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Prehistoric enclosure, associated field system, cairnfield, round houses and medieval shielings on east and south east slopes of Brands Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Ilderton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5066 / 55°30'23"N

Longitude: -2.0334 / 2°2'0"W

OS Eastings: 397990.245529

OS Northings: 623648.561867

OS Grid: NT979236

Mapcode National: GBR G47R.LV

Mapcode Global: WH9ZP.QVXF

Entry Name: Prehistoric enclosure, associated field system, cairnfield, round houses and medieval shielings on E and SE slopes of Brands Hill

Scheduled Date: 18 June 1973

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016239

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29330

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 an enclosure, unenclosed round houses and associated
field systems and cairnfield dating to the prehistoric period. It also
includes a medieval shieling. The enclosure is situated on a natural level
platform on the south east face of the hill. The associated field system and
cairnfield extend eastwards on gently sloping ground. A deep natural gulley
forms the south western boundary of the site.
The enclosure is oval in shape and measures 40m by 45m. It is defined by thick
drystone walls up to 8m wide and 1.5m high. The enclosure wall is overlain by
a later sheepfold but the remains of the earlier wall are visible within the
collapsed walls of the sheepfold. The original enclosure wall can be seen to
have been 4m wide and survives up to a height of 0.4m. It has an inner and
outer face of large stones and the core is filled with small rubble.
Immediately to the east of the enclosure are the remains of two long, narrow
rectangular buildings which are interpreted as shielings.
The enclosure is surrounded by an extensive cairnfield which covers an area of
at least 480m by 370m. The cairns range in size from 2m to 5m in diameter and
are up to 0.4m high. The majority of the cairns appear to be associated with
field clearance resulting from the agricultural activity taking place around
the enclosure. However, there are several cairns which appear to be funerary
in origin and would have functioned as burial mounds. These cairns are located
on the outer limits of the cairnfield. One funerary cairn, located near the
southern edge of the cairnfield, appears to be a ring cairn. It is 5m in
diameter and the outer bank, which is 0.3m high and has clearly visible kerb
stones, encloses a central area 1.5m in diameter. A further set of at least
five cairns lie on the very eastern limit of the cairnfield, separated from it
by a steep break in slope. These cairns are larger than the others and occupy
a plateau of level ground which overlooks ground sloping away more steeply to
the east. One is situated on an enhanced natural knoll; their appearance and
siting also suggest a funerary function.
Within the cairnfield lies the field system, which comprises three distinct
irregular clusters of field plots and a number of other field banks. The
field plots are mostly rectangular or sub-rectangular in shape and are aligned
roughly north-south along the contour of the hill. There are at least eight
clearly defined plots, with an average size of 40m by 30m. They are defined by
slightly sinuous field banks, up to 1.5m wide and o.3m high or by lynchets up
to 0.4m high. To the north east of the northernmost cluster of field plots
lies an area, defined on the south side by lynchets, which has been completely
cleared of stone and has a smooth appearance. Such areas have been interpreted
elsewhere in the Cheviots as areas prepared for cultivation. The stone
foundations of at least two unenclosed prehistoric round houses lie adjacent
to the field plots.
The post and wire fence and a dry stone wall which bound the monument are
excluded from the scheduling.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

In the uplands of Northern England a wide variety of prehistoric enclosures
can be found. These range from relatively large, rectangular enclosures with
earth and stone banks, to smaller, irregular areas enclosed by rubble and
boulder walls. Most are dated to the Bronze Age, Iron Age or early Romano-
British period (2000BC-200AD). They were constructed as stock pens, or as
protected areas for crop growing and were sometimes subdivided to accomodate
animal shelters and hut circles for farmers or herders. Their variation in
form, longevity and relationship to other monument classes provides important
information on the diversity of social organisation and landuse among
prehistoric communities. Irregular aggregate field systems are groups of
contiguous fieldplots of prehistoric or Roman date. They are visible as
irregular clusters of low, curving earthworks, rarely covering more than 10ha
overall. They formed part of a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral,
arable and horticultural elements. They are a rare monument type and 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. Such field systems may be found in association with cairnfields.
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 landsurface to improve its use for agriculture.
However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated. 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 (2000-700BC). 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 organisation during the prehistoric period. Shielings
are small seasonally occupied huts built to provide shelter for herdsmen who
tended animals grazing summer pasture on uplands. Shielings are reasonably
common but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and
farming practice here.
The enclosure, hut circles, cairnfield, irregular aggregate field system and
shieling on the east and south east slopes of Brands Hill form a well
preserved and unusually complex archaeological landscape. They will retain
important archaeological information in terms of both significant
archaeological deposits and of spatial relationships between the various
components. They are part of a group of broadly contemporary settlements and
field systems on the slopes of Brands Hill whose archaeological remains
survive well. They form part of a wider archaeological landscape and will
contribute to any study of the settlement pattern during these periods.

Source: Historic England


Gates, T, Survey of settlement on Brands Hill at 1:1250, 1979, unpublished, for SMR enhancement
Sites and Monuments Record, Northumberland, (1969)

Source: Historic England

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