Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Medieval shieling on Espy Bank 35m south of Esby Well

A Scheduled Monument in Askerton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.0489 / 55°2'55"N

Longitude: -2.6765 / 2°40'35"W

OS Eastings: 356871.109262

OS Northings: 572918.499973

OS Grid: NY568729

Mapcode National: GBR 9BR1.BX

Mapcode Global: WH7ZF.VCM9

Entry Name: Medieval shieling on Espy Bank 35m south of Esby Well

Scheduled Date: 16 May 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015737

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27763

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Askerton

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Lanercostwith Kirkcambeck St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a medieval shieling located on the fellside on Espy Bank
35m south of Espy Well. It is a single roomed shieling measuring 15.5m
east-west by 7m north-south externally with turf walls up to 0.2m high. There
is an entrance on the shieling's south side. About 5m east of the shieling
are the turf covered foundations of a three-sided stone built annexe measuring
8m by 6m, while attached to the shieling's west side is a rectangular shallow
hollow measuring c.7m by 6m which is thought to be the site of a timber or
turf annexe.

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

Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide
shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or
marshland. 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 (c.2000-700 BC)
onwards. However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive
from the normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval
period onwards (from AD 450), when the practice of transhumance is also known
from documentary sources and, notably, place-name studies. Their construction
appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. Shielings vary in size but
are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups. They have a simple sub-
rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling, although
occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes
surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two
roomed examples are known. Some examples have adjacent ancillary structures,
such as pens, and may be associated with a midden. Some are also contained
within a small ovoid enclosure. 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 medieval shieling on Espy Bank 35m south of Espy Well survives in fair
condition and is part of a larger group of shielings sited amongst the uplands
and along the river valleys and tributaries of north east Cumbria which, taken
together, will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the wider
border settlement and economy during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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