Ancient Monuments

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Four medieval shielings on south bank of White Lyne overlooking confluence with Little Hare Grain

A Scheduled Monument in Bewcastle, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.1173 / 55°7'2"N

Longitude: -2.667 / 2°40'1"W

OS Eastings: 357555.041825

OS Northings: 580530.016696

OS Grid: NY575805

Mapcode National: GBR 99T8.DC

Mapcode Global: WH906.0M9V

Entry Name: Four medieval shielings on south bank of White Lyne overlooking confluence with Little Hare Grain

Scheduled Date: 22 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016393

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27794

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Bewcastle

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Bewcastle St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of a group of four
stone built medieval shielings located on the south bank of White Lyne
between 20m-55m north east of its confluence with Muckle Hare Grain. This
group forms part of a larger group of 24 shielings strung out for
approximately 800m along the valley floor of the White Lyne which were
surveyed by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England in
1970 prior to afforestation of the area. The most prominent and best preserved
shieling in this group lies immediately south of a forestry track. It is a
rectangular single-roomed shieling measuring 8.2m by 4.3m with its long axis
aligned north east-south west and walls up to 1.7m high. There is an entrance
on its south west side with a reused threshold stone. This shieling overlies
the boulder footings of an earlier and slightly larger shieling which measures
9.3m by 4.5m. A short distance to the south west are the large boulder walls
of a single-roomed circular shieling measuring 3.8m in diameter and 0.8m high.
There is an entrance in the north east side of this shieling. Approximately
25m to the south west there is a rectangular shieling with rounded corners at
its western end. It measures 6.4m by 3.5m with walls up to 0.6m high, and has
its long axis aligned east-west. There is a paved entrance in the south side
slightly to the east of centre. Documentary sources indicate that the
Bewcastle Fells were first used by the Lords of Burgh on Solway in the 13th
century to summer their cattle and build `shields and cabins'. This custom
continued into the 17th century.

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

Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide
shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or
marshland. These huts reflect a system called transhumance, whereby stock was
moved in spring from lowland pasture around the permanently occupied farms to
communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns
reflecting transhumance are known from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC)
onwards. However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive
from the normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval
period onwards (from AD 450), when the practice of transhumance is also known
from documentary sources and, notably, place-name studies. Their construction
appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. Shielings vary in size but
are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups. They have a simple sub-
rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling, although
occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes
surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two
roomed examples are known. Some examples have adjacent ancillary structures,
such as pens, and may be associated with a midden. Some are also contained
within a small ovoid enclosure. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands
but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming
practice here. Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate
medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important.

Despite some damage by afforestation, the four medieval shielings on the south
bank of the White Lyne overlooking its confluence with Little Hare Grain
survive reasonably well and are part of a larger group of shielings sited
amongst the uplands and along the river valleys and tributaries of north east
Cumbria which, taken together, will add to our knowledge and understanding of
the wider border settlement and economy during the medieval period.
Additionally this group of shielings is a rare example of different types of
shielings occupying the same site, and as such will facilitate any further
study of the developments in the construction of shielings throughout the
medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 18-31
'Gentleman's Magazine' in Gentleman's Magazine, , Vol. XXIV, (1754), 505-6
Denton, J, 'C&WAAS Tract Ser' in Accompot of the Most Consid Estates & Families in Cumberland, , Vol. II, (1887), 146
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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