Ancient Monuments

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Prehistoric settlement and burnt mound at Bleabeck Washfold

A Scheduled Monument in Forest and Frith, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.6414 / 54°38'28"N

Longitude: -2.1984 / 2°11'54"W

OS Eastings: 387295.03971

OS Northings: 527379.391659

OS Grid: NY872273

Mapcode National: GBR FG2R.VZ

Mapcode Global: WHB3W.6LFQ

Entry Name: Prehistoric settlement and burnt mound at Bleabeck Washfold

Scheduled Date: 24 November 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017118

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33483

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Forest and Frith

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes a stone hut circle settlement and an adjacent burnt
mound, situated on the west side of Bleabeck at Bleabeck Washfold.
The settlement consists of at least two hut circles, a complex of interlocking
enclosures, and the remains of a small rectangular building. The largest hut
circle lies at the south west edge of the site, is 13m in diameter, and has a
small annexe on its north side. The rubble walls of this hut circle are 2.5m
wide and 0.6m high. To the south west is a smaller, less conspicuous hut
circle 5m in diameter, the walls of which are visible as a slight stony crest.
North east of the two hut circles is the complex of interlocking enclosures,
which partly underlies the modern washfold. The rubble walls of the enclosures
are similar to those of the larger hut circle, but have been partly robbed to
provide stone for the modern washfold. A number of small hollows in this area
may also be the result of this stone collecting. At the north east end of the
site are the remains of a small rectangular building, 6m by 5m, with rubble
walls 1m thick. This building may have been contemporary with the prehistoric
settlement, or could represent a later, possibly medieval reuse of the site.
South of the settlement there are indications that the course of Bleabeck has
altered at some unknown date. Between the former and present courses of the
beck is a burnt mound. This is visible as two grass covered heaps of burnt and
cracked stone, with a hollow between the mounds. The smaller, southern mound
is 6m by 3m and 1m high. The larger mound is 15m by 6m and 1m high. The hollow
between the mounds is 2m wide.
All modern walls and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath these features in included.

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

Stone hut circles and hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of
prehistoric farmers. Most date from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). The stone-
based round-houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor
area; the remains of the turf, thatch or heather roofs are not preserved. The
huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may lie in the open or
be enclosed by a bank of earth or stone. Frequently traces of their associated
field systems may be found immediately around them. These may be indicated by
areas of clearance cairns and/or the remains of field walls and other
enclosures. The longevity of use of hut circle settlements and their
relationship with other monument types provides important information on the
diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric
communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a
substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of

A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt (fire-crazed) stones, ash and
charcoal, usually sited next to a river or lake. On excavation, some form of
trough or basin capable of holding water is normally found in close
association with the mound. The size of the mound can vary considerably; small
examples may be under 0.5m high and less than 10m in diameter, larger examples
may exceed 3m in height and be 35m in diameter. The shape of the mound ranges
from circular to crescentic. The associated trough or basin may be found
within the body of the mound, or, more usually, immediately adjacent to it. At
sites which are crescentic in shape the trough is normally found within the
`arms' of the crescent and the mound has the appearance of having developed
around it.
The main phase of use of burnt mounds spans the Early, Middle and Late Bronze
Age, a period of around 1000 years. The function of the mounds has been a
matter of some debate, but it appears that cooking, using heated stones to
boil water in a trough or tank, is the most likely use. Some excavated sites
have revealed several phases of construction, indicating that individual sites
were used more than once.
Burnt mounds are found widely scattered throughout the British Isles, with
around 100 examples identified in England. As a rare monument type which
provides an insight into life in the Bronze Age, all well-preserved examples
will normally be identified as nationally important.
The prehistoric settlement at Bleabeck Washfeld survives well and is one of
several prehistoric settlements in Upper Teesdale. It will add to knowledge
relating to prehistoric settlement and land use in the uplands.
The burnt mound also survives well and is one of several burnt mounds in Upper
Teesdale. It will add to knowledge relating to burnt mounds and their role in
Bronze Age society.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Coggins, D, Fairless, K, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in Durham Archaeological Journal, , Vol. Vol 11, (1995), 1-5

Source: Historic England

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