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Romano-British settlement and field system at Rainster Rocks

A Scheduled Monument in Brassington, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.0894 / 53°5'21"N

Longitude: -1.6741 / 1°40'26"W

OS Eastings: 421923.872218

OS Northings: 354739.639803

OS Grid: SK219547

Mapcode National: GBR 59B.9L7

Mapcode Global: WHCDT.8L2Y

Entry Name: Romano-British settlement and field system at Rainster Rocks

Scheduled Date: 29 July 1998

Last Amended: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018475

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31228

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Brassington

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Brassington St James

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument includes the extensive remains of a Romano-British period
settlement and field system, visible as lynchets, terraces, embankments,
platforms and orthostatic (upright boulder) field walls. The settlement
stands on gently sloping ground at the foot of a dolomitic limestone outcrop
known as Rainster Rocks.
A series of low, orthostat walls forming a series of enclosures are key
elements of the site. In addition there are earthen terraces and platforms
and connecting trackways or droves, forming the remains of a settlement of
some complexity. The site lies between the rock face of the outcrop to the
north and later ridge and furrow ploughing to the south. Partial excavation
of the area in the early 20th century revealed that the site was occupied
during the third and fourth centuries AD. Finds included fine and coarse
pottery together with metalwork and coins from this period. Further
excavations in the 1970s revealed that lead smelting was also likely to have
been one of the activities in the settlement. There are between 10 and 12
level platforms on which stood buildings which are thought to have been
sub-rectangular in shape.
Associated with the settlement are fragments of its field systems lying to the
east, west and south east, visible as faint plough marks, terraces and
lynchets. These features are bounded in some places by the remains of field
banks. The settlement is approached by what appears to be an original track
from the present road to the village of Brassington.
All modern walls, gates, posts and fences are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 3 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

In Cumbria and Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlements
dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non-
defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. In many areas they were of stone
construction, although in the coastal lowlands timber-built variants were also
common. In much of Northumberland, especially in the Cheviots, the enclosures
were curvilinear in form. Further south a rectangular form was more common.
Elsewhere, especially near the Scottish border, another type occurs where the
settlement enclosure was `scooped' into the hillslope. Frequently the
enclosures reveal a regularity and similarity of internal layout. The standard
layout included one or more stone round-houses situated towards the rear of
the enclosure, facing the single entranceway. In front of the houses were
pathways and small enclosed yards. Homesteads normally had only one or two
houses, but larger enclosures could contain as many as six. At some sites the
settlement appears to have grown, often with houses spilling out of the main
enclosure and clustered around it. At these sites up to 30 houses may be
found. In the Cumbrian uplands the settlements were of less regimented form
and unenclosed clusters of houses of broadly contemporary date are also known.
These homesteads were being constructed and used by non-Roman natives
throughout the period of the Roman occupation. Their origins lie in settlement
forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. These homesteads are common
throughout the uplands where they frequently survive as well-preserved
earthworks. In lowland coastal areas they were also originally common,
although there they can frequently only be located through aerial photography.
All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be
identified as nationally important.

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the
end of the 5th century AD. They usually 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. The field boundaries can
take various forms (including drystone walls, 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 majority of field systems 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 practiced in a mixed
farming economy. Regular aggregate field systems represent a coherent
economic unit often used for long periods of time, thus providing
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
The settlement and field system at Rainster Rocks is important because a wide
range of diverse features survive well, together with evidence for associated
agriculture and industrial useage of the site. The settlement is situated in
an important lead producing area of Roman Britain and, as such, the monument
holds much potential for better understanding of native agricultural and
commercial activities during the Romano-British period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hart, CR, North Derbyshire Archaeological Survey to AD 1500, (1981), 106
Wildgoose, M., Notes on Excavation at Rainster Rocks, Brassington, 1972, unpublished report
Wildgoose, M., Notes on Excavation at Rainster Rocks, Brassington, 1972, unpublished report

Source: Historic England

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