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Hut circle, cultivation terraces and farmstead of later prehistoric date, and medieval settlement and field system 800m and 740m south of Elsdonburn Shank

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5498 / 55°32'59"N

Longitude: -2.2196 / 2°13'10"W

OS Eastings: 386241.142704

OS Northings: 628481.317782

OS Grid: NT862284

Mapcode National: GBR D4Y8.8C

Mapcode Global: WH9ZD.WR6S

Entry Name: Hut circle, cultivation terraces and farmstead of later prehistoric date, and medieval settlement and field system 800m and 740m south of Elsdonburn Shank

Scheduled Date: 14 March 1972

Last Amended: 7 August 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020380

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34221

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 a hut circle, a series of cultivation
terraces and a farmstead of later prehistoric date, as well as part of the
medieval settlement of Heddon and its associated field system. It is
situated on a wide saddle of land between Coldsmouth Hill and Ring Chesters
with wide views to the north and south. The monument is divided into two
separate areas of protection.
The remains of the late prehistoric hut circle, cultivation terraces,
farmstead and the core of Heddon medieval settlement and field system are
contained within the first area of protection. The cultivation terraces are
visible as a series of broad, level terraces stepped into the natural slope of
the north facing hill. Situated on one of the terraces is an isolated hut
circle, 3.5m in diameter internally with walls up to 1m high. A farmstead of
Romano-British date, orientated north east to south west, lies 240m to the
south west on a south facing hill slope. It comprises an enclosure, about 25m
by 23m, and annexe, about 18m by 15m, scooped into the hillside. At the south
western end of the annexe is a well-formed hut circle, 5m in diameter. Beyond
the farmstead, to the west, are a series of three levelled and embanked
platforms, divided one from the other by a stream, and interpreted as house
Between, and partially overlying, the later prehistoric remains the core of
the medieval settlement of Heddon and part of its associated field system are
visible. Heddon was a member of the barony of Muschamp and is first mentioned
in documents in 1296, when there were five taxpayers. In the Poll Tax of 1377,
eleven adults are recorded. By the middle of the 16th century, however, the
village had already been abandoned for several decades. The village plan is
visible as the prominent earthworks of a single row of houses with crofts or
garden areas to the rear. At least six rectangular platforms or tofts are
orientated roughly north to south and contain the sites of individual
dwellings or longhouses. The longhouses are visible as earthworks which
measure between 35m and 8m long and between 0.5 and 1.2m high, and are divided
unequally into two or more rooms. At the northern end of the row, the houses
are sited on a raised terrace. To the rear of each toft are the remains of an
elongated enclosure or croft, each bounded from its neighbour by a low bank;
the largest plot measures 30m by 15m. Beyond the crofts are a series of broad
cultivation terraces and a field plot containing ridge and furrow cultivation
remains, associated with the medieval settlement and defined by low banks,
walls and lynchets.
The remains of a further medieval longhouse, part of the medieval settlement,
is contained within the second area of protection. This house measures 30m by
7m and is separated from the main row of the settlement by a wet and boggy
area of land.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these include all fence
lines and stone walls which cross the monument, fence and gate posts and
concrete pads within the former sheep stall, although the ground beneath all
these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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.

In Cumbria and Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlements
dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small,
non-defensive, enclosed homesteads 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 round-houses situated towards the rear of
the enclosure, facing the single entranceway. 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. 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 there they can frequently only be located through
aerial photography. All homestead sites which survive sustantially 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 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
gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Cheviot sub-Province of the Northern and Western
Province, the upland mass straddling the English-Scottish border. The
sub-Province has not been sub-divided and forms a single local region.
Settlement is now largely absent, but the area is characterised by the remains
of linear dykes, field boundaries, cultivation terraces and buildings which
bear witness to the advance and retreat of farming, both cultivation and stock
production, over several thousand years. The distinctive, difficult upland
environment means that many of the medieval settlement sites relate to
specialist enterprises, once closely linked to settlement located in the
adjacent lowlands, such as shielings, but the extensive remains of medieval
arable farming raise many unanswered questions about medieval land use and
settlement, touching economic, climatic and population change.
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
areas 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.
Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on
large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into
strips (known as lands) which were allocated to individual tenants. The
cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams produced
long, wide ridges, and the resultant 'ridge and furrow' where it survives is
the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual
strips or lands were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal
headlands at the plough turning-points and lateral grass balks. Furlongs were
in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow,
especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an
important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive
contribution to the character of the historic landscape. It is usually now
convered by hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure.
The hut circle, cultivation terraces and farmstead of later prehistoric date,
and medieval settlement and field system 800m and 740m south of Elsdonburn
Shank are well-preserved and represent settlement at the site spanning three
millennia. The prehistoric hut circle and cultivation terraces will provide
evidence for the nature of Bronze Age settlement and agriculture, and the
Romano-British farmstead will add to our understanding of the rural landscape
and economy of the uplands during the Roman occupation. The medieval
settlement of Heddon and the remains of its field system is a good example of
its type and will add to our knowledge of the diversity of medieval settlement
in England. The remains are part of a group of high quality archaeological
sites in the northern Cheviots and form part of a wider archaeological

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dixon, P J, The Deserted Medieval Villages of North Northumberland, (1986), 321-4
NT 82 NE 26,

Source: Historic England

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