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Hut circle settlements and field systems at Hetha Burn Head

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Hut circle settlements and field systems at Hetha Burn Head

List entry Number: 1014504


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: Northumberland

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Kirknewton


Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 20-May-1996

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 24589

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can only be identified by the artificial earthwork platforms created as level stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or indicated by groups of clearance cairns. Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but it is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the Early Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of enclosed and defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

This site also includes a later Roman period native settlement. 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. 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 seems to have grown, often with houses spilling out of the main enclosure and clustered around it. At these sites up to 30 houses may be found. 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, as can be seen in this site at Hetha Burn Head. 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 they can frequently only be located through aerial photography. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important. This site at Hetha Burn Head also includes cultivation terraces which are earlier than the Roman period native settlement and the stone hut circle settlement. Cultivation terraces are strips of land cut into hillslopes to form level terraces for agricultural purposes. Such techniques were used from prehistoric times through to the medieval period. This settlement is a rare survival of three different phases of occupation covering an extensive area of land. It survives in good condition and will provide an insight into developing patterns of settlement and land use throughout the later prehistoric period. The importance of these settlements is enhanced by the survival of part of the field systems which is unusual in settlements of these dates.


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


The monument includes the remains of cultivation terraces which have been overlain by a later walled field system with a settlement consisting of two hut circles. This settlement and walled field system is overlain in its turn by a later settlement. In total there are therefore three phases of land use possibly running from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period. The cultivation terraces, which are the earliest features, run in a north- south direction. They measure between 4m and 10m wide. In total there are approximately eight terraces overlain by the later settlements. The second phase of activity is evidenced by four field walls. Two of the walls run roughly parallel to each other in a north-south direction. The third easternmost wall forms half of a rectangular enclosure and abuts the middle wall. The south west wall is immediately adjacent to, and therefore probably contemporary with, a hut circle. A second hut circle is located at the extreme west side of the settlement adjacent to a small stretch of wall which runs in an east-west direction and is 5m wide. The length included within the monument is 30m. The easternmost end has been cut by a later scooped enclosure close to the hut circle. It is broken in the middle and this break may be the remains of an entrance 2m wide. The other field walls measure between 4m and 5m wide. The length of the south west wall, included within the monument, is 170m long. The middle wall is 100m long with the remains of another wall diverging from it 35m from the west end. The hut circles measure 7m wide in external diameter and survive as stone foundations which are now grass covered. The third and latest phase of activity is typical of a Roman period native settlement. It consists of enclosures scooped into the old cultivation terraces. The circular building platforms for timber buildings are still visible in the scooped enclosure. There are at least four separate sets of enclosures, with a possible fifth on the south side. The northernmost is the most clearly defined. It measures approximately 15m in external diameter and has three circular building platforms associated with it. The platforms measure approximately 7m in external diameter each. The other settlements are less clearly defined. An oval enclosure with a possible building platform on its west side is situated 40m to the south of the above site. The enclosure measures between 33m and 18m in diameter and the platform approximately 10m in diameter. A further enclosure can be seen 20m to the west of this, with an ill-defined platform on the north side. The enclosure measures 20m in diameter and the platform 7m in diameter. The westernmost enclosure is adjacent to an earlier hut circle and measures 18m in diameter. Within the enclosure are the remains of two or three possible house platforms measuring 9m in diameter.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Northumberland Archaeology Group, , 'Obsvns on Stratigraphy of early agric rems in Kirknewton....' in Northern Archaeology, (1983), 23-5
Northumberland Archaeology Group, , 'Obsvns on Stratigraphy of early agric rems in Kirknewton....' in Northern Archaeology, (1983), 23-5
Gates, T, NT8628 A Mus Antiq Newcastle, (1986)

National Grid Reference: NT 86698 26403


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End of official listing