Huckhoe palisaded enclosure, defended settlement and Romano-British settlement, 550m north east of Bolam West Houses


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011838

Date first listed: 17-Mar-1995


Ordnance survey map of Huckhoe palisaded enclosure, defended settlement and Romano-British settlement, 550m north east of Bolam West Houses
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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 07292 82800


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A palisaded hilltop enclosure is a small defended site of domestic function dating to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age (c.550-440 BC). Their distribution is largely restricted to north-eastern England, the Borders and southern Scotland. They are generally located on spurs, promontories or hilltops covering areas of less then 0.4ha. The boundaries of these sites are marked by single or double rock-cut trenches which originally formed the settings for substantial palisades. Remains of circular buildings are found within the palisaded areas, along with evidence for fenced stock enclosures. Palisaded sites are the earliest type of defended settlements recorded in the area and are thought to be a product of increasingly unsettled social conditions in the later prehistoric period. They imply an extensive use of timber, confirmation that large areas were heavily wooded at this time. Although the palisades at individual sites may have undergone several phases of replacement or refurbishment it is thought that the tradition of building this type of site spanned only around 150 years. After this the use of earthen banks and ditches to form the defensive perimeter became more common. Excavation has demonstrated that at several sites the earthen defences were preceded by timber palisades. Palisaded enclosures are a rare monument type with fewer than 200 known examples. They are an important element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern and are important for any study of the developing use of defended settlements during the later prehistoric period. All identified surviving examples are believed to be nationally important.

During the mid-prehistoric period a variety of different types of defensive settlements began to be constructed and occupied in northern England, some of which succeeded palisaded settlements on the same lines. The most obvious sites were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these a range of smaller sites 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). 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. 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.

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. 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. At some sites the settlement appears to have grown, often with houses spilling out of the main enclosure and clustered around it. 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 multi phase settlement at Huckhoe is reasonably well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. It is of particular importance as it spans almost 1000 years of continuous occupation and contains four different but related settlement forms during this period.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the remains of a settlement comprising at least four phases of occupation beginning in the sixth century BC and lasting until at least the sixth century AD. It is situated in a clearly defensive position on the edge of an oval promontory above a tributary of the River Wansbeck, and defended by steep slopes on the north and west sides. The visible remains today are of an enclosure measuring 94m north east to south west by 72m north west to south east defined on all sides by a low bank of stone and earth 3m wide and 0.5m high. There is an entrance through the eastern side of the enclosure 5m wide. Within the enclosure there are indistinct traces of at least two round houses and associated walled enclosures. The remains of habitation which are visible at Huckhoe are considered to represent Romano- British re-occupation of an Iron Age defended settlement.

This earlier settlement consisted of two stone faced ramparts; the outer rampart is visible only on the south and east sides of the enclosure some 10m outside the inner and is 4m wide and stands to a height of 0.8m. There are traces of a surrounding ditch, visible as a shallow depression on the south eastern side. Excavations at this monument between 1955 and 1957 revealed an even earlier phase of settlement.

Lying beneath the later Iron Age defended settlement and the subsequent Romano-British settlement there was an Early Iron Age palisaded enclosure. This consisted of three concentric palisades or wooden stockades of oak. These palisades have been dated securely by radio-carbon dating to the sixth century BC. During the excavations pieces of Romano-British pottery were discovered. Of particular note was the discovery of an unusually high amount of iron slag along with what is identified as an iron worker's hearth. This has led to the interpretation of the Romano-British phase at Huckhoe as a second century iron working site.

During the excavations at Huckhoe the remains of one rectangular and two sub- rectangular buildings were uncovered and interpreted as post Roman houses. They were constructed on the levelled remains of one of the Romano-British houses and on the tumbled remains of the main enclosure wall respectively. The re-occupation of prehistoric and Roman settlements in the post Roman period has been noted at other sites in Northumberland.

The plantation fence line which crosses the monument is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

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: 25151

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Aiano, A R, 'Journal Hist Metallurgy Soc 11/2' in , (1977), 79
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 4 ser 37' in Excavations At The Native Settlement At Huckhoe, (1959), 217-78
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 4 ser 37' in Excavations At The Native Settlement At Huckhoe, (1959), 217-78
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 4 ser 46' in A Radiocarbon Date For The Palisaded Settlement At Huckhoe, (1968), 293-5
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 4 ser 37' in Excavations At The Native Settlement At Huckhoe, (1959), 217-78
Thomas, C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 4 ser 37' in Wheel Made Post-Roman Sherds, (1959), 258-61
NZ08SE 14,

End of official listing