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Prehistoric field system and cairnfield east of Watch Hill, 520m NNE of footbridge over Carey Burn

A Scheduled Monument in Akeld, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5296 / 55°31'46"N

Longitude: -2.0637 / 2°3'49"W

OS Eastings: 396074.8645

OS Northings: 626204.0394

OS Grid: NT960262

Mapcode National: GBR G41H.0M

Mapcode Global: WH9ZP.88JT

Entry Name: Prehistoric field system and cairnfield east of Watch Hill, 520m NNE of footbridge over Carey Burn

Scheduled Date: 31 July 1973

Last Amended: 15 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018374

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31708

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Akeld

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Wooler St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes an extensive field system of Bronze Age date situated on
a gently sloping saddle of land between Hart Heugh and Fredden Hill. The field
system comprises at least 40 clearance cairns, banks and lynchets which define
irregular field plots. In addition, there are at least two burial cairns.
The field system stretches for several hundred metres and is characterised
by sub-rectangular fields and a scatter of field clearance cairns. The fields
measure an average 25m by 35m and are defined by slight earthen banks and
lynchets which stand to a maximum height of 0.25m. Although slight, the field
system was fully surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1967. The clearance
cairns are clearly visible as turf-covered mounds of earth and stone ranging
in size from 1m to 6m in diameter and standing up to 0.6m high. Two cairns are
more substantial than those surrounding them and are intepreted as burial
cairns. The first measures about 11m in diameter and stands 1.25m high with
kerb stones visible around its outer edge. The centre is disturbed, probably
the result of an unrecorded antiquarian investigation in the 19th or 20th
century. A second burial cairn lies at the extreme south of the monument and
measures 4.6m in diameter by 0.75m high with kerb stones visible around part
of its perimeter.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the
end of the fifth 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. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can
be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The
field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls or reaves,
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 trackways, and the settlements or
farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been
identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the
field system.
The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for
land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought
to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common
occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation
may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Regular aggregate
field systems occur widely and have been recorded in south western and south
eastern England, East Anglia, Cheshire, Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, North and
South Yorkshire and Durham. They 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 and/or which can be positively linked to
associated settlements are considered to merit protection.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one
another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone
cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture
and, on occasion, their distribution pattern can be seen to define field
However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without
excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials.
Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (from c.3400 BC),
although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance
which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze
Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the size,
content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the
development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain
information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the
prehistoric period.
The prehistoric field system and cairnfield are well preserved and will
retain significant archaeological deposits. Their importance is enhanced by
the survival nearby of other prehistoric field systems and settlements
clustered around Fredden Hill. It forms part of a wider archaeological
landscape in the Cheviot Hills and will contribute to any study of the wider
settlement and land use pattern during this period.

Source: Historic England

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