Shieling at Southernknowe, 530m SSE of Whitehall


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014498

Date first listed: 20-May-1996


Ordnance survey map of Shieling at Southernknowe, 530m SSE of Whitehall
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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 88999 25535


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

Reasons for Designation

Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or marshland. These huts reflect a system called transhumance, whereby stock was moved in spring from lowland pasture around the permanently occupied farms to communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns reflecting transhumance are known from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC) onwards. However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval period onwards (from AD 450), when the practice of transhumance is also known from documentary sources and, notably, place-name studies. Their construction appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. Shielings vary in size but are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups. They have a simple sub- rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling, although occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two roomed examples are known. Some examples have adjacent ancillary structures, such as pens, and may be associated with a midden. Some are also contained within a small ovoid enclosure. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here. Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important.

The shieling at Southernknowe survives well and will retain significant archaeological deposits. It forms one of a group of shielings found along the valley bottoms of the College Burn and its tributary, the Lambden Burn. All these shielings are built in very similar locations, on slightly raised ground immediately adjacent to water. They are often found in close spatial association with earlier sites. They form a group of contemporary structures associated with medieval agriculture and will form a significant contribution to the study of medieval settlements and land use in the Cheviots.


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


The monument includes the remains of a medieval shieling. It is situated on a small island of raised ground on an old river terrace adjacent to the College Burn. The ground falls away steeply to the north and west. The building is aligned north-south. It is rectangular in plan, measuring 23.5m long by 5.5m wide. The exceptionally thick walls are of dry stone construction and are faced with roughly dressed stone. They survive up to 0.4m high and up to 1.4m wide. There is an entrance, with a threshold stone, situated approximately mid-way along the western side. The building is sub-divided into three rooms, the southernmost has internal dimensions of 6.5m by 3m, the central room is 7m by 3.25m and the northernmost, which comprises a slightly raised platform, is 5.25m by 3.25m. The dividing wall between the central and northern rooms has an entrance at the west end. A roughly circular, slightly raised, area of dark earth and dense nettles lies c.20m to the north east of the site, this may represent the site of the midden but has not been included within the scheduling because it is insufficiently understood.

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: 24617

Legacy System: RSM


Topping, P, A Survey of College Valley, North Northumberland, 1981, BA dissertation, Durham University

End of official listing