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Spades Mire linear earthwork and section of rig and furrow

A Scheduled Monument in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.7761 / 55°46'33"N

Longitude: -2.0025 / 2°0'8"W

OS Eastings: 399942.161117

OS Northings: 653639.34553

OS Grid: NT999536

Mapcode National: GBR G1GN.88

Mapcode Global: WH9YK.62PT

Entry Name: Spades Mire linear earthwork and section of rig and furrow

Scheduled Date: 28 March 1949

Last Amended: 7 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015521

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28534

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Built-Up Area: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Berwick Holy Trinity and St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a linear earthwork of medieval date contained within two
areas. The earthwork, which is oriented east to west ran from the now infilled
Tapee Loch, immediately north east of Berwick castle, to the sea where it
effectively cut off the peninsula upon which the town of Berwick upon Tweed
stands. Evidence suggests that the earthwork is earlier than the late 13th and
early 14th century Edwardian defences of Berwick upon Tweed. It therefore
represents the earliest surviving defensive feature at Berwick upon Tweed, and
it is considered to be related to the town which is known to have been in
existence since the 11th century. The earthwork survives as a pronounced
linear ditch 672m long ranging from 10m to 25m wide and from 0.9 to 3m deep.
It is cut into two sections by an original off set entrance. The south side of
the ditch is steeply scarped while the northern side is considerably shallower
suggesting that the earthwork faced north and defended the land to the south
contained by it. Situated on the south side of the ditch are traces of an
accompanying rampart, now much spread and up to 13m wide.

The western section of the monument, which is contained within the first
area, includes a length of ditch 300m long ranging in width from 12m
to 25m and up to a maximum of 3m deep. Its most westerly part survives beneath
the surface of the modern road as an infilled buried feature. Immediately
south of the ditch, excavation in 1961-2 revealed the presence of an earthen
rampart buried beneath the make up of the school playing field. This survived
to a height of 0.9m and it was at least 6m wide, although it extended beyond
the limit of the excavation. The eastern section of the monument is contained
within the second area and includes a length of ditch 372m long and on average
10m wide and up to 1m deep. Flanking the ditch to the south of this section
are the spread remains of the internal rampart. This has been incorporated
into the later medieval field system and is partly obscured by rig and furrow
cultivation running parallel to it.

A small excavation across the monument in 1961 and 1962 as well as uncovering
remains of the southern rampart, revealed that the ditch was constructed
before the medieval rig and furrow cultivation which lies adjacent to it. It
also showed that the ditch had been deliberately filled subsequent to its
construction. Several pieces of pottery and fragments of clay pipe were
recovered ranging in date from the 13th century to the present day.

All school buildings including sheds and temporary classrooms, all walls,
fences, the metalled surfaces of roads and pavements and all street furniture
are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all of these
features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Before the formal development of town defences in the later middle ages a
number of ad hoc arrangements have been identified that provided a measure of
defence for important commercial, frontier and bridgehead settlements. The
substantial linear boundary feature known as Spades Mire has been identified
as an early attempt to define the territory associated with the early
settlement of Berwick upon Tweed. It survives as an earthwork and as a buried
feature visible on aerial photographs. It consists of a ditch flanked by a
single internal bank. Limited excavation has shown that it was in use by the
13th century but without further excavation it is difficult to determine
whether this represents the reuse of an earlier feature. The boundary
enclosed an area larger than that contained by the later stone walls of the
Edwardian period and considerably larger than that defined by the Elizabethan
artilery defences. Its function was, however, broadly similar to these later
circuits, namely to isolate the promontory, already afforded natural defence
on three sides, upon which the early settlement of Berwick upon Tweed stood.

Spades Mire is well preserved and retains significant archaeological and
environmental deposits. As the earliest defensive feature known at Berwick
upon Tweed it is of considerable importance for study of the origins of the
town and it will add greatly to our understanding of its development, which it
is known from documentary evidence was a place of considerable importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beresford, M W, St Joseph, J K S, Medieval England: An Aerial Survey, (1979), 194
Colvin, H M, The History of the King's Works, (1963), 563
Ellison, M, 'Archaeology in the North' in An Archaeological Survey of Berwick upon Tweed, (1976), 152,162
White, K G, 'Proc Soc Antiq Scot' in The Spades Mire, Berwick upon Tweed, , Vol. 96, (1964), 355-60
Title: Berwick upon Tweed
Source Date: 1988

Source: Historic England

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