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Roman period native settlements, field system and medieval shieling on the east slope of Brands Hill, 550m west of Middleton Old Town

A Scheduled Monument in Ilderton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.509 / 55°30'32"N

Longitude: -2.0247 / 2°1'28"W

OS Eastings: 398537.606253

OS Northings: 623909.179456

OS Grid: NT985239

Mapcode National: GBR G49R.G0

Mapcode Global: WH9ZP.WS1M

Entry Name: Roman period native settlements, field system and medieval shieling on the east slope of Brands Hill, 550m west of Middleton Old Town

Scheduled Date: 11 March 1964

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016238

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29329

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Ilderton

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Ilderton St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a native settlement and field system dating to the Roman
period and a medieval shieling. It is situated on a level plateau on the east
slope of Brands Hill and is overlooked by higher ground to the north west.
The settlement comprises two enclosed settlements, two embanked enclosures,
possibly for stock, and the remains of four small enclosed fields or paddocks
laid out in a linear fashion following the contour of the hill. The
southernmost settlement comprises a sub-oval enclosure, 32m by 45m, defined by
a bank of earth and stone, 3m wide and up to 1m high, and with an entrance on
the east side. The interior of the enclosure contains the circular
foundations of two prehistoric houses; the entrances to both houses face east
and open onto a raised level platform, 9m by 8m, which overlooks a scooped
courtyard. This settlement is situated within a small, irregular field plot
or paddock defined by a low rubble and earth bank. Parts of this paddock are
visible on the ground and the whole is clearly visible on aerial photographs.
Immediately to the north west of this settlement is an oval enclosure, 15m by
21m, defined by an outer bank 3m wide and up to 0.4m high. The interior of
the enclosure is divided by a slight bank, 2m wide, aligned east-west. The
circular foundations of a prehistoric house are attached to the outer bank of
the enclosure on the north west corner. Approximately 5m to the north of this
lies a second enclosure, oval in shape and measuring 12m by 10m. It is
defined by a bank 3m wide and up to 0.7m high, the outer face of which is
defined by massive earthfast boulders. The entrance faces east. The interior
of the enclosure is higher than the exterior, forming a slightly raised
platform. On the south side of this enclosure are the remains of a small
L-shaped enclosure or annexe, with remains of a low bank extending southwards
from it. On the north side, the remains of a slight bank partially enclosing
the main enclosure bank, but on a slightly different alignment, appear to
represent the remains of an earlier structure. To the east and north east of
the two enclosures are two irregularly shaped paddocks defined by low banks of
rubble and earth up to 2.5m wide and 0.4m high. The eastern bank of the
paddocks is more robustly constructed, up to 4m wide and 1m high, and this may
represent a later, probably medieval, enhancement of an earlier feature. The
northern paddock contains the stone foundations of an unenclosed prehistoric
round house and the foundations of two rectangular buildings, interpreted as
the remains of medieval shielings.
Immediately to the north of the two paddocks lies the remains of the second
enclosed settlement. This comprises a sub-rectangular enclosure, 28m by 32m,
defined on the south, west and east sides by a substantial outer bank up to 5m
wide and 1.5m high. The entrance to the enclosure is on the south east side
and is marked by a large upright stone. The northern end of the enclosure has
been scooped into the hillside to a depth of 2.5m. There are slight traces
of an exterior bank on this side. In the north west corner of the enclosure
are the stone foundations of a prehistoric roundhouse, 9m in diameter, and the
possible remains of a hut platform. The enclosure lies within a further small
paddock. The eastern edge of the paddock is defined by a low rubble and stone
bank, the western edge comprises a stone revetted bank, 0.75m high, enclosing
ground which appears to have been artificially raised to create a level
platform. The northern edge of the paddock would have extended beyond the
modern drystone wall, but the land to the north of this has been improved and
there is no visible evidence of any remains in this area. The land immediately
to the north of the drystone wall has therefore not been included within the
In the south east corner of the site are the slight remains of
medieval ridge and furrow associated with the medieval village of Middleton
Old Town and a hollow way skirts the southern edge of the site. These remains
are included in the scheduling as they will contain important information
about the relationship between the prehistoric and medieval remains in this
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are dry stone
walls and post and wire fence defining the north edge of the site, although
the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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.

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 irrgegular, shape to the field system as a whole. The fields were
the primary unit of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating
pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. They are 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
to be of national importance. Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts
which were built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing
summer pasture. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently
represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here.
The Roman period native settlements and associated enclosures and paddocks on
the east slope of Brands Hill are well preserved and will contain significant
archaeological deposits. The shieling, hollow way and remains of medieval
cultivation will contain important information about how the site was
exploited in the medieval period. Both the Roman period native settlement and
the medieval remains form part of a wider archaeological landscape and will
contribute to the study of the wider settlement pattern during this period.

Source: Historic England

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