Defended settlement, 200m south west of Bolam Hall


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011836

Date first listed: 24-Oct-1968

Date of most recent amendment: 30-Mar-1995


Ordnance survey map of Defended settlement, 200m south west of Bolam Hall
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Belsay

National Grid Reference: NZ 08633 82307

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 settlement near Bolam Hall is well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. Remains of the square building noted on the site in the 1920's will also survive and it will be possible to confirm its nature and data. The importance of the monument is enhanced by the survival of two contemporary settlements nearby. Taken together they will contribute to any study of the wider settlement pattern at this time.


The monument includes a defended settlement of Iron Age date situated on the summit of Bolam Hill. The roughly oval enclosure measures a maximum of 100m east to west by 72m north to south within two ramparts of stone and earth. The outer rampart has been levelled on the eastern side of the enclosure and only the inner one is visible here. Elsewhere the inner rampart is the most substantial, being on average between 8m and 10m wide and standing to a height of up to 2m. An original entrance 5m wide is visible through the centre of the south side of the enclosure. A well worn trackway or hollow way is situated immediately outside the enclosure to the south west; although this is no longer visible on the surface, it survives as a buried feature which has become infilled. This is thought to represent the remains of an original track giving access into the main south entrance. It is reported that several quern stones, implements used for the grinding of corn, were discovered in the settlement during the 19th century but their present location is unknown. A medieval tower is thought to have been situated within the prehistoric enclosure and as late as 1920 the foundations of a square building were still visible. Today, however, it is not possible to detect any surface indications of this structure. It is thought that the tower was demolished to provide stone for the construction of the present Bolam Hall in the 19th century.

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.

Legacy System number: 25148

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hodgson, J, The Victoria History of the County of Northumberland: Volume 1 part 2, (1827), 336-7
Ball, T, 'Proc Soc Antiq Ncle 3 ser 10' in Proc Soc Antiq Ncle 3 ser 10, (1920), 240
Ball, T, 'Proc Soc Antiq Ncle' in Proc Soc Antiq Ncle, (1922), 240
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland, (1965), 61
Long, B, (1965)

End of official listing