Ancient Monuments

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Prehistoric field system and unenclosed hut circle settlement on eastern slopes of Hart Heugh, 550m south west of Earlehillhead

A Scheduled Monument in Wooler, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5259 / 55°31'33"N

Longitude: -2.0445 / 2°2'40"W

OS Eastings: 397290.447886

OS Northings: 625795.792031

OS Grid: NT972257

Mapcode National: GBR G45J.5Y

Mapcode Global: WH9ZP.KCNM

Entry Name: Prehistoric field system and unenclosed hut circle settlement on eastern slopes of Hart Heugh, 550m south west of Earlehillhead

Scheduled Date: 3 July 1964

Last Amended: 15 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018441

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31716

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Wooler

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Wooler St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a prehistoric field system and unenclosed
hut circle settlement on the eastern slopes of Hart Heugh. The remains survive
as upstanding earthworks and buried remains. The field system comprises two
enclosures, cultivation terraces, cord rig and a field bank. The first
enclosure is situated immediately below crags at the eastern end of Hart Heugh
summit and is divided into two parts by an internal bank. Its overall
measurement is 75m north-south by 45m east-west and is enclosed by a low and
sinuous bank of earth and stone up to 1.5m wide. On the eastern side are
smaller sub-rectangular enclosures and the whole is considered to represent
enclosures for animal husbandry. Running from the crags at the east end of
Hart Heugh, in a north easterly direction, is a field bank believed to be
contemporary with the enclosure and immediately above the crags is a smaller
sub-rectangular enclosure, 9.4m by 6.3m, defined by banks up to 0.25m high.
The walls of this enclosure are thought to have been partially robbed to
provide building material for a modern shelter a few metres to the north west.
To the east of the enclosure are at least five cultivation terraces stepped
down the hillside, the level area of each terrace measuring an average 6m wide
and 1m deep. Located on these terraces are five hut circle platforms with an
average diameter of 6m. East of these terraces is an area of cord rig which,
although difficult to see on the ground, is clearly visible on aerial
photographs. The cord rig is bound by an east-west field bank on the south
which, at its west end, terminates at a hut circle, 4m in diameter. A small
field plot is attached to the south of this bank. Overlying the cord rig
towards the east end of the monument are the remains of three sides of a sub-
rectangular enclosure about 9m square.

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

Cord rig is the term used to describe a form of prehistoric cultivation in
which crops were grown on narrow ridges subdivided by furrows. The average
width between the centre of the furrows is 1.4m. Cord rig is frequently
arranged in fields with formal boundaries but also occurs in smaller,
irregular unenclosed plots varying between 30 and 60 sq m in size. It often
extends over considerable areas, and is frequently found in association with a
range of prehistoric settlement sites and with other types of prehistoric
field system. It generally survives as a series of slight earthworks and is
frequently first discovered on aerial photographs, but it has also been
identified beneath several parts of Hadrian's Wall by excavation of marks
created by an ard (a simple early wooden plough). The evidence of excavation
and the study of associated monuments demonstrates that cord rig cultivation
spans the period from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period. Cord rig
cultivation is known throughout the Border areas of England and Scotland,
where it is a particular feature of the upland margins. The discovery of cord
rig cultivation is of importance for the analysis of prehistoric settlement
and agriculture as it provides insights into early agricultural practice and
the division and use of the landscape. Less than 100 examples of cord rig
cultivation have been identified in northern England. As a rare monument type
all well preserved examples, particularly where they are immediately
associated with prehistoric or Romano-British settlements, will normally be
identified as nationally important.

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric
farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are
visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were
timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights
used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as
a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can
only be identified by the artifical earthwork platforms created as level
stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between
one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the
platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the
contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated
with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or
indicated by groups of clearance cairns. Many unenclosed settlements have been
shown to date to the Bronze Age but it is also clear that they were still
being constructed and used in the Early Iron Age. They provide an important
contrast to the various types of enclosed and defended settlements which were
also being constructed and used around the same time. Their longevity of use
and their relationship with other monument types provides important
information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices
amongst prehistoric communities.
Cultivation terraces are artifically created platforms found on hillslopes
and provide these with a stepped profile. They were created by ploughing
around the hillslope following the contours. The effect of this ploughing was
to cut into the hillslope and to spread soil out onto the downslope to form a
level platform which could then be used for cultivation. Such contour
ploughing prevented major soil erosion on the hillslope and probably also
helped retain moisture. Such terraced field systems originated in the
prehistoric period; they are found particularly in Northumberland and
neighbouring Scottish border counties. They are one of the relatively few
types of prehistoric field system which survive and are important for studies
of prehistoric land use and agricultural practices.
The prehistoric field system and unenclosed hut circle settlement on the
east slopes of Hart Heugh are well preserved and retain significant
archaeological deposits. The monument will provide important information about
settlement and farming practices during this period and is one of a group of
broadly contemporary monuments located around Hart Heugh. It forms part of a
wider landscape of archaeological sites whose remains are well preserved in
the Cheviot Hills.

Source: Historic England


Gates, T, NT/9725/A, (1980)

Source: Historic England

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