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Burial cairns, burnt mound, Roman native settlement, medieval settlement with field system and iron industry remains, and five shielings on Holwick Fell

A Scheduled Monument in Holwick, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.6419 / 54°38'30"N

Longitude: -2.178 / 2°10'40"W

OS Eastings: 388609.546823

OS Northings: 527434.032173

OS Grid: NY886274

Mapcode National: GBR FG7R.8S

Mapcode Global: WHB3W.JL29

Entry Name: Burial cairns, burnt mound, Roman native settlement, medieval settlement with field system and iron industry remains, and five shielings on Holwick Fell

Scheduled Date: 24 November 1999

Last Amended: 9 May 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019860

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33486

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Holwick

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes a complex area of multi-period archaeological remains,
consisting of Bronze Age burial cairns, a hut circle, a burnt mound, a Roman
period native settlement, an early medieval settlement with associated field
system, clearance cairns and boundary banks, and evidence for a medieval iron
industry including mine workings, bloomery smelting sites and charcoal-making
pits, and five shielings. It is in two areas of protection.
The three burial cairns are between 8m and 12m in diameter. One lies under a
medieval boundary bank between Simy Folds and Wool Ingles, at NGR NY88442752,
and survives to a height of 0.7m. The other two are east of Simy Folds. The
more westerly lies at NGR NY89002753, north of a shooting track, in small
rubble-banked medieval fields, and survives to a height of 0.6m. Stone has
been removed from it, probably to construct the medieval field banks. The more
easterly cairn lies at NGR NY89492736, at the west end of some medieval strip
fields on a ridge east of Simy Folds. It has had most of the stone removed for
stone walling, and survives as a grassed-over spread of stone just visible on
the crest of the ridge.
The hut circle with an associated rubble bank is at NGR NY88082753, north of
Ore Pit Holes, at the south side of a shooting track and bridleway. The hut
circle is 9m in diameter, with rubble-banked walls 2m wide and 0.3m high. A
grouse grit feeder has been built over the wall on the north side of the hut
circle, robbing stone from the hut circle wall. The associated rubble bank
forms an arc between the hut circle and the shooting track.
The burnt mound is at NGR NY89302759, south of Hield House and east of Simy
Folds. It is situated at a spring, slightly north of a small covered
reservoir. The burnt mound is grass-covered, 5m in diameter and 0.8m high.
There is a juniper bush growing on the mound and there is no central hollow.
Some burnt stone is visible in patches on the mound.
The Roman period native settlement occupies a quarried sandstone outcrop at
Wool Ingles, and extends below the outcrop north east of the scarp. The
settlement consists of three large enclosures. The northernmost of these
contains five hut circles. North east of the enclosures, below the scarp, is
an area with three small clearance cairns, some rubble banks forming two small
rectangular enclosures, and the remains of a rectangular building which is
joined to the base of the scarp by a another length of rubble bank. The
rectangular building may represent medieval reuse of the area.
The early medieval settlement is centred around Simy Folds and includes the
remains of five farmsteads, each with several rectangular buildings arranged
around a small yard. The farmsteads lie in a complex of small rubble-banked
fields with occasional clearance cairns. East of Simy Folds, on a low ridge
north of the shooting track is an area of medieval strip fields.
A series of substantial grass and heather covered rubble banks radiates from
the settlement, extending towards Bink Scar in the north west, Wool Ingles in
the south west, the scar overlooking Mizzes House in the east, and Scar Beck
in the south. This last boundary has a continuation from Scar Beck to Eel
Beck, east of Holwick Fell.
The medieval iron industry is represented by a large area of ironstone mining
at Ore Pit Holes, eight bloomery iron-smelting sites and at least eleven
charcoal-making pits. The ironstone mines cover an area 900m long and up to
250m wide. They consist of a complex of opencuts, hushes and shafts. Most of
the shafts are closely spaced in lines called rakes. The mining remains are
dominated by a single shaftline rake which extends the length of the area.
Three of the eight bloomery sites lie just north of this rake, two near
Caldron Sike, NGRS NY87722731 and NY87702731, and one about halfway along, at
NGR NY87932730. Three more lie just south of the shooting track leading to
Bleabeck Washfold, two of them west of Caldron Sike and the third near the
junction of the track with the bridleway, NGRS NY87592738, NY87662742 and
NY88042751. The other two bloomeries are at Simy Folds. The sites of the
bloomeries are visible as mostly grassed-over heaps of iron slag, up to 10m in
diameter. Several of these slag heaps have had slag removed in the past,
leaving a ring of slag with a central hollow.
Four of the charcoal pits are near the west end of Simy Folds early medieval
settlement. At least two other charcoal pits can be found east of Simy Folds,
and at least five more north of Ore Pit Holes. The charcoal pits are visible
as slight hollows 2m in diameter. Some have been disturbed by animals and
charcoal can be seen in the upcast soil.
The five shielings are dispersed along the scar between Hield House and
Holwick Scar. They consist of the remains of small, drystone-walled,
rectangular buildings. The buildings range in size from 7m by 5m to 11m by 5m.
The walls are constructed of whinstone and are from 0.5m to 1.5m thick and
from 0.5m to 1m high.
The fences, grouse butts and track surfaces are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included. The covered reservoir,
its associated structures and enclosing fence are totally excluded from the

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

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.

A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt (fire-crazed) stones, ash and
charcoal, usually sited next to a river, lake, or spring. On excavation, some
form of trough or basin capable of holding water is normally found in close
association with the mound. The size of the mound can vary considerably; small
examples may be under 0.5m high and less than 10m in diameter, larger examples
may exceed 3m in height and be 35m in diameter. The shape of the mound ranges
from circular to crescentic. The associated trough or basin may be found
within the body of the mound or, more usually, immediately adjacent to it. At
sites which are crescentic in shape the trough is usually found within the
`arms' of the crescent and the mound has the appearance of having developed
around it.
The main phase of use of burnt mounds spans the Early, Middle and Late Bronze
Age, a period of around 1000 years. The function of the mounds has been a
matter of some debate, but it appears that cooking, using heated stones to
boil water in a trough or tank, is the most likely use. Some excavated sites
have revealed several phases of construction, indicating that individual sites
were used more than once.
Burnt mounds are found widely scattered throughout the British Isles, with
around 100 examples identified in England. As a rare monument type which
provides an insight into life in the Bronze Age, all well-preserved examples
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 constructions 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 slooe. 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 in 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.
In County Durham, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland, several distinctive
types of native settlement dating to the Roman period have been identified.
The majority were small, non-defensive, enclosed farmsteads 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 roundhouses
situated towards the rear of the enclosure, facing the single entrance way. 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 they can frequently only be located through aerial
photography. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will
normally be identified as nationally important.
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 account of 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
This monument lies in the North 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 af adjacent sub-Provinces.
Other settlements have been associated with the extraction of stone and other
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) 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 the 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 centuries following the Roman
withdrawal from Britain.
During the medieval period mining was necessary to procur a wide range of raw
materials. These included coal, and the ores of lead, copper and iron. A
variety of techniques were used including open-cuts, hushes, shafts, adits,
bell-pits and shaftline rakes. Medieval coal mines with complex stall and
pillar structures have sometimes been found during modern quarrying
operations. Surviving medieval mines are rare because they have tended to be
destroyed by later mining operations.
Primitive iron-smelting sites can date from the Iron Age to the end of the
medieval period (500BC-AD1500). 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
large-scale process and charcoal was made in larger quantities, on platforms.
Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide
shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or
marshland. These huts reflect a system called transhumance, whereby stock was
moved in spring from lowland pasture around the permanently occupied farms to
communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns
reflecting transhumance are known from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC) onwards.
However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive from the
normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval period
onwards (from AD 450), when the practice of transhumance is also known from
documentary sources and, notably, place-name studies. Their construction
appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. Shielings vary in size but
are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups. They have a simple
sub-rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling, although
occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes
surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two-
roomed examples are known. Some examples have adjacent ancillary structures,
such as pens, and may be associated with a midden. Some are also contained
within a small ovoid enclosure. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands
but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming
practice here. Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate
medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important.
This area of complex multi-period archaeological remains contains well-
preserved remains of round cairns, a hut circle, a burnt mound, a Roman period
native settlement, an early medieval settlement, a medieval iron ore mine,
eight bloomeries and several charcoal pits, and five shielings. The round
cairns, hut circle, burnt mound and Roman period native settlement form part
of a prehistoric landscape in Upper Teesdale. This includes evidence of Bronze
Age settlement, burnt mounds, cairns and Roman period native settlements and
field systems.
The medieval settlement is part of a pattern of dispersed settlement in the
area, and together with the shielings will add to the sum of knowledge
relating to medieval settlement and land use in the North Pennines.
The medieval mines, the bloomeries and the charcoal pits form an important
part of the medieval iron industry in the area, and will make a significant
contribution to the study of medieval iron working. The relative distribution
of medieval settlement and bloomery iron-smelting sites may be significant.

Source: Historic England


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), 144
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
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 145
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 124
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 115-117
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 25-26
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 155
Coggins, D, Fairless, K, Batey, C E, 'Mediaeval Archaeology' in Simy Folds: An Early Mediaeval Settlement, (1983), 15-16
Coggins, D, Fairless, K, Batey, C E, 'Mediaeval Archaeology' in Simy Folds: An Early Mediaeval Settlement, (1983), 14
Coggins, D, Fairless, K, Batey, C E, 'Mediaeval Archaeology' in Mediaeval Archaeology, , Vol. 27, (1983), 1-26
cairn under mediaeval bank, Laurie, T, cairn, (1999)
Jet beads from barrow, Laurie, T, (1999)
shielings on the scar, Coggins, D, Shielings, (2000)

Source: Historic England

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