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Unenclosed settlement, part of a field system, Romano-British aggregate village and group of shielings, 470m south east of Whitehall

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5253 / 55°31'30"N

Longitude: -2.1718 / 2°10'18"W

OS Eastings: 389252.534225

OS Northings: 625738.425176

OS Grid: NT892257

Mapcode National: GBR F48K.M5

Mapcode Global: WH9ZM.MD13

Entry Name: Unenclosed settlement, part of a field system, Romano-British aggregate village and group of shielings, 470m south east of Whitehall

Scheduled Date: 18 March 1969

Last Amended: 10 October 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019929

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34229

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Kirknewton

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Kirknewton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of an unenclosed hut circle settlement and
part of a field system of prehistoric date, an aggregate village of
Romano-British date and a group of shielings situated on the steep western
slope of Hare Law on the east bank of the College Burn. Other settlements to
the west are the subject of separate schedulings.
The field system includes cultivation terraces, clearance cairns and field
walls. A series of cultivation terraces, oriented north to south, are visible
as five levelled areas about 12m across stepped into the natural slope of the
hill to provide land for cultivation. Scattered across the cultivation
terraces are at least 40 clearance cairns which are visible as mounds of earth
and stone up to 0.6m in diameter and 0.2m high. Running at right angles to the
contour of the hillside are a series of field walls, visible as sinuous banks
of loose rubble between 1m and 1.5m wide and up to 0.5m high. Along the bottom
of the slope, on more level ground, are further fragments of field walls, at
least 15 clearance cairns, four hut circles between 3m and 6m in diameter, and
a pair of conjoined houses, each 7m in diameter. At the north western corner
of the field system are two roughly parallel trackways which run at right
angles to the contour of the hillside up to the level of the cultivation
terraces. They are believed to be contemporary with an unenclosed hut circle
settlement which is located at the eastern edge of the field system. The
settlement is visible as the circular foundations of at least nine prehistoric
houses about 4m in diameter with walls up to 0.3m high.
Further down the slope, beneath the cultivation terraces and an area of scree
which lies to the south of them, is an aggregate village of Romano-British
date. It consists of four enclosed farmsteads, three of which are linked by a
trackway. The most northerly farmstead, which is oriented north to south, is
visible as an oval enclosure 30m by 20m, within a bank of stone and earth
measuring up to 0.6m wide and stands up to 1m high. There is an entrance,
marked by a large boulder on the north side, through the west wall of the
farmstead. Within the farmstead there are two scooped platforms, one of which
contains the foundations of a hut circle. A secondary enclosure, oriented east
to west, has been added to the south west side of the farmstead and measures
23m by 30m with an entrance through the west wall.
An isolated hut circle adjoins a trackway 20m south of the most northerly
farmstead. It is visible as a level platform 6.5m in diameter surrounded by
walls 1.5m wide. A second farmstead lies to the south west and is visible as
two conjoined oval enclosures with a later sheepfold built on top of the
northern part. The northern compartment, oriented east to west, measures 20m
by 21m within a bank of stone and earth 6.5m wide marked by orthostats around
its outer edge. Within the compartment there is a platform scooped into the
hill slope to a maximum depth of 0.7m. The smaller southern compartment, also
oriented east to west, measures 12m by 13m and is enclosed by a wall 2m wide
and up to 0.5m high; the outer face of the wall is visible as a line of
orthostats with an entrance through the west wall. Immediately to the south
lies a third farmstead which is visible as a sub-oval enclosure about 37m
north to south by 34m east to west within a bank of earth and stone 3.5m wide
and up to 1m high. There is an entrance, 1.5m wide and marked by a large
orthostat on one side, through the west wall of the farmstead. Built on the
eastern perimeter of the farmstead is a hut circle visible as an oval
enclosure 3m by 6m with walls standing 0.75m high. Within the enclosure the
interior has been reused in the medieval or post-medieval periods for the site
of rectangular buildings thought to be the remains of shielings with walls
standing 0.75m high. A trackway links all the Romano-British settlements. It
extends from the northern farmstead in a south westerly direction across and
down the hill slope for about 280m. The track measures an average 4m wide and
is a maximum 1.5m deep in places. There is a slight bank on the east side and
on the west a revetted bank 0.3m high. It continues downhill to the edge of
the terrace above the College Burn.
A fourth settlement, oriented north to south, lies about 70m south of the
third and is visible as an oval platform about 34m by 20m scooped into the
natural slope of the hill to a maximum depth of 2m. On the platform are two
conjoined hut circles, 9m in diameter within walls 1.5m wide and standing
three courses high, and an enclosure 10m by 5.5m. There is an entrance 1.5m
wide through the north wall of the enclosure.
The strainer post of the fence at the corner of the plantation in the south
west corner of the site is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath it 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

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.

A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined fields of
prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in a block or blocks which lie
approximately at right angles to each other, usually with a settlement as a
focal point. Fields are generally square or rectangular, and the blocks give
an ordered, if irregular, shape to the field system as a whole. They are
characteristically extensive monuments; the number of individual fields
varying between 2 and 50, but this is, at least in part, a reflection of bias
in the archaeological records rather than the true extent of such land
divisions during their period of use. The fields were the primary unit of
production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and
horticultural elements.
Romano-British aggregate villages are nucleated settlements formed by groups
of five or more subsistence level farmsteads enclosed either individually or
collectively, or with no formal boundary. Most enclosures, where they occur,
are formed by curvilinear walls or banks, sometimes surrounded by ditches, and
the dwellings are usually associated with pits, stock enclosures, cultivation
plots and field systems, indicating a mixed farming economy. In use throughout
the Roman period (c.43-450 AD), they often occupied sites of earlier
agricultural settlements. Romano-British aggregate villages are a very rare
monument type with examples recorded in the north of England and on the chalk
downlands of Wessex and Sussex. Their degree of survival will depend upon the
intensity of subsequent land use.
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
upland communal 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.
The unenclosed settlement, part of a field system, Romano-British aggregate
village and group of shielings, 470m south east of Whitehall survive well and
represent settlement spanning three millennia. The prehistoric hut circle
settlement, cultivation terraces, cairnfield and field walls will provide
evidence of the nature of Bronze Age settlement and agriculture. In addition,
the Romano-British village will add to our understanding of the rural
landscape and economy of the uplands during the Roman occupation, while the
medieval shielings will contribute to the wider study of settlement and land
use during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


NT 82 NE 3,
Topping, P, A Survey of College Valley, North Northumberland, 1981, BA Dissertation, University of Durham

Source: Historic England

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