Ancient Monuments

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Horse Head medieval shieling on Greyfell Common 50m west of confluence of Gosling Sike and Horsehead Grain

A Scheduled Monument in Greystead, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.1184 / 55°7'6"N

Longitude: -2.6013 / 2°36'4"W

OS Eastings: 361747.546953

OS Northings: 580604.758675

OS Grid: NY617806

Mapcode National: GBR B988.M0

Mapcode Global: WH907.0ML2

Entry Name: Horse Head medieval shieling on Greyfell Common 50m west of confluence of Gosling Sike and Horsehead Grain

Scheduled Date: 22 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016400

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27786

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Greystead

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Bewcastle St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes Horse Head medieval shieling located on a slight rock
spur on Greyfell Common 50m west of the confluence of Gosling Sike and
Horsehead Grain. It measures approximately 8m by 3.5m externally with its long
axis aligned east-west and has walls of drystone construction one course high
protruding through the covering vegetation in places. A small cairn has been
constructed with debris from the shieling and piled in the centre of the

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.

Horse Head medieval shieling survives reasonably well and is 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), 29

Source: Historic England

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