Ancient Monuments

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Two medieval shielings on Akeld Hill, 680m WNW of Gleadscleugh

A Scheduled Monument in Akeld, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5571 / 55°33'25"N

Longitude: -2.0875 / 2°5'14"W

OS Eastings: 394580.019511

OS Northings: 629275.878191

OS Grid: NT945292

Mapcode National: GBR F4V5.VR

Mapcode Global: WH9ZG.XL45

Entry Name: Two medieval shielings on Akeld Hill, 680m WNW of Gleadscleugh

Scheduled Date: 13 June 1973

Last Amended: 18 September 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018349

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31701

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Akeld

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Kirknewton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes remains of two medieval shielings, an enclosure and
midden, situated on the east side of a neck of land between Akeld Hill and
White Law. The enclosure is roughly `D'-shaped, measures 27m by 33m and is
defined by banks up to 1m high. The entrance lies on the north side, marked by
massive boulders, and gives access to a funnelled entrance 1.5m wide running
east-west and faced with stone. The shielings lie to the south of the
enclosure, are oval in plan and measure 9m by 6m and 11m by 6m. The smaller
shieling is built against the edge of the enclosure and has an internal
division. A smaller, circular feature, 3m in diameter, lies to the west of the
shielings and is interpreted as a possible midden.
Other earthwork remains of stock enclosures survive outside the area of
protection to the south and west; these are not included in the scheduling as
their extent, nature and date are not fully understood.

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

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 (c.2000-700 BC)
onwards. However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive
from the normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval
period onwards (from AD 450), 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, although
occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes
surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two
roomed examples are known. 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.

The shielings on Akeld Hill survive in good condition and retain significant
archaeological deposits. They will contribute to any study of settlement and
land use during this period.

Source: Historic England

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