Ancient Monuments

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Small multivallate hillfort and tower mill on Shackleton Beacon Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Heighington, Darlington

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Latitude: 54.6043 / 54°36'15"N

Longitude: -1.6463 / 1°38'46"W

OS Eastings: 422947.734226

OS Northings: 523297.385692

OS Grid: NZ229232

Mapcode National: GBR JHY6.D8

Mapcode Global: WHC5G.PJ8L

Entry Name: Small multivallate hillfort and tower mill on Shackleton Beacon Hill

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 29 October 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016867

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32720

County: Darlington

Civil Parish: Heighington

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Heighington

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes a hillfort of Iron Age date, situated in a prominent
position on the western end of a promontory protected on the north and west
sides by steep natural slopes. There is a post-medieval tower mill situated
within the western half of the hillfort. The hillfort is visible as a roughly
oval enclosure 60m north west to south east by 75m north east to south west.
The interior of the enclosure is on two levels. The western part, which is a
level platform, measures 75m by 27m, while to the east, the ground falls
steeply away to a lower area some 60m by 20m. On the north east side the
enclosure is protected by double banks of stone and earth each 5m wide and
standing up to 1m high, separated by a medial ditch 5m wide and 1m deep. On
the south and western sides the defences follow the natural slope of the hill;
on these sides they are stronger and there is a sequence of four ditches and
ramparts which decrease in size and strength down slope. The ramparts vary in
height from 2.5m to 0.2m and they are on average 7m wide. The ditches vary
between 0.2m and 3m deep and are on average 7m wide.
There is a causewayed entrance through the defences on the south eastern side
of the monument, occupied by a later trackway.
The tower mill was remodelled in the late 18th century to form a stone folly.
It is visible as a stone circular structure 6.5m in diameter with walls 0.8m
thick standing up to 3m high.

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

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are
defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set
earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the
interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or
more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been
constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first
century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements
of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest
that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with
display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a
rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks
and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by
one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or
inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists
of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures
interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety
of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of
small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a
similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples
recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west
with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the
rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding
the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of
national importance.

A tower mill is a type of windmill in use during the late medieval and post-
medieval periods, which owes its name to the housing of the milling gear in a
tapering tower of brick, stone or wood. The sails are fixed to a rotating
timber-framed cap. Towers built of stone or brick were usually circular in
plan and their sides were protected from the weather by paint, tar or tiles.
Used primarily for grinding grain. Tower mills had a wide distribution but,
were most common in the grain growing areas of south and east England where
there was insufficient water power to run an adequate number of water mills.
In some areas tower mills were also used to pump water or saw wood. There were
about 10,000 tower mills in England at the peak of their construction in the
mid-18th century; they declined in use in the late 19th century due to
increased use of steam power, although some continued to function into the
20th century. Formerly a common feature of the English landscape, less than
400 tower mills are known to survive, principally of the mid-18th to mid-19th
century. Tower mills preserve valuable evidence for the development of milling
technology and the economy from the late medieval period to the 20th century,
and many have acquired important amenity and educational value. All examples
surviving in good condition, particularly those which contain their machinery
intact, demonstrate unusual characteristics or significant associations, are
considered to be of national importance.
Despite some remodelling during the late 18th century, the hillfort on
Shackleton Beacon Hill is well preserved and retains significant
archaeological deposits. Hillforts are uncommon in County Durham and this is a
good example of its type. It will contribute to our understanding of
prehistoric settlement and society.

Source: Historic England


DCC SMR 1453,
NZ22SW 04,

Source: Historic England

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