Little Hetha defended settlement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014483

Date first listed: 27-Aug-1935

Date of most recent amendment: 09-May-1996


Ordnance survey map of Little Hetha defended settlement
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Dec-2018 at 15:24:55.


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

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Kirknewton


National Grid Reference: NT 88618 28058


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

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 on Little Hetha is a reasonably well preserved example of a northern prehistoric defended settlement. Despite some robbing the full circuit of the ramparts is visible and secondary occupation has not obscured prehistoric building foundations. The site is situated within an area of broadly contemporary settlements of very high quality and forms part of a wider archaeological landscape. As such it will contribute significantly to our understanding of the organisation and development of land during this period.


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


The monument includes the remains of a defended settlement of Iron Age date with secondary occupation of probable medieval date. The defended settlement, roughly oval in shape, is situated on the summit of a spur with steep slopes on all sides except the south where the ground falls away gently and then rises sharply to overlook the site. The settlement measures internally c.73m north east to south west by c.55m south east to north west and is enclosed by two ramparts except on the north side where there are three; there is a berm between the ramparts. The outer rampart stands to a maximum height of 1.2m and measures an average 5m wide. On the south side it is 8m wide and at the north end it has been thickened to increase the width to 10m; the thickening has created a level platform. On the east side the outer rampart becomes very shallow and disappears. The middle rampart, on the north side, measures 5m wide and stands to a height of 2m. It is clearly visible but has suffered some robbing. The ramparts are made up of earth and stone and large revetting boulders are visible around the perimeter of the outer rampart. There are two entrances, one facing north east and the other facing north west. The north east entrance is 3m wide and marked by a large stone, the north west entrance is 4m wide and protected by the outer rampart which overlaps it. Set into the inner rampart to the south of the north west entrance are the foundations of a sub rectangular structure, 5m wide, possibly representing a guard chamber. The interior of the site contains the remains of at least three stone founded hut circles measuring 2m-8m in diameter. Across the middle of the enclosure, running from the south east side and curving gently to the north west, is a bank of earth and stones c.2m wide and 0.5m high. Set into the northern edge of the bank are three square-ended scoops 2m wide from which faint traces of linear earthworks run northwards whose purpose is unclear. To the south of the bank are the stone foundations of two adjacent rectangular buildings measuring 7m by 5m and 2m by 2.5m. To the north of these remains is a wide shallow scooped area measuring 14m north to south by 12m east to west and containing a possible stone setting. The rectangular structures are evidence of secondary use of the enclosure although their nature and date is unclear. The fence line on the south east side of the monument is excluded but the ground beneath 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: 24602

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing