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Unenclosed hut circle settlement, two round cairns, medieval transhumance settlement and two pillow mounds, 360m south east of Rey Cross Roman camp

A Scheduled Monument in Bowes, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.5041 / 54°30'14"N

Longitude: -2.152 / 2°9'7"W

OS Eastings: 390254.226538

OS Northings: 512092.585838

OS Grid: NY902120

Mapcode National: GBR FJDC.W6

Mapcode Global: WHB4N.X1DY

Entry Name: Unenclosed hut circle settlement, two round cairns, medieval transhumance settlement and two pillow mounds, 360m south east of Rey Cross Roman camp

Scheduled Date: 2 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016468

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32714

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Bowes

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes the remains of a hut-circle settlement and two round
cairns of prehistoric date, a seasonally occupied medieval and post-medieval
settlement and two pillow mounds, situated on a sheltered, south facing
terrace in the valley of the River Greta. The complex is also in the Stainmore
Pass immediately below the steep escarpment upon which the Rey Cross Roman
camp is situated. All year round settlement in this area is thought to have
been unlikely and all the remains are thought to represent seasonal or
periodic occupation.
The hut circle settlement is visible as the remains of at least six circular
stone founded houses and at least four sub-circular enclosures scattered along
the length of the undulating terrace. The hut circles vary in diameter between
5m and 11m and on average stand 0.5m high with walls up to 1.5m thick. The
most prominent hut circle, which is situated near the north western corner of
the settlement, stands alone upon the top of a low rise. Some 30m to the east
there is a second hut circle attached to a larger oval enclosure, the latter
sub-divided by a low wall, and a third hut circle also with an adjoining
enclosure is visible 9m to the south east.
Two sub-circular mounds of stone thought to be the remains of two round cairns
are situated some 30m south east of the hut circles at the centre of the
monument. The most westerly of the two cairns, which is situated on a low
knoll, is sub-circular in shape and measures 4m by 5m across. The second
cairn, some 30m east of the first, measures 11m by 8m. This cairn has been
incorporated into a group of later structures which it is thought were
constructed upon the central area of the hut circle settlement. The later
group of structures are thought to represent seasonally occupied medieval or
post-medieval settlement and include the remains of two rectilinear buildings
and a larger rectilinear yard or paddock; a series of discontinuous stone
walls link the structures, giving the appearance of a surrounding enclosure.
The walls also extend beyond the complex to the south. To the east of this
complex, and at the eastern end of the monument, there are further remains of
the hut circle settlement, including a well-defined, prehistoric hut circle
and a larger sub-circular enclosure. Some 20m beyond the latter to the east
are the remains of two further conjoining hut circles or enclosures.
At the western end and at the north eastern periphery of the monument there
are two well preserved mounds of stone and earth which have been interpreted
as the remains of pillow mounds representing the remains of a rabbit warren.
The first and most westerly mound measures 4m wide and is 25m long and 0.5m
high; it is flanked by parallel ditches 1m wide. The second mound measures 3m
wide and is is 15m long.
At the extreme north western end of the monument, immediately west of the
isolated hut circle, further remains of stone structures, some rectangular in
form, are visible; these are thought to represent a later stage in the
development of the medieval settlement. One of these structures, a circular
stone mound, 10m in diameter, is thought to represent the remains of a kiln.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric
farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are
visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were
timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights
used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as
a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can
only be identified by the artificial earthwork platforms created as level
stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between
one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the
platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the
contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated
with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or
indicated by groups of clearance cairns.
Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but it
is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the Early
Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of enclosed
and defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the
same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument
types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation
and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age
(2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or
multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined
compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch.
Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the
modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are
the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrows of the lowlands. Their
considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide
important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation
amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of
their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered
worthy of protection.
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 onwards. However, the
construction of herdsmens huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling
of farms only appears from the early medieval period onwards, 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. 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.
A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of
rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and
skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren
construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction
of rabbits from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of
purpose built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries. The
mounds vary in design, although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. The mounds
are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are
situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the mound
may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into the
underlying subsoil or bedrock. A typical warren may contain between one and 40
pillow mounds and occupy an area up to 600ha. Early warrens were mostly
associated with the higher levels of society; however, they gradually spread
in popularity, so that by the 16th and 17th centuries they were a common
feature on most manors and estates throughout the country. Warrens continued
in use until fairly recent times, finally declining in the 19th and 20th
Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with
other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement. They may
also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and ecclesiastical
estates. All well preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of
protection. A sample of well preserved sites of later date will also merit
The prehistoric and medieval settlements 360m south east of Rey Cross Roman
camp are well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. They
represent the physical remains of transhumance in the Stainmore Pass spanning
a period of five millennia and will add greatly to our knowledge and
understanding of seasonal settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Vyner, et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass, (1998)
Vyner. et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass (Draft), 1998,
Vyner. et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass (Draft), 1998,

Source: Historic England

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