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Medieval farmstead, bloomery, charcoal pits and late prehistoric settlement at Pasture Foot, 300m west of Bleabeck Force

A Scheduled Monument in Forest and Frith, County Durham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.6468 / 54°38'48"N

Longitude: -2.2001 / 2°12'0"W

OS Eastings: 387183.596108

OS Northings: 527985.833044

OS Grid: NY871279

Mapcode National: GBR FG2Q.G0

Mapcode Global: WHB3W.5GLJ

Entry Name: Medieval farmstead, bloomery, charcoal pits and late prehistoric settlement at Pasture Foot, 300m west of Bleabeck Force

Scheduled Date: 24 November 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019095

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33482

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Forest and Frith

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Details

The monument includes a medieval farmstead, a bloomery, five charcoal pits
and a late prehistoric stone hut circle settlement. It is situated on the
south side of the Tees, at Pasture Foot, opposite Force Garth Quarry.
The medieval farmstead consists of the remains of a rectangular building 16m
long and 8m wide, connected to a circular stone cairn by a short length of
boulder walling. North of the building is another length of walling at the
edge of a long rectangular platform on a slight rise. This may be the remains
of a second building from which stone has been robbed in the past.
The bloomery is represented by a crescent-shaped heap of iron slag on the
river bank. South of this is an area with a spread of charcoal and other burnt
material, within which is a small stony mound and a slight dip. These are
interpreted as the site of the bloomery furnace. There are five charcoal pits
in the area of the bloomery. They are spread across an area extending from
about 100m west of the bloomery to about 30m east of it. They are all within
30m of the river bank, and consist of small circular hollows with associated
charcoal.
The late prehistoric stone hut circle settlement includes at least six hut
circles, 5m-6m in diameter. Two of these are just to the east of the medieval
farmstead and are associated with a short length of boulder wall. The
remainder are ranged around a small enclosure west of the farmstead. There are
also a number of short lengths of rubble wall, and two small rectangular
structures in this part of the monument. The latter are interpreted as
medieval structures associated with the farmstead. South of the group of hut
circles is a sike (a naturally formed drainage channel) with a small island.
On this island is a boulder-walled enclosure. South of the sike, below
Whiteholm Scar, is a series of further enclosures, some of which have been
reused to make a sheep shelter.

MAP EXTRACT
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

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
evolved gradually during the past 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Northern Pennines sub-Province of the Northern and
Western Province, an area characterised from the Middle Ages by dispersed
settlements, with some nucleations in more favoured areas. The sub-Province is
formed by discontinuous high moorland landscapes; agricultural settlement has
been episodic, in response to the economic fortunes of adjacent sub-Provinces.
Other settlements have been associated with the extraction of stone and other
minerals.

In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the
landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed setlement in an
area, ususally a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single, or
principal, nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence
instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across
the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection
with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to shared common land or
road systems. 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 building foundations 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 Province and Northern and
Western Province 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.
Primitive iron smelting sites can date from the Iron Age to the end of the
medieval period (500 BC-AD 1500). The evidence for early iron smelting often
consists of a heap of iron rich slag. Medieval iron smelting sites are
frequently found near streams and are known as bloomeries. In the bloomeries
iron ore was fired to about 1200 degrees Centigrade, using charcoal as fuel.
This caused a chemical reaction, producing a mass of iron called a bloom,
which was then hammered to remove any residual slag. Bloomeries were usually
located close to a source of wood for charcoal making. The charcoal used in
bloomeries was made by burning wood with a limited supply of air. This was
done by stacking the wood either in a pit or on a platform, and by limiting
the air supply by covering the stack with earth and turf. Until about 1450
charcoal was made in pits; around that time charcoal making evolved into a
larger scale process and charcoal was made in larger quantities, on platforms.
Stone hut circles and hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of
prehistoric farmers. Most date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The
stone based round houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular
floor area; the remains of the turf, thatch or heather roofs are not
preserved. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may lie
in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth or stone. Frequently, traces of
their associated field systems may be found immediately around them. These may
be indicated by areas of clearance cairns and/or the remains of field walls
and other enclosures. The longevity of use of hut circle settlements and their
relationship with other monument types provide important information on the
diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric
communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a
substantial proportion of surviving examples is considered worthy of
protection.
The medieval farmstead is one of two such farmsteads at Pasture Foot, and
forms part of a pattern of dispersed medieval settlement in Upper Teesdale
comprising both isolated farmsteads and small hamlets. This farmstead survives
well and will contribute to the sum of understanding of medieval settlement
in the North Pennines.
This part of Upper Teesdale is particularly rich in in evidence for early iron
smelting, and the bloomery is one of several in the area. A large number of
these bloomeries are close to settlement remains, which may indicate that
settlement and bloomery were in use at the same time. This bloomery survives
well and with its associated charcoal pits will make a significant
contribution to the study of the early iron industry.
The late prehistoric hut circle settlement is one of several in Upper
Teesdale. Those for which reliable dates are available range from about 1600
BC to about AD 200. Though not yet precisely dated, this stone hut circle
settlement survives well and provides important evidence of settlement in
later prehistory.
The existence of both prehistoric and medieval remains on this site may
indicate a continuity of use over a long period, which may have important
implications in the study of upland settlement and land use.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 112
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 112
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 97
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 144

Source: Historic England

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