Ancient Monuments

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Two medieval shielings on south bank of White Lyne 230m north east of confluence with little Hare Grain

A Scheduled Monument in Bewcastle, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.1182 / 55°7'5"N

Longitude: -2.6648 / 2°39'53"W

OS Eastings: 357693.5955

OS Northings: 580625.348

OS Grid: NY576806

Mapcode National: GBR 99T8.W2

Mapcode Global: WH906.1M95

Entry Name: Two medieval shielings on south bank of White Lyne 230m north east of confluence with little Hare Grain

Scheduled Date: 22 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016394

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27795

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 two stone built
medieval shielings located on the south bank of the White Lyne 230m north east
of its confluence with Little Hare Grain. These shielings form 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 of the shielings is also the later
of the two. It has been constructed on the site of the earlier shieling and is
a rectangular single-roomed hut measuring 7.6m by 3.4m with its long axis
aligned east-west and walls up to 1.5m high. There is an entrance in the south
side with an in situ reused threshold stone. Also on the south side is a small
stone built windbreak, while on the east side there is a small annexe
approximately 3.5m square. The earlier shieling survives as boulder footings
beneath the north and south walls of the later shieling. It was the larger of
the two, measures 11m by 4.9m, and extends east and south of the later
shieling as a debris platform.
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.

The two medieval shielings on the south bank of the White Lyne 230m north east
of 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.

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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