Hetha Burn defended settlement, Roman period native enclosed settlement and associated trackways


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014497

Date first listed: 18-Mar-1969

Date of most recent amendment: 20-May-1996


Ordnance survey map of Hetha Burn defended settlement, Roman period native enclosed settlement and associated trackways
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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 87903 27528


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.

In Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlement dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non-defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. 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. 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. The survival of droveways and trackways of prehistoric date is less common and can provide evidence of communication between individual settlements and can link occupation areas with their fields and areas of pasture. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important.

The Iron Age defended settlement, Romano-British settlement and associated trackways are well preserved examples of their types. The east-west running trackway is partly waterlogged and has the potential to contain valuable environmental evidence. Taken together, the Iron Age and Romano-British settlements and trackways provide an insight into developing patterns of settlement and land use through time. The monument is situated within an area of clustered archaeological sites of very high quality and forms part of a wider archaeological landscape. It will provide a valuable contribution to the study of the wider settlement pattern during this period.


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


The monument includes the remains of a defended settlement, annexe and trackways of Iron Age date and an enclosed native settlement dating to the Roman period. The monument is situated on the lower north west slopes of Great Hetha. The Roman period native enclosed settlement occupies damp, low lying ground in the valley bottom, immediately adjacent to Hetha Burn, the defended settlement occupies slightly higher ground immediately to the south. The Iron Age defended settlement is not situated in a highly defensive position, but it is close to water and lies in the shadow of the very heavily defended settlement on the summit of Great Hetha. The roughly oval enclosure measures 105m north-south by 90m east-west. It is enclosed within two earth and stone ramparts up to 1.3m high and 5m wide. On the east, uphill, side the ramparts are closely spaced and separated by a medial ditch 4m wide and up to 0.5m deep. On the west, downhill, side the space between the two ramparts increases to 16m and there is no visible trace of a ditch. There are entrances facing north and south. At the southern entrance, the inner rampart to the west has a circular shaped terminal which may represent the site of a guardhouse. The entrance to the north is staggered so that the outer rampart covers the entrance gap through the inner rampart. The remains of an annexe survive immediately to the north east. This is visible as a sub-rectangular area of levelled ground, approximately 113m by 40m, defined by a low, broad bank up to 4m wide and 0.5m high. A series of trackways run along each side of the annexe. One track runs NNW-SSE and leads from the higher ground of Great Hetha down to the Hetha Burn. It clearly predates at least one phase of the Roman period native enclosed settlement which lies to the north west. This track consists of a hollow way, between 7m and 12m wide. It is defined on the south side by the broad bank of the annexe to which it runs parallel, and on the north side by a low bank up to 1m wide and 0.3m high. The track divides into two approximately mid-way along its visible length, one track turns south west to follow the outer edge of the annexe, the other continues up the hill towards Great Hetha. The track is visible for a total length of 115m; beyond this it is masked by vegetation. A second track, 3m wide and terraced into the hillside, runs ENE-WSW from the defended settlement. This track runs parallel with the northern edge of the annexe, it crosses the NNW-SSE track and continues north eastwards along the lower slopes of Great Hetha where it is clearly visible for a length of 14m; beyond this point the trackway has not been included within the scheduling as, although it can be detected on aerial photographs, it not clearly discernible on the ground. The Roman period native enclosed settlement is situated 35m to the south of the defended settlement and the northern end overlies the earlier trackway. The site is complex and displays evidence of at least two phases of development. The earliest settlement appears to have comprised a rectangular earthwork with a single rampart, this is visible at the north end of the site, but a later phase of scooped settlement overlies the southern end. The north bank of the earthwork rampart survives completely, it is 32m long, 1m wide and up to 0.8m high with a shallow ditch, up to 3m wide, visible on the exterior. The east bank survives for a length of 22m and the west bank for 20m. The western bank has a simple gap entrance. The eastern part of the interior of the site has been terraced back into the hillside, resulting in a scooped area to the rear up to 1.7m deep. A bank of unquarried material, 7m wide and 1.7m high, extends east-west, parallel to the northern bank. This forms a wide platform on which the stone foundations of a circular prehistoric building are situated, the doorway of this building fronts directly onto the scooped area to the north. The foundations of another building are evident in the north west corner of the enclosure. The southern end of the settlement shows evidence of a later phase of development. The rectangular enclosure has been overlain by a roughly circular enclosure 40m in diameter. The interior of this enclosure had been terraced into the hillside and the upcast from this used to enhance the outer perimeter so that the interior is enclosed within banks up to 1.5m high. A raised platform of ground along the southern edge contains the stone foundations of three circular prehistoric houses up to 10m in diameter. Immediately to the north of these the ground has been scooped away and subdivided by internal banks into three courtyards. The entrances to the houses face directly onto these courtyards. A further two scooped areas lie immediately to the east, these form a pair of courtyards with an associated stone founded house situated on platforms of higher ground above each of them. The fence to the north of the Iron Age defended settlement, which encloses the conifer plantation, is not included in the scheduling, but the ground beneath it is.

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: 24607

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in A note on scooped enclosures in Northumberland, , Vol. 40, (1962), 54
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. XLIII, (1965), 64

End of official listing