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Evistones medieval settlement, field system and three bastles

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2658 / 55°15'57"N

Longitude: -2.2688 / 2°16'7"W

OS Eastings: 383013.351921

OS Northings: 596886.052958

OS Grid: NY830968

Mapcode National: GBR D7LK.L4

Mapcode Global: WHB0R.3XW0

Entry Name: Evistones medieval settlement, field system and three bastles

Scheduled Date: 12 November 1962

Last Amended: 7 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016815

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32719

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rochester

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Horsley with Byrness

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the remains of a medieval and post-medieval settlement,
situated on a north east facing slope overlooking the valley of the River Rede
to the north west, north east and south east. The settlement is visible as the
remains of a series of rectangular buildings of longhouse form and at least
three bastles, linked together by walls and placed around a central space,
interpreted as an irregularly shaped village green. More than one phase of
settlement is represented by the remains at Evistones.
The first bastle, the most prominent feature of the monument, is situated at
the north eastern end of the central complex at NY 8305 9677. It is visible as
a vaulted, rectangular building measuring 10.5m by 7.5m with walls 1.5 to 1.6m
thick of roughly squared stone. The jambs of an original doorway in the centre
of the eastern wall are clearly visible. The western half of the original
barrel vault remains intact, standing 2.8m high. The cross wall with a central
doorway which is visible today is a later construction related to the re-use
of the bastle as a sheepfold. Some 60m north west of the first bastle, forming
the north western edge of the central complex of buildings, there is a second
bastle, visible as the lower courses of a rectangular building 10.5m by 8m
with walls 1.7m thick, constructed of large, roughly squared stone. In between
the two bastles, ranged along the north side of the green there are the
remains of at least two partially overlapping longhouses, standing on average
1m high with walls between 1m and 1.5m wide. The remains of at least six
further longhouses are ranged around the eastern and southern sides of the
green; these buildings stand to a maximum height of 1m with walls on average
0.8m thick. Those at the south eastern end generally stand less high and are
more denuded than the rest. A single building is situated on the village green
in a central position with walls 0.3m high and 1.2m thick. The bastles and
some of the longhouses have irregularly shaped enclosures attached to them
representing the remains of gardens or small fields. These are bounded by
stone walls on average 1.5m high.
Some 60m north east of, and detached from, the central complex of the
settlement there is a third bastle. This is situated at NY 8308 9680 at the
north east corner of a rectangular enclosure. The building is visible as the
lower courses of a rectangular building measuring 12.8 by 7.4m and standing to
a maximum of 1.5m high. There is a smaller rectangular structure attached to
the southern gable of the bastle. The remains of at least two additional
rectangular structures are visible at the southern end of the enclosure.
Surrounding the settlement complex on all sides there are the well preserved
remains of an associated field system, visible as a series of contiguous small
fields, or furlongs, bounded by low banks of earth called headlands. Within
each furlong there are the remains of medieval ridge and furrow, measuring on
average 0.8m between the furrows. The furlongs are grouped into at least three
larger blocks of land defined by large prominent earthen banks. Within the
field system there are the remains of at least five further rectangular
buildings, some thought to be the remains of agricultural buildings such as
barns and hemmels.
The wire plantation fence and the metalled surface of the road which crosses
the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath
these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Wear-Tweed sub-Province of the Central Province, an
area long characterised, except for the western margins, by nucleated
settlements both surviving and deserted. Variations within the sub-Province
reflect land ownership as well as terrain: on some estates in Northumberland
there was much dispersal of farmsteads and consequent village and hamlet
depopulation after the Middle Ages, whereas Durham saw greater stability
because of ecclesiastical control. An overlay of mining settlements adds
complexity to the coalfield areas.
The Cheviot Margin local region is a narrow transition zone between two
contrasting areas, the high moorlands of the Cheviots and the agriculturally
favourable lowlands of the Tweed Valley and the Northumbrian Vales. Fieldwork
has shown that this region retains archaeological traces likely to date from
many periods, providing evidence for sequences of land occupation. Medieval
settlements are mainly in the form of small hamlets and isolated farmsteads.

In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the
landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an
area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or
principal) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence
instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across
the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection
with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to shared common land or
road systems. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region,
but where they survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include
roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other
buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas
where stone was used for building, the outline of building foundations may
still be clearly visible. Communal areas of settlements frequently include
features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval
settlement are found in both the South Eastern Province and Northern and
Western Province of England. They are found in upland and as also some lowland
areas. Where found their archaeological remains are one of the most important
sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries
following the Norman Conquest.
Medieval dispersed settlements often had associated field systems in which
former arable cultivation may be evident in the form of ridge and furrow
earthworks. Well preserved ridge and furrow, especially in its original
context adjacent to settlement earthworks, is an important source of
information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive contribution to the
character of the historic landscape.
Bastles are small thick walled farmhouses in which the living quarters are
situated above a ground floor byre. The vast majority are simple rectangular
buildings with the byre entrance typically placed in one gable end, an upper
door in the side wall, small stoutly barred windows and few architectural
features or details. Some have stone barrel vaults to the basements but the
majority had a first floor of heavy timber beams carrying stone slabs. The
great majority of bastles are solitary rural buildings, although a few
nucleated settlements with more than one bastle are also known. Most bastles
were constructed between about 1575 and 1650, although earlier and later
examples are also known. They were occupied by middle rank farmers. Bastles
are confined to the northern border counties of England, in Cumbria,
Northumberland and Durham. The need for such strongly defended farmsteads can
be related to the troubled social conditions in these border areas during the
later Middle Ages. Less than 300 bastles are known to survive, of which a
large number have been significantly modified by their continuing use as
domestic or other buildings. All surviving bastles which retain significant
original remains will normally be identified as nationally important.
Evistones settlement and field system survive well and retain significant
archaeological deposits. Several phases of settlement are represented at the
monument and will contribute to our understanding of medieval and later
settlement in the Cheviot Margins. The later phase of bastle construction
enhances the importance of the monument.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
NY89NW 19,

Source: Historic England

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