Ancient Monuments

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Defended settlement and field boundary on Horsley Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Horsley, Northumberland

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Latitude: 54.9907 / 54°59'26"N

Longitude: -1.8566 / 1°51'23"W

OS Eastings: 409275.059647

OS Northings: 566242.4562

OS Grid: NZ092662

Mapcode National: GBR HBGQ.VS

Mapcode Global: WHC3F.GT4F

Entry Name: Defended settlement and field boundary on Horsley Hill

Scheduled Date: 19 March 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016470

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28592

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Horsley

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Wylam St Oswin

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a defended settlement of Iron Age date, situated in a
prominent location on the highest part of Horsley Hill, where it commands
extensive views in all directions. The settlement is visible as the remains of
a roughly circular enclosure, 46m in diameter, within a slight stone and earth
rampart. For much of its circuit, the rampart is visible as a slight scarp or
as a low spread bank, but where it is best preserved on the north west side it
measures a maximum of 9m wide and stands up to 0.5m high. An area of erosion
on the north eastern side has revealed the stone core of the rampart.
On the western side of the enclosure there are traces of a surrounding ditch
measuring 7m wide which it is thought originally continued around the south
side where it has become infilled. The northern and eastern sides of the
enclosure are protected by natural slopes beyond the rampart. There is a clear
entrance through the eastern side of the enclosure associated with a spread
field boundary or trackway. This feature, which runs in an easterly direction
for 16m, is thought to be part of a formerly more extensive field system.

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

During the mid-prehistoric period (seventh to fifth centuries BC) a variety of
different types of defensive settlements began to be constructed and occupied
in the northern uplands of England. The most obvious sites were hillforts
built in prominent locations. In addition to these a range of smaller sites,
sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha and defined as defended
settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops,
others are found in less prominent positions. The enclosing defences were of
earthen construction, some sites having a single bank and ditch (univallate),
others having more than one (multivallate). At some sites these earthen
ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber
fence or palisade. Within the enclosure a number of stone or timber-built
round houses were occupied by the inhabitants. Stock may also have been kept
in these houses, especially during the cold winter months, or in enclosed
yards outside them. The communities occupying these sites were probably single
family groups, the defended settlements being used as farmsteads. Construction
and use of this type of site extended over several centuries, possibly through
to the early Romano-British period (mid to late first century AD).
Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element
of the later prehistoric settlement pattern of the northern uplands and are
important for any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during
this period. All well-preserved examples are believed to be of national

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age to the end of the 5th
century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and comprise a discrete
block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction with the field
boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. The
field boundaries can take various forms (including dry stone walls,
orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and
lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to
most systems include entrances and track ways, and the settlements or
farmsteads from which people utilized the fields over the years have been
identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the
field system. Field systems represent a coherent economic unit often utilised
for long periods of time and can thus provide important information about
developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader
patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries.
Those which survive well or which can be positively linked to associated
settlements are considered to merit protection.

The defended settlement on Horsley Hill survives reasonably well and contains
significant archaeological deposits. It is one of a small group of similar
settlements in the Tyne valley and will contribute to our knowledge and
understanding of Iron Age settlement and society in the region. The survival
of an associated field boundary adds to the importance of the monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Tolan-Smith, M, Landscape Archaeology in Tynedale, (1997), 74
NZ06NE 17,

Source: Historic England

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