Castle Folds Romano-British defended stone hut circle settlement and medieval shieling


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.

Eden (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 65014 09305

Reasons for Designation

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. At these sites up to 30 houses may be found. In the Cumbrian uplands the settlements were of less regimented form and unenclosed clusters of houses of broadly contemporary date are also known. 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 substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important.

The monument is an unusual example in Cumbria of a heavily defended Romano-British stone hut circle settlement. Unlike many Romano-British settlements which were enclosed or 'defended' in such a way as to protect both inhabitants and stock from casual marauders, Castle Folds appears, by the very nature of its inaccessible location and strongly defended stone enclosure wall, to have been constructed in response to a threat of much greater proportions. It survives well, preserves considerable detail of the layout of the site, will facilitate further study of Romano-British settlement patterns in the area and will contain further evidence of the defensive nature of the site. Additionally, the monument is a rare example of a juxtaposed Romano-British settlement and medieval shieling.


The monument is Castle Folds Romano-British defended stone hut circle settlement and medieval shieling. It occupies a position of considerable inaccessibility upon a flat-topped limestone knoll close to the summit of Great Asby Scar and is surrounded by large areas of deeply fissured limestone paving. The site includes an irregular enclosure which does not quite cover the entire top of the knoll. The enclosure wall is constructed of limestone rubble originally 2.4m thick and contained between parallel lines of limestone blocks. It is now merely tumbled debris of stone remaining a little over 1m high in places but is thought to have been 3m high originally with a parapet on top giving a total height of about 4m. There is a 5m-wide entrance in the south side which is approached from the south by an artificially constructed passageway through the surrounding fractured limestone. Within the enclosure are remains of at least 12 roughly circular or oval stone huts arranged against the enclosure wall. These range between 5.5m - 11.5m in diameter with the three largest located at the south-western, south-eastern north-eastern corners of the enclosure. A study of the enclosure wall reveals virtually all of the limestone blocks facing the outside of the wall have been torn out, suggesting the defences were deliberately destroyed rather than being subjected to casual stone robbing. Within the enclosure, and adjacent to the south wall, is a rectangular medieval shieling measuring 22m by 9m externally with walls up to 1.1m high. There are faint traces of a partition wall in the shieling indicating the structure was originally two-roomed. A 7.5m length of wall extends north-east from the north-eastern corner of the shieling.

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


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Higham, N, Jones, N, 'Archaeological Journal' in Frontiers, Forts and Farmers, (1975), 51
Higham, N, Jones, N, 'Archaeological Journal' in Frontiers, Forts and Farmers, (1975), 51
Richmond, I A, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Castle Folds, by Great Asby, , Vol. XXXIII, (1933), 233-7
RCHME, Westmorland, (1936)
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)


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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