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Romano-British and medieval settlement, field system, cord rig cultivation, cairnfield and round cairn on Barracker Rigg

A Scheduled Monument in Otterburn, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.2716 / 55°16'17"N

Longitude: -2.1855 / 2°11'7"W

OS Eastings: 388309.759178

OS Northings: 597506.492641

OS Grid: NY883975

Mapcode National: GBR F75H.M3

Mapcode Global: WHB0S.DRHM

Entry Name: Romano-British and medieval settlement, field system, cord rig cultivation, cairnfield and round cairn on Barracker Rigg

Scheduled Date: 7 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016201

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25162

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 a settlement of Romano-British date
re-occupied during the medieval period, an extensive field system containing
cord rig cultivation associated with several field clearance cairns, a
cairnfield and a substantial round cairn of Bronze Age date situated on gently
sloping south facing slopes on Barracker Rigg. The monument is divided into
five separate areas. The settlement, which is contained within the second
area, includes a series of oval and sub circular enclosures and several
associated circular dwelling houses forming three main complexes. The most
northerly group consists of a large oval enclosure 15m by 12m within a stone
wall 1.3m wide and standing to a maximum height of 1m. It has a clear entrance
in the south east and a single adjoining circular house 9m in diameter
surrounded by a wall of stone 1.6m wide and 0.5m high. A sub rectangular
enclosure attached to the south east side of the main enclosure is thought to
be a later addition. Situated immediately to the west there is a second large
enclosure 45m by 17m within a stone wall. This enclosure is sub-divided and
has three clear entrances; it contains a well preserved circular house 9m in
diameter situated on an elevated platform. The third element consists of
several irregular enclosures, the best defined ones being oval in shape and
measuring 13m across. There are also at least two rectangular platforms 6m by
3m which are likely to be the bases for dwelling houses. These latter features
are considered to represent re-occupation of the settlement in the medieval
period and are probably contemporary with the later rectangular enclosure
attached to the end of the first complex. The other remains conform to a type
of Romano-British settlement identified in the Borders of northern England and
southern Scotland where one or more circular houses have entrances which give
direct access into large walled enclosures or forecourts.

Immediately west of the settlements there is an extensive field system
containing cord rig cultivation which is contained within the first and third
areas. The cord rig is visible as the remains of at least two large fields and
several smaller plots of narrow, straight rigs running down slope on average
1.4m wide between the centres of the furrows and standing to a maximum height
of 0.20m. The field system is visible as a series of low field walls on
average 0.3m high and double walled track ways on average 5m wide, in many
cases forming the boundaries of the fields of cord rig. The remains of at
least four circular cairns of stone and earth, on average 0.6m in diameter and
standing up to 0.9m high are interpreted as field clearance cairns associated
with the cultivation of the area. In a prominent position above the Barracker
Sike, on the northern edge of the fields of cultivation there is a large round
cairn. It is composed of stone and earth and measures 12m east to west by
10.5m and stands to a maximum height of 0.7m. The mound has become spread and
was originally circular in shape. The exact relationship of the cairn to the
cord rig cultivation is unclear but it is likely to be an earlier feature of
probable Bronze Age date. To the east of the Romano-British and medieval
settlements, and on the east side of the range road, a plot of cord rig
measuring 200m by 80m has been identified on aerial photographs and
is contained within a fourth area. Some 400m north of the settlements on
Barracker Rigg there are the remains of a cairnfield visible as the remains of
at least 16 cairns of stone and earth. The cairnfield is contained within the
fifth area. The cairns are circular and elongated in form and several are
irregularly shaped. They vary in size but are on average 5m in diameter and
stand to a maximum height of 0.8m; others are slightly larger up to 7m across
and some are visible as low circular platforms. It is considered that the
cairns indicate an area of ground clearance in preparation for agricultural

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.

Farmsteads, normally occupied by only one or two families and
comprising small groups of buildings with attached yards, gardens and
enclosures, were a characteristic of the medieval rural landscape. In some
regions, particularly in northern areas, abandoned prehistoric and Roman
enclosures were often re-occupied and adapted by the construction of
additional, usually rectangular buildings. The sites of many farmsteads have
been occupied down to the present day but others were abandoned as a result
of, for example declining economic viability or epidemics like the Black
Death. In the northern border areas, recurring cross-border raids and military
activities also disrupted agricultural life and led to abandonments.
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
monuments; the number of individual fields varying 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 rare monuments
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 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 unenclosed plots varying between 30 to 60 square metres.
Cord rig can be fragmentary or more extensive, often 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 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
borders of England and Scotland but is a marked feature of the upland margins.
The discovery of cord rig cultivation is of considerable importance for the
analysis of 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.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age. They
were constructed as stone mounds covering single or multiple burials. These
burials may be placed within the mounds in stone-lined compartments called
cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch. Often occupying
prominent locations, cairns are a major visible element in the modern
landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are the
stone equivalent of the earthen round barrow of the lowlands. Their
considerable variation in form 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 examples are considered
worthy of protection.

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 occassion 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 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.

The settlement, agricultural and funerary remains on Barracker Rigg are
extremely well preserved and are good examples of their type. Taken together
they will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric and
Romano British settlement and agriculture.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, An Archaeological Survey of the MOD Training Area, Otterburn, (1977)
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, , Vol. CBA GP3, (1982), 40
Topping, P, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Early Cultivation in Northumberland And The Borders, (1989), 161-180
Gates T, TMG 13968/74-9, 80-7, (1995)
Gates T, TMG 13968/74-9, 80-7, (1995)
Gates T, TMG 14743/75-6, (1995)
Neg No 1701/29, Gates, T, (1978)
NY89NE 12,
NY89NE 13,
NY89NE 16,

Source: Historic England

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