediately above this, a large, irregular, scooped area, 20m by 22m, contains
a further two scooped house platforms, one of which contains the circular
stone foundations of a prehistoric round house. The upper part of the site,
with its deeply scooped platforms, is of a different character from the rest
of the site and may reflect expansion of the settlement up the hillside.
Limited excavation of the site in 1969 has confirmed a Romano-British date for
the main elements of the site. It has shown that the site has had a complex
history and that original occupation of the site may pre-date the Roman Iron

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

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.

The settlement 370m WNW of Great Hetha is a well preserved example of a Roman
period native enclosed settlement. The entire circuit of exterior banks are
clearly visible, as are the terraces, interior scoops, hut circle foundations
and associated yard area. Limited excavation has confirmed a Roman date for
the latest phases of the settlement and confirmed that archaeological deposits
survive well beneath the ground surface. The site is situated within an area
of clustered archaeological sites of very high quality and forms part of a
wider archaeological landscape. It will contribute to the study of the wider
settlement pattern during this period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burgess, C B, 'Trans Archit Archaeol Soc Durham Northumberland' in Excavations at the scooped settlement Hetha Burn 1, Hethpool, , Vol. 2, (1970), 1-23

Source: Historic England

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