Staw Hill defended settlement


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NT 88436 30103

Reasons for Designation

During the mid-prehistoric period (seventh to fifth centuries BC) a variety of different types of defensive settlements began to be constructed and occupied in the northern uplands of England. The most obvious sites were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these a range of smaller sites, sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha and defined as defended settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others are found in less prominent positions. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction, some sites having a single bank and ditch (univallate), others having more than one (multivallate). At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Within the enclosure a number of stone or timber-built round houses were occupied by the inhabitants. Stock may also have been kept in these houses, especially during the cold winter months, or in enclosed yards outside them. The communities occupying these sites were probably single family groups, the defended settlements being used as farmsteads. Construction and use of this type of site extended over several centuries, possibly through to the early Romano-British period (mid to late first century AD). Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern of the northern uplands and are important for any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during this period. All well-preserved examples are believed to be of national importance.

The defended enclosure at Staw Hill is a very well preserved example of a northern prehistoric defended settlement. It has suffered very little disturbance, the earthwork defences survive well and the central settlement area remains intact with the ground plan of stone-founded hut circles and banks clearly visible. The potential for the survival of deposits representing use within the outer annexe and sub-rectangular enclosure is also high. The site is situated within an area of clustered archaeological sites of high quality and therefore forms part of a wider archaeological landscape. As such it will contribute significantly to the study of the wider settlement pattern during this period.


This monument includes a small defended settlement of a type constructed during the Early Iron Age in northern Britain. The oval enclosure is contained within an earth and stone bank and is strengthened on the west side by the addition of a second rampart. A small sub-rectangular annexe, possibly used as a stock enclosure, is attached to the outer rampart. The interior of the main enclosure contains the circular stone foundations of at least three prehistoric buildings. The site lies on the flattened crest of a ridge, overlooked by higher ground to the west, but with clear views into the valleys to north, south and east. The settlement comprises an oval area of c.0.13ha, entirely enclosed by a rampart c.2m high and up to 7.5m wide. The rampart appears to be of dump rampart construction: large revetting boulders are visible at the rampart foot on the western side. There is a simple gap entrance 3m wide facing ESE, marked on the north side by a large upright stone. A second rampart of similar construction, c.4m wide by 1m high, defends the dead ground to the north west. The inner and outer ramparts create an annexe with a maximum width of 9.6m at the north west end. The area enclosed between the two ramparts is divided by a number of slight earth and stone banks running radially between the ramparts. In the interior of the main enclosure traces of at least three stone-founded hut circles with internal diameters of 5m-11.5m, one of which appears to have a bottle-neck approach to the entrance, are clearly visible. Also within the interior is an area c.8m wide enclosed by a wide bank which runs roughly parallel with the east rampart from the entrance gap to the northern rampart. Attached to the exterior of the outer rampart are the earth and stone foundations, 0.2m high, of a sub-rectangular enclosure with overall dimensions of 12.6m by 14.2m. This is built against the exterior bank of the outer rampart and is secondary to it. An area of higher more level ground measuring 4m by 4m in the north west corner of this enclosure may represent the platform for a small building.

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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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