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Romano-British settlement, field system and cord rig cultivation 390m north east of Yatesfield Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2741 / 55°16'26"N

Longitude: -2.2248 / 2°13'29"W

OS Eastings: 385817.534301

OS Northings: 597792.011253

OS Grid: NY858977

Mapcode National: GBR D7XG.46

Mapcode Global: WHB0R.SPSP

Entry Name: Romano-British settlement, field system and cord rig cultivation 390m north east of Yatesfield Hill

Scheduled Date: 7 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015532

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25157

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

Details

The monument includes the remains of a settlement of Romano-British date and the extensive well preserved remains of an associated field system including cord rig cultivation,situated on the gently sloping Yatesfield Hill.The settlement,which is levelled into the foot of the slope,consists of seven sub-circular enclosures ranging in size from 18m across to 32m across and up to ten round houses.The backs of all of the large enclosures are scooped into a steep slope and some have visible traces of an enclosing wall of stone and earth around the other sides.Five of the seven enclosures have south east facing entrances on average 3m-4m wide.All but one of the enclosures have at least one circular hut attached and opening into it,while the most easterly of the group has a series of four hut circles attached to its northern and western sides.The hut circles range in size from 3m to 11m in diameter and while many are clearly dwelling houses some may have served a variety of other functions such as store houses.The enclosure without an associated hut circle is interpreted as a stock enclosure.These remains conform to a type of Romano-British settlement known elsewhere in the area where one or more circular houses have entrances which give direct access into a large walled enclosure or forecourt.To the south east and north east of the settlement there are the fragmentary remains of a denuded field system.This is visible as several small stone clearance cairns and stretches of low banks forming walls around small plots or fields which have been truncated by a shelter belt.Situated to the north and west of the settlement there are the well preserved remains of an associated field system and an area of prehistoric cultivation remains known as cord rig.The field system is visible as a series of ten rectilinear fields or enclosures of varying shapes and sizes defined by low stone and earth banks.These fields are in association with a series of narrow trackways defined by double banks.The cord rig is visible as a series of narrow earthen rigs and furrows arranged in plots which appear to respect the boundaries of the fields suggesting that they are contemporary with them.Field inspection has revealed that the rigs are on average 1.4m wide between the centres of furrows,the latter showing clearly as darker lines of vegetation.The surfaces of the road known as Yatesfield Road which crosses the monument from north to south and the surfaces of the track and turning circle situated to the east of Yatesfield Road,are excluded from the scheduling,but the ground beneath them is included.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

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 thirty 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.A regular 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 type;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 unit 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.Cord rig cultivation is a series of narrow ridges and furrows no more than1.4m across between the centres of furrows.It is frequently arranged in fields with formal boundaries but it also occurs in smaller irregular unenclosed plots varying between 30 to 60 square metres.Cord rig can be fragmentary or more extensive,often extending over considerable distances,and it is often found in association with a range of prehistoric settlement forms and with prehistoric field systems.It generally survives as a series of slight earthworks and it is frequently first discovered on aerial photographs but it has also been identified by excavation as a series of ard marks beneath several parts of Hadrian's Wall.The evidence of excavation and the study of associated monuments demonstrates that cord rig cultivation spans the period from the Bronze Age to the Roman period.Cord rig cultivation is known throughout the Border areas of England and Scotland but is a marked feature of the upland margins.The discovery of areas of cord rig cultivation is of considerable importance for the analysis of prehistoric settlement and agriculture;all well preserved examples will normally merit statutory protection.The settlement,field system and cord rig cultivation on Yatesfield Hill are exceptionally well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits.It represents one of the most extensive and best preserved cord rig field systems in the county,which taken with the adjacent settlement will add considerably to our knowledge and understanding of settlement and farming at
this time.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Gates, T, Air Photography and the Archaeology of Otterburn Training Area, (1995)
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 5 ser 6' in Excavation and Field Survey in Upper Redesdale, (1978), 61-86
Gates, T, 'Rural Settlement in the Roman North CBA GP 3' in Farming on the Frontier: R-B fields in Northumberland, (1982), 40
Other
Gates T, TMG 14739/50-60; TMG 14741/7-23, (1995)
NY89NE 21,

Source: Historic England

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