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Prehistoric cairnfield and unenclosed settlement, Romano-British village and field system and medieval field system on north east slopes of Brands Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Earle, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5153 / 55°30'55"N

Longitude: -2.0319 / 2°1'54"W

OS Eastings: 398085.509195

OS Northings: 624616.118369

OS Grid: NT980246

Mapcode National: GBR G47N.XR

Mapcode Global: WH9ZP.RMMR

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield and unenclosed settlement, Romano-British village and field system and medieval field system on north east slopes of Brands Hill

Scheduled Date: 2 April 1965

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016240

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29335

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Earle

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Ilderton St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a prehistoric cairnfield and associated unenclosed
settlement, a Romano-British village and field system and a medieval field
system. It is located on the gentle north east slope of Brands Hill,
overlooking Coldgate Water. A spring feeding the Coldgate Water rises on the
north west edge of the settlement.
The Romano-British village comprises five dispersed enclosed settlements. The
village is enclosed on the south, west and east sides by a sinuous earth and
rubble bank, up to 5m wide and up to 1m high. The northern edge of the village
is defined by break in slope as the land falls away to the river valley below.
The five settlements vary in size, construction and complexity. They range
from a simple sub-rectangular enclosure with a single house platform to an
irregular enclosure containing the foundations of at least nine round houses.
This latter enclosure, which lies on the south west edge of the settlement,
shows clear evidence of expansion, with additional enclosure banks and round
houses added to the northern edge of the original settlement. Four of the
settlements are at least partly enclosed by substantial earth and stone banks
up to 5m wide and 2m high; several of these banks contain large upright
stones, or orthostats, of pink sandstone which appear to be purely for
decorative effect. The entrances, which all face east, are defined by large
boulders or orthostats and the remains of a paved entranceway is visible in at
least one. The fifth enclosure is scooped into the hillside to a depth of
approximately 1.5m and has a slight enclosure bank on the east side. The five
enclosures contain a total of at least 22 dwellings, visible as stone
foundations for circular houses. Most of these dwellings are ranged along the
east edge of their enclosures and overlook scooped courtyards. Traces of
internal dividing banks are also visible in some of the enclosures. The
settlements are associated with a series of field plots and trackways. The
field plots are rectangular and aligned roughly east-west. The plots are
defined by low stone banks and lynchets. The remains of other banks which do
not clearly define plots are also present. Some of the banks incorporate
clearance cairns. At least one trackway runs through the field system and a
second links the two settlement enclosures on the south west edge of the
village and extends westwards as far as the outer village enclosure bank. This
latter track is up to 5m wide and is defined by a bank up to 0.5m high and
containing large boulders and orthostats. The western entrance of the track is
defined by two very large boulders. The field system is overlain by a medieval
field system of ridge and furrow which is believed to be associated with the
nearby deserted medieval village of Middleton Old Town. The layout of the
medieval field system was conditioned by the pre-existing Romano-British field
plots and so has allowed their preservation.
The remains of activity which predates the Romano-British village survives on
the periphery of the site, in the areas where the medieval ploughing has not
extended. This comprises a number of cairns, mostly on the north east, south
and south west edges of the settlement; a more extensive area of cairns and
slight field banks lies to the south of the southern village enclosure bank.
The majority of the cairns appear to be clearance cairns but on the north east
edge of the settlement are the remains of at least three funerary cairns. One
of these funerary cairns was partly excavated c.1949 and the remains of two
cists are clearly visible. The other two cairns are ring cairns up to 5m in
diameter and surviving up to 0.5m high. Also surviving in this north east part
of the site are the stone foundations of at least two unenclosed prehistoric
round houses and two small D-shaped enclosures with internal dividing walls.
A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling; these
are a modern post and wire fence and a drystone wall, although the ground
beneath these features is included.

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

Romano-British aggregate villages are nucleated settlements formed by groups
of five or more subsistence level farmsteads enclosed either indivdually or
collectively, or with no formal boundary. Most enclosures, where they occur,
are formed by curvilinear walls or banks, sometimes surrounded by ditches, and
the dwellings are usually associated with pits, stock enclosures, cultivation
plots and field systems, indicating a mixed farming economy. In use throughout
the Roman period (c.43-450 AD), they often occupied sites of earlier
agricultural settlements.
Romano-British aggregate villages are a very rare monument type with examples
recorded in the north of England and on the chalk downlands of Wessex and
Sussex. Their degree of survival will depend upon the intensity of subsequent
land use. In view of their rarity, all positively identified examples with
surviving remains are considered to merit 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 landsurface to improve its use for agriculture.
However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated. The majority of
clearance cairns appear to be the result of field clearance which began during
the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age (2000-700 BC).
Cairnfields are sometimes found in association with unenclosed hut circles.
These were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers and have been shown to
date to the Bronze Age, although they were still being constructed and used in
the early Iron Age. Both cairnfields and unenclosed hut circles provide
information on the development of land use and agricultural practices and also
on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric
period. Medieval cultivation systems, when in association with a known
medieval settlement, will provide important information on the nature and
diversity of medieval farming economy.
The prehistoric, Romano-British and medieval remains on the north east slope
of Brands Hill represent a complex and extremely well preserved archaeological
landscape. The main components of this landscape will contain significant
archaeological deposits. They form part of a wider archaeological landscape on
Brands Hill of prehistoric, Roman and medieval date and, as such, will be
important in any study of the wider settlement pattern during these periods.

Source: Historic England


1:1250, Gates, T, Brands Hill North, (1979)
Gates, T, Brands Hill North measured survey at 1:1250, unpublished survey for SMR
Gates, T, Brands Hill North, (1980)

Source: Historic England

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