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Two Romano-British settlements, two stone hut circles, field system and associated cord rig cultivation, 650m west of Nether Houses

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.2677 / 55°16'3"N

Longitude: -2.2798 / 2°16'47"W

OS Eastings: 382319.451595

OS Northings: 597090.255472

OS Grid: NY823970

Mapcode National: GBR D7JJ.7H

Mapcode Global: WH8ZL.YVKM

Entry Name: Two Romano-British settlements, two stone hut circles, field system and associated cord rig cultivation, 650m west of Nether Houses

Scheduled Date: 22 August 1994

Last Amended: 7 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015529

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25102

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rochester

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Horsley with Byrness

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a two settlements of Romano-British date,
two stone hut circles and an associated field system containing cord rig
cultivation, situated on a gentle north facing slope above the Wind Burn. The
westerly Romano-British settlement, sub-rectangular in shape, measures a
maximum of 21m east to west, within a rubble bank 3m wide standing to a
maximum height of 0.6m above the exterior ground level. The enclosure is
divided internally, by a bank of rubble construction, into two areas each
containing a sunken forecourt visible as a large depression. At the rear of
each area there are the remains of a circular stone founded house 9m and 7m in
diameter respectively. The second Romano-British settlement, 75m south east of
the first is also rectangular in shape. It measures a maximum of 30m north to
south by 23m east to west, within a rubble bank 3-4m wide standing to a height
of 0.7m above the exterior ground level. The enclosure is divided internally
by a bank of rubble construction, into two sunken yard areas each with their
own east facing entrance. The southern yard contains the remains of two stone
founded circular houses 5.5m and 10m in diameter, each with an east facing
entrance. The smaller house has been superimposed upon the enclosure bank on
the south west side while the larger is situated immediately within the
enclosure bank in the same area. A third house is thought to be situated at
the north west corner of the southern yard.

A stone hut circle is situated 100m to the south west of the second
Romano-British settlement; it is 8m in diameter within a stone wall 1.6m wide
and stands to a maximum height of 0.2m. There is an entrance through the
eastern wall. A second stone founded house 100m south east of the first is 4m
in diameter within a stone wall 1m wide which stands to a maximum height of

An extensive field system is associated with the two settlements and the stone
hut-circles; this includes the remains of several linear walls visible as low
stony banks 0.5m wide and a maximum of 0.4m high running down the sloping
hillside. The walls are a maximum length of 370m. Other shorter, low stone
walls meet these long linear walls at right angles and divide the area into a
series of small roughly rectangular fields. Areas of prehistoric cultivation
known as cord rig are visible within some of the fields in the vicinity of the
two settlements and the stone hut circles. The cord rig is visible as a series
of slight earthworks forming narrow ridges on average 1m wide and standing to
a height of 0.10m, separated by narrow furrows.

All field boundaries which cross the monument and the cruciform stone sheep
shelter are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is included.

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.

Stone hut circles and hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of
prehistoric farmers. Most date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The
stone-based round-houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular
floor area; the remains of the turf, thatch or heather roofs are not
preserved. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may lie
in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth or stone. Frequently traces of
their associated field systems may be found immediately around them. These may
be indicated by areas of clearance cairns and/or the remains of field walls
and other enclosures. The longevity of use of hut circle settlements and their
relationship with other monument types provides important information on the
diversity of social organization and farming practices among prehistoric
communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a
substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of

A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined fields of
prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in a block or blocks which lie
approximately at right angles to each other, usually with a settlement as a
focal point. Fields are generally square or rectangular, and the blocks give
ordered if irregular shape to the field system as a whole. They are
characteristically extensive monuments; the number of individual fields varies
from two to 50 but this is, at least in part, a reflection of bias in the
archaeological record rather than the true extent of such land divisions
during their period of use. The fields were the primary unit of production in
a mixed farming economy incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural
elements. As a rare monument type which provide an insight into land division
and agricultural practice during their period of use, all well preserved
examples will normally be identified as nationally important.

Cord rig cultivation is visible as a series of narrow ridges and furrows no
more than 1.4m across between the centres of furrows. It is frequently
arranged in fields of varying size with formal boundaries but it also occurs
in smaller irregular plots of between 30 to 60 square metres. Cord rig can be
fragmentary or more extensive, sometimes extending over considerable areas,
and it is often found in association with a range of prehistoric settlement
forms and in association with prehistoric field systems. It generally survives
as a series of very slight earthworks and its survival is frequently first
noted on aerial photographs. It has also been identified through excavation
beneath several parts of Hadrian's Wall. The evidence of excavation and the
study of associated monuments demonstrate that cord rig cultivation spans the
period from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period. Cord rig cultivation
is known throughout the Borders of England and Scotland but is a marked
feature of the upland margins. The discovery of cord rig cultivation indicates
that arable regimes formed a significant part of the local economy in these
areas for much of the later prehistoric period. Cord rig is therefore of
considerable importance for the analysis of the prehistoric settlement and
agriculture; all well preserved examples, particularly where they are found in
association with prehistoric or Romano-British settlements, will normally
merit statutory protection.

The extensive settlement and agricultural remains near Nether Houses are very
well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. Taken as a
group they will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric
farming and settlement.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 5 ser 6' in Excavation and Field Survey in Upper Redesdale, (1978), 76-7
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 5 ser 6' in Excavation and Field Survey in Upper Redesdale, (1978), 76-77
Gates, T, 'Rural Settlement in the Roman North CBA GP 3' in Farming on the Frontier: R-B fields in Northumberland, (1982), 32,40
Topping, P, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Early Cultivation in Northumberland And The Borders, , Vol. 55, (1989), 176
Gates T, 8297 A-E, (1978)
Gates, T, NY 8297 A-E, (1978)
Gates, T, NY 8297 A-E, (1978)
NY 89 NE 14,
NY 89 NW 16,
NY 9 NW 15,

Source: Historic England

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