Great Hetha defended settlement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014508

Date first listed: 22-Aug-1935

Date of most recent amendment: 09-May-1996


Ordnance survey map of Great Hetha defended settlement
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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 88556 27405


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.

This defended settlement at Great Hetha is a well preserved example of a northern defended settlement. It has suffered very little disturbance and is substantially intact. It is located in an area of clustered archaeological sites of high quality and therefore forms part of a wider archaeological landscape. As such it will contribute significantly 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 a bivallate defended settlement of a type constructed during the Iron Age in northern Britain. It is situated in a defensive position on the summit of a hill with steep slopes on all sides except the south west where a ridge joins the hill. The oval enclosure, measuring 0.6ha, is contained within two stone banks formed of earth and stone and partly formed by scarping the natural slope. The outer bank, measuring between 3m and 8m wide with a maximum height internally of 0.5m and externally 2.5m, is concentric except on the north east side where it leaves the inner rampart to enclose a small level area. The inner rampart measures between 7m and 10m wide with a maximum internal height of 3m. The thick spread of stones indicate that substantial walls stood around this site. The land between the inner and outer ramparts measures 15.24m wide except at the north east end where it measures 30.48m wide. Within the level area between the two ramparts on the north east side, there is a small oval enclosure measuring 9.5m by 6m consisting of a slight bank of earth and stones. At the east end of this small enclosure are the foundations for a circular house measuring 3m in diameter. A bank runs between the inner and outer ramparts and divides the level outer area into two. Beyond the outer rampart on the north east side, a small earthwork runs parallel to it. This earthwork may represent an additional line of defence, or alternatively a recutting of the outer rampart. There are two entrances into the main enclosure. The one on the north west side is slightly staggered. The other entrance is on the north east side where traces of revetting can be seen. The interior of the main enclosure contains the slight remains of three possible stone built foundations of prehistoric buildings. Although no other signs of internal habitation are visible above ground, the remains of buildings originally located in the settlement will be preserved beneath the present ground surface.

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: 24605

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. XLIII, (1965), 42-43
Gates, T, NT8827L, Dept of Archaeology, University of Newcastle, (1986)

End of official listing