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Roman period native settlement and associated field system and trackway on north east slope of Brands Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Earle, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5108 / 55°30'39"N

Longitude: -2.0345 / 2°2'4"W

OS Eastings: 397921.380524

OS Northings: 624119.849631

OS Grid: NT979241

Mapcode National: GBR G47Q.BB

Mapcode Global: WH9ZP.QRD5

Entry Name: Roman period native settlement and associated field system and trackway on north east slope of Brands Hill

Scheduled Date: 11 March 1964

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016241

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29336

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 an enclosed native settlement dating to the Roman period
and associated unenclosed hut circles, a field system and trackway. It is
located on gently sloping ground on the north east face of Brands Hill,
overlooked by higher ground to the south. The ground falls away more steeply
to the east of the site.
The settlement comprises a set of double banks enclosing the stone foundations
of at least two round houses. The outer bank of earth and rubble survives up
to 4m wide and 0.5m high, forming an enclosure which is `flask-shaped'. The
entrance to the outer enclosure is at the neck of the flask, thus forming a
controlled entrance and defining a broad enclosed area between the inner and
outer enclosure. The area between the inner and outer bank is divided into a
number of compartments by low walls. The inner enclosure bank survives up to
1.5m high. The outer face of this bank, particularly on the west side,
contains a number of large vertical orthostats, or upstanding stones, which
appear to be placed for decorative effect. The entrances to both outer and
inner enclosures face south east. The stone founded huts within the inner
enclosure face east and overlook a scooped courtyard. Immediately to the east
of the enclosed settlement lies a complex of at least ten stone founded round
houses or house platforms and a series of small paddocks, or field plots, and
field walls covering an area of approximately 2.25ha. The houses generally
appear to be grouped in pairs, and range from 6m to 10m in diameter. The stone
foundations contain a number of orthostats. Some of the houses are scooped
into the hillside and two pairs overlook slightly scooped courtyards. One pair
of round houses is partly enclosed by a semi-circular field wall; the
remainder lie outside, but in close proximity to the field plots. There are
the remains of at least three irregular field plots, up to 50m by 75m, defined
by earth and stone banks, 1m wide and up to 0.3m high. There are further small
lengths of walling and small irregular enclosures within and adjacent to the
plots. A length of field wall runs westward from the outer bank of the
settlement enclosure for a length of at least 100m. Aerial photographs
indicate that it extends further but it has not been surveyed and as its full
extent is not known, it is not included within the scheduling beyond this
point. The north edge of the field plots are defined by a track, or hollow-
way, at least 200m long, defined on both sides by a bank 1m wide and up to
0.2m high. This track continues eastwards, beyond the eastern limit of the
settlement and field system, for a length of about 100m. The ground to the
south of this has been improved and it is possible that other remains
associated with the settlement in this area have been obliterated.
The drystone wall and post and wire fence are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath 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.

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric
farmers. They take a variety of forms, some were stone based and are visible
as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were constructed
of timber and may only be visible by a shallow groove or by an artificial
earthwork platform created as a level stance for the building. They provide an
important contrast to the various types of enclosed settlements with which
they are contemporaneous. Irregular aggregate field systems are collections of
contiguous field plots which are irregular in shape (rectilinear or
curvilinear in plan) and size and which are accreted around a focal point,
usually a settlement. They are visible as irregular clusters of low, curving
earthworks, rarely covering more than 10ha overall. Irregular aggregate field
systems were used for small scale agricultural production by indigenous
farmers in certain parts of the country for most of the Roman period. The
longevity of use and relationship with other monuments of both hut circles and
field system provides important information on the diversity of social
organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.
The Roman period native settlement and associated field system and hut circles
on the north east slope of Brands Hill are well preserved and will contain
significant archaeological deposits. They form one of a group of broadly
contemporary farmsteads and enclosures on the slopes of Brands Hill and lie
within an area of clustered sites whose remains are well preserved. They form
part of a wider archaeological landscape and will contribute to any study of
the settlement pattern during the Romano-British period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana, 4 ser 42' in Enclosed Stone Built Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. 4SER 42, (1964), 53
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana, 4 ser 42' in Enclosed Stone Built Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. 4SER 42, (1964), 53
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana, 4 ser 42' in Enclosed Stone Built Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. 4SER 42, (1964), 53

Source: Historic England

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