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Defended settlement, field system, cairnfield, round cairn and medieval settlement, 300m south east of Barrow

A Scheduled Monument in Alwinton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3475 / 55°20'51"N

Longitude: -2.1366 / 2°8'11"W

OS Eastings: 391433.533629

OS Northings: 605953.398006

OS Grid: NT914059

Mapcode National: GBR F6JL.7W

Mapcode Global: WHB0F.4VTC

Entry Name: Defended settlement, field system, cairnfield, round cairn and medieval settlement, 300m south east of Barrow

Scheduled Date: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018937

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32747

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Alwinton

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a defended settlement, an associated
field system and cairnfield of prehistoric date, a round cairn of Bronze Age
date and a medieval settlement, situated on the flat top of a spur above the
south bank of the Barrow Burn. On the north and north eastern sides, the
enclosure is defended by steep natural slopes, while on the south side the
ground rises gently. The defended settlement is visible as an enclosure,
roughly oval in shape, measuring 55m north west to south east by 35m north
east to south west, within a bank of stone and earth 2m wide and standing to a
maximum of 1.2m high; the bank is surmounted by a later, narrower stone wall.
There is an original entrance through the east wall of the enclosure which
retains its northern door jamb. Outside the stone wall on the north west,
south and south east sides, which lack natural protection, there is a ditch up
to 3m wide and a maximum of 0.2m deep below the inner bank. Outside the ditch
there is an outer bank 3m wide which stands to a maximum height of 0.2m.
Outside the enclosure to the south on a north facing slope, there are the
remains of an associated field system; this is visible as a series of stone
walls orientated north to south on average 2m wide and standing to 0.5m. The
stone walls, which are about 15m apart, divide the area into long rectangular
fields. Several lynchets, visible as slight scarps orientated east to west,
divide these fields into smaller parcels. Within and surrounding the field
system there is a cairnfield containing at least seven stone built cairns on
average 2m in diameter and standing 0.4m high.
At NT 9153 0597, in a prominent location at the eastern edge of the high
plateau and slightly to the east of the field system, there is a round cairn
of stone and earth construction, 3m in diameter and standing to a maximum
height of 0.4m.
The defended settlement was reused during the medieval period, and a
settlement of this date is visible as the remains of at least three raised
platforms set against its south side. The first and most westerly platform
contains the foundations of a substantial rectangular building 14m by 9m, with
walls standing to a maximum height of 1m. There is an entrance in the north
end of its east wall with one upright door jamb. The second platform lies
immediately to the east and is 13m by 9m. The third and most easterly
platform, which is roughly oval in shape, is 10m by 6m respectively and has an
entrance gap in its north side. During the medieval reuse of the enclosure,
its northern part was in use as a cultivated field. This is visible as an
oval, sunken area defined on the north and south sides by slight scarps 0.2m
high which are interpreted as lynchets. During this period of cultivation, the
south wall of the enclosure was raised by the addition of a narrow wall of
All fences which cross the monument 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 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

During the mid-prehistoric period (seventh to fifth centuries BC) a variety of
different types of defensive settlements began to be constructed and occupied
in the northern uplands of England. The most obvious sites were hillforts
built in prominent locations. In addition to these a range of smaller sites,
sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha and defined as defended
settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops,
others are found in less prominent positions. The enclosing defences were of
earthen construction, some sites having a single bank and ditch (univallate),
others having more than one (multivallate). At some sites these earthen
ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber
fence or palisade. Within the enclosure a number of stone or timber-built
round houses were occupied by the inhabitants. Stock may also have been kept
in these houses, especially during the cold winter months, or in enclosed
yards outside them. The communities occupying these sites were probably single
family groups, the defended settlements being used as farmsteads. Construction
and use of this type of site extended over several centuries, possibly through
to the early Romano-British period (mid to late first century AD).
Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element
of the later prehistoric settlement pattern of the northern uplands and are
important for any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during
this period. All well-preserved examples are believed to be of national

A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined square or
rectangular fields of prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in an ordered block
or blocks which lie approximately at right angles to each other, usually with
a settlement as a focal point. They are characteristically extensive
monuments; the number of individual fields varies between 2 and 50, but this
is often only a partial reflection of their original extent: many of the
boundaries have been removed by later farming activity. The fields were the
primary unit of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral,
arable and horticultural elements. Less than 250 such field systems have been
identified and, as a relatively rare monument type which provides an insight
into land division and agricultural practice during their period of use, all
well preserved examples will normally be identified as nationally important.
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 plots.
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 (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.
Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age
(c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or
multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined
compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch.
Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the
modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are
the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrows of the lowlands. Their
considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide
important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation
amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of
their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered
worthy of protection.
Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in
the Wear-Tweed sub-Province of the Central Province, an area long
characterised, except for the western margins, by nucleated settlements both
surviving and deserted. Variations within the sub-Province reflect land
ownership as well as terrain: on some estates in Northumberland there was much
dispersal of farmsteads and consequent village and hamlet depopulation after
the Middle Ages. The Cheviot Margin local region is a narrow transition zone
between two contrasting areas, the high moorlands of the Cheviots and the
agriculturally favourable lowlands of the Tweed Valley and the Northumbrian
Vales. Fieldwork has shown that this region retains archaeological traces
likely to date from many periods, providing evidence for sequences of land
occupation. Medieval settlements are mainly in the form of small hamlets and
isolated farmsteads.
In some areas of medieval England, settlement was dispersed across the
landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an
area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or
principal) settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of
small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area.
Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region, but where they
survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include roads and other
minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as
barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was
used for building, the outline of the building foundation may still be clearly
visible. Communal areas of the settlements frequently include features such as
bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are
found in both the South Eastern and the Northern and Western Provinces of
England. They are found in upland and also some lowland areas. Where found,
their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of
understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the
Norman Conquest.
The defended settlement and its associated field system and cairnfield 300m
south east of Barrow are reasonably well preserved and retain significant
archaeological deposits. The medieval settlement illustrates reuse of an
earlier settlement and will add to our understanding of the nature and
diversity of medieval settlement in the region. The importance of the monument
is enhanced by the existence of a well preserved round cairn which indicates
Bronze Age activity in the area. Taken as a whole, the complex represents
settlement and activity spanning four millennia.

Source: Historic England


NT90NW 15,

Source: Historic England

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