Ring Chesters 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 86705 28905

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 Ring Chesters 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 scoops, stone founded hut circles and banks clearly visible. 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 multivallate defended settlement of a type constructed during the Early Iron Age in northern Britain. The oval enclosure is contained within three concentric stone banks. The interior of the main enclosure contains the circular foundations of a number of stone built prehistoric buildings and evidence of earlier timber buildings. A series of well preserved cultivation terraces lie on the hill slope to the west of the defended settlement and appear to be contemporary with it. The full extent and nature of this field system is not yet fully understood, hence it is not included in the scheduling The site lies at the north end of a hilltop which is separated into two areas of high ground by a gently sloping saddle. There are steep slopes to the north, east and west of the settlement although there is some level ground immediately around it on the north and east sides, the southern approach is fairly gentle. The settlement comprises an oval area c.0.35ha enclosed within a triple rampart, the whole monument extends over c.0.8ha. The ramparts follow the contours of the hill, they are of earth and stone with stone revetments clearly visible on the outer faces. The inner rampart is 4m-5m wide, it is c.0.3m high on the interior and c.2m above the top of the centre rampart. The base of the rampart is revetted in places by large freestone boulders but appears to have been constructed principally of loose small stones, it has suffered some damage on the west side with small areas of dense loose stone being spread down the hill slope. The middle rampart is 4m-5m wide, c.0.3m high and stands 3m above the top of the outer rampart, it has suffered some levelling on the east and south east sides but is in very good condition elsewhere. This rampart is not equidistant from the inner rampart all the way round, the north, east and west sides are c.6m from the outer face of the inner rampart but the south side projects 18.5m. This southerly projection encloses an area of level ground between the two ramparts of c.0.07ha, this space may have been used for holding stock. The outer rampart lies equidistant from the middle rampart at a distance of 7m-8m, it is 0.2m-0.6m high on the interior and c.1m high on the exterior. There are traces of a ditch between the middle and outer ramparts, this is most clearly defined on the north west side. There are two sets of entrances through the ramparts. The main entrance is to the south east and is staggered at a fairly accute angle giving an oblique approach to the interior, with the openings well covered by the rampart within. The entrances are simple gaps 3.5m-6m wide. The entrance through the middle rampart is out-turned on the south side and in-turned on the north side of the gap, the south edge is defined by three large boulders which extend into the ditch. A second, narrower, entrance cuts through the north west ramparts. The entrance on this side is less acutely staggered but each entrance is still well covered by the rampart within. The entrances are simple gaps 3m-3.5m wide. In the interior of the settlement there are circular stone foundations of at least eight prehistoric buildings. These buildings are 4m-8m in diameter, the walls survive up to 0.5m high and incorporate medium to large boulders. Two of the buildings contain small oval areas of laid stone placed slightly off-centre within the interior, these may represent hearths. A number of stone and earth banks are associated with the buildings and form enclosures and sub-divisions within the interior of the settlement. At least two clearly defined scooped areas represent traces of earlier timber buildings. Traces of a stone wall running at 90 degrees to the south edge of the main entrance may represent a structure associated with this entrance.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. XLIII, (1965), 21-62


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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