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Unenclosed settlement, field system, cairnfield, round cairn cemetery, round cairn, shieling and enclosed cremation cemetery on Todlaw Pike

A Scheduled Monument in Otterburn, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.2566 / 55°15'23"N

Longitude: -2.1575 / 2°9'26"W

OS Eastings: 390089.243914

OS Northings: 595836.340587

OS Grid: NY900958

Mapcode National: GBR F7CN.QG

Mapcode Global: WHB0Z.T4TK

Entry Name: Unenclosed settlement, field system, cairnfield, round cairn cemetery, round cairn, shieling and enclosed cremation cemetery on Todlaw Pike

Scheduled Date: 15 February 1979

Last Amended: 7 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015531

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25156

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Otterburn

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Otterburn St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of an unenclosed hut circle settlement and an associated field system,including a cairnfield of Iron Age date,a round cairn cemetery,a round cairn and an enclosed cremation cemetery of Bronze Age date and a shieling of medieval date,situated on a gentle south west facing slope.The cairnfield contains up to fifty field clearance cairns,several of which lie to the east of a range road.The cairns are variable in shape and include circular,ovoid and elongated forms of varying size,the smallest 3m across and the largest 10m long.Many of the cairns stand to a height of 1m and some are thought to also contain evidence of burials.On the western periphery of the cairnfield there is a large round cairn.The cairn,composed of stone and earth and of likely funerary origin,is 10m in diameter and stands to a height of 1.2m.The cairn has been robbed of much of its stone to reveal traces of a probable kerb of large upright stones around its periphery.On the extreme western edge of the cairnfield there is an enclosed cremation cemetery defined by a circular earthen bank 1m wide and 0.6m high.It is 10m in diameter overall and contains a central mound under which the remains of bronze age cremations are buried.To the south east of the cairnfield there are the remains of a field system which is considered to be contemporary with an adjacent Iron Age unenclosed hut circle settlement.The field system is visible as a series of small square or rectangular plots each on average 30m-40m across defined by the remains of slight stony lynchets and banks of stone and earth.The banks are on average 1.5m wide and stand to a height of 0.7m.One of the field walls incorporates a cup marked rock.The field system and the cairnfield are apparently bounded by fragmentary traces of field walls which are visible on the north east,south west and western sides.The unenclosed settlement comprises the remains of two well preserved hut circles,each with indistinct traces of further houses in the immediate vicinity.The most northerly of the two hut circles is situated within the cairnfield.It is 13.5m in diameter and is formed by a circular bank of earth 2m wide.The second hut circle is situated 100m south of the first and lies within the area of the field system.It is 13m in diameter and is situated on a slight platform.To the south of the settlement there is a Bronze Age round cairn cemetery comprising the remains of at least nine cairns,each displaying a clear kerb.One of the group is larger than the rest being 9m in diameter while the remainder are on average 3m to 5m in diameter.Some 40m south of this group there are the remains of an earthen mound 16m in diameter with a cist,or stone coffin,visible in the top of the mound.Placed at a similar distance to the west of the cairn cemetery there is a large cairn measuring 15m in diameter and standing to a height of 1m,with similar traces of a stone cist in its upper surface.Some 15m to the north of this group of cairns there are the footings of a rectangular building oriented north to south and measuring 7m by 3.5m.This is interpreted as the remains of a shieling of probable medieval date.The surface of the army range road which crosses the monument,and the field boundary at the northern end of the monument are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.It includes a two metre boundary around the archaeological features,considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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.Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another.They often consist largely of clearance cairns,built with stone cleared from the surrounding land surface to improve its use for agriculture,and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots.However,funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated,although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials.Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period,although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age.The considerable longevity and variation in the size,content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and agricultural practices.Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organization during the prehistoric period.

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 an ordered,if irregular shape to the field system as a whole.They are characteristically extensive monument types;the number of individual fields varies from two to approximately fifty,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,as continued land-use has often obliterated traces of the full extent of such field systems.The fields were the primary units of production in a mixed farming economy,incorporating pastoral,arable and horticultural elements.As rare monument types 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.Round cairn cemeteries date to the Bronze Age.They comprise groups of cairns sited in close proximity to one another and take the form of stone mounds constructed to cover single or multiple burials.Contemporary or later `flat' graves may lie inbetween individual cairns.Most cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time and they can exhibit considerable diversity of burial rite,plan and form.Occasionally they are associated with earlier long cairns.They may also be associated with clearance cairns.It may be impossible,without excavation,to distinguish between some burial and clearance cairns.Round cairn cemeteries occur throughout upland Britain;their distribution pattern complements that of contemporary lowland earthen round barrows.Their diversity and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving or partly-surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture or upland.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 onwards.However,the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling houses or farms,only appears from the early medieval period onwards,when the practice of transhumance is also known from documentary sources and,notably,place name studies.Shielings vary in size but are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups.They have a simple rectangular plan normally defined by dry stone walling,although occasionally turf built structures are known.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 prehistoric settlement,field system,cairnfield and associated features at Todlaw Pike are well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits.Taken together they will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement and society.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ainsworth, S, Gates, A, Field Survey in Northumberland - 1981, (1981), 18
Ainsworth, S, Gates, A, Field Survey in Northumberland - 1981, (1981), 18
Ainsworth, S, Gates, A, Field Survey in Northumberland - 1981, (1981), 18
Ainsworth, S, Gates, A, Field Survey in Northumberland - 1981, (1981), 18
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, An Archaeological Survey of the MOD Training Area, Otterburn, (1977)
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, An Archaeological Survey of the MOD Training Area, Otterburn, (1977)
Cranstone, D et al, Otterburn Training Area: Archaeological Evaluation Final Report, (1996), 15-18
Gates, A, 'Settlement in North Britain 1000BC - AD 1000' in Unenclosed Settlements in Northumberland, (1983), 25
Gates, A, 'Settlement in North Britain 1000BC - AD 1000' in Unenclosed Settlements in Northumberland, (1983), 25
Gates, A, 'Settlement in North Britain 1000BC - AD 1000' in Unenclosed Settlements in Northumberland, (1983), 125
NY 89 NE 18,

Source: Historic England

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