Medieval monastic sheep farm (bercaria), 550m north-east of Whittondean Farm

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1011292
Date first listed:
18-Oct-1993

Map

© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1011292.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 27-Feb-2021 at 09:40:08.

Location

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

District:
Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Whitton and Tosson
National Grid Reference:
NU 05955 00200

Reasons for Designation

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers (secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange. Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands. On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

The bercaria at Whittondean is of exceptional importance as it survives in a very good state of preservation and represents a type of monument which was never common in the border counties and rarely survives well enough to be recognized. Documentary and archaeological evidence confirm that it is a bercaria or monastic sheep farm, probably associated with the Augustinian priory at Brinkburn. As such it is a rare survival and will add to our knowledge of the day-to-day working of monastic granges.

Details

The monument includes a bercaria (medieval monastic sheep farm), situated on a north-west facing slope immediately above the Whitton Burn. It consists of a series of very well preserved interconnected enclosures scooped into the hillside. The whole is set within a perimeter bank formed of large stones set on edge, surviving in places to a height of 1.3m and measuring up to 3m across. The interior is divided into several enclosures by banks of stone and earth surviving to 0.5m high and 3m wide. The enclosures vary in size and shape but are roughly rectangular with bowed sides and on average they measure 30m by 20m across. The most easterly enclosure has been partly overlain by a later enclosure of different character and construction. There is a clear entrance on the north side of the farm with traces of a hollow way giving access to the stream below. Other breaks in the banks on the east, south and west sides represent other minor entrances. An enclosure located in the northern corner of the monument, and 10m by 5m across, is the site of a rectangular building, and a possible building platform can be seen at the south-western end of the farm. The enclosures were apparently constructed for the purpose of segregating stock; a document dating from AD1275 refers to the site as a monastic sheep farm; the nearest monastic complex is Brinkburn Priory 5km to the south-east.

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.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number:
20884
Legacy System:
RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Dixon, D D, Upper Coquetdale, (1903), 489
Other
SMR entry, NU 00 SE 3,

Legal

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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].