Ancient Monuments

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Palisaded settlement 125m south of North Pike cairn

A Scheduled Monument in Alnham, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.4171 / 55°25'1"N

Longitude: -2.0501 / 2°3'0"W

OS Eastings: 396924.786251

OS Northings: 613691.259599

OS Grid: NT969136

Mapcode National: GBR G53S.YX

Mapcode Global: WHB08.G3ZH

Entry Name: Palisaded settlement 125m south of North Pike cairn

Scheduled Date: 14 November 1984

Last Amended: 10 October 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020255

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32776

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Alnham

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the known extent of the upstanding and buried remains of
a palisaded settlement of later prehistoric date, situated on a high north
east facing ridge between the Fore Burn and the Cobden Sike. The settlement
was first seen on aerial photographs and is visible on the ground as the
slight remains of two timber built hut circles and part of what is thought to
be a surrounding palisade. The first and more northerly hut circle is visible
as a circular area about 22m in diameter. It is defined by a palisade slot
0.5m wide and 0.1m deep surrounded by a low bank 1m wide which stands to 0.1m
high. This bank is thought to be formed of upcast from the digging of the
palisade. In places, especially around the north eastern arc, there are
slight traces of an external palisade slot. The second hut circle, situated
some 10m south east of the first is visible as a circular area about 21m in
diameter. It is defined by the slight traces of a palisade 0.5m wide largely
visible as a change in colour of the vegetation. Aerial photographs show that
there is a surrounding bank about 1m wide and an entrance through the eastern
side of the hut circle. Some 16m to the south of the latter, there is a
fragment of palisade 20m long, visible as a slight bank 0.1m high. This
feature is thought to be part of a more extensive palisade which encloses the
two hut circles.

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

A palisaded hilltop enclosure is a small defended site of domestic function
dating to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age (c.550-440 BC). Their
distribution is largely restricted to north-eastern England, the Borders and
southern Scotland. They are generally located on spurs, promontories or
hilltops covering areas of less than 0.4ha. The boundaries of these sites are
marked by single or double rock-cut trenches which originally formed the
settings for substantial palisades. Remains of circular buildings are found
within the palisaded areas, along with evidence for fenced stock enclosures.
Palisaded sites are the earliest type of defended settlements recorded in the
area and are thought to be a product of increasingly unsettled social
conditions in the later prehistoric period. They imply an extensive use of
timber, confirmation that large areas were heavily wooded at this time.
Although the palisades at individual sites may have undergone several phases
of replacement or refurbishment it is thought that the tradition of building
this type of site spanned only around 150 years. After this the use of earthen
banks and ditches to form the defensive perimeter became more common.
Excavation has demonstrated that at several sites the earthen defences were
preceded by timber palisades.
Palisaded enclosures are a rare monument type with fewer than 200 known
examples. They are an important element of the later prehistoric settlement
pattern and are important for any study of the developing use of defended
settlements during the later prehistoric period. All identified surviving
examples are believed to be nationally important.

In a densely settled and highly developed country such as England the
landscapes of all but the most bleak mountain summits are, to varying degrees,
the product of centuries and millennia of human development. Except in areas
today considered to be marginal, most traces of the earliest stage in this
process have been erased or modified by later development and survive in a
fragmentary manner. The prehistoric settlement remains that survive beyond the
margins of cultivation in upland areas such as the Cheviots provide a rare
opportunity of studying the first steps taken by prehistoric communities in
claiming and shaping the landscape. The Breamish Valley is one of the main
valleys draining the Cheviot Massif and, because of comprehensive field survey
during the 1980s, it is also one of the best-recorded upland areas in England.
The field evidence for human activity within the valley is diverse and spans
at least five millennia from the Neolithic to the post-medieval period. Of
particular importance are the well-preserved and extensive upland prehistoric
remains, including settlements, field systems and cairnfields. On the enclosed
land within the valley, archaeological remains are more fragmentary, but they
survive sufficiently well to show that human activity extended below what is
now open fell land. Due to their rarity in a national context, excellent state
of survival and the archaeological integrity, most prehistoric and later
monuments within the Breamish Valley will be identified as nationally
Despite being difficult to trace on the ground, the palisaded settlement 125m
south of North Pike cairn is clearly visible on aerial photographs and is
reasonably well-preserved. It will preserve information that will allow us
to develop a better chronology and therefore understanding of this type of
habitation site. The recovery of pottery and other artefacts from the floors
of the houses will enhance our understanding of everyday life of the society
that constructed and inhabited palisaded settlements in the Borders. As a rare
monument type, this settlement taken together with other defended enclosures
in the area will add to our knowledge of prehistoric settlement and society.

Source: Historic England


Gates T, 2728/291, (1985)
NT91SE 147,
NT91SE 148,
NT91SE 36,

Source: Historic England

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