Ancient Monuments

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Unenclosed hut circle settlement and plot of cord rig, 650m south west of Wholehope

A Scheduled Monument in Alwinton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3753 / 55°22'31"N

Longitude: -2.1667 / 2°10'0"W

OS Eastings: 389533.016843

OS Northings: 609052.101804

OS Grid: NT895090

Mapcode National: GBR F698.QX

Mapcode Global: WHB0D.P5F0

Entry Name: Unenclosed hut circle settlement and plot of cord rig, 650m south west of Wholehope

Scheduled Date: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018941

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32737

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 single hut circle situated on the crest
of a spur between two deeply incised streams, where it commands extensive
views in all directions except the north. The hut circle, of timber ring
groove type, is 10.5m in diameter within a narrow groove or slot into which
timber uprights were placed; the groove is 0.5m wide and between 0.1m to 0.15m
deep. The interior of the house is uneven and there is an entrance on the
south east side. Immediately adjacent to the hut circle on its south eastern
side there is a fragmentary plot of prehistoric cultivation or cord rig; the
cord rig is clearly visible on aerial photographs as narrow ridges separated
by narrow furrows, but is less easy to detect on the ground.

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

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 artificial 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.

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 centres 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.
The unenclosed hut circle 650m south west of Wholehope is well preserved and
retains significant archaeological deposits. It is a good example of its type
and, taken with the associated plot of cord rig cultivation, will contribute
to any study of prehistoric settlement and agriculture in the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Topping, P, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Early Cultivation in Northumberland And The Borders, , Vol. 55, (1989), 176
Gates T M, TMG 16198/57-63, (1996)
NT80NE 18,

Source: Historic England

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