Roman period native enclosed settlement and medieval sheiling 165m north east of Dunsdale


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014680

Date first listed: 20-May-1996


Ordnance survey map of Roman period native enclosed settlement and medieval sheiling 165m north east of Dunsdale
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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 90058 23240


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

Reasons for Designation

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 appears 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. In the Cumbrian uplands the settlements were of less regimented form and unenclosed clusters of houses of broadly contemporary date are also known. 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. In lowland coastal areas they were also originally common, although there they can frequently only be located through aerial photography. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important.

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. The construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling houses of farms appears from the early medieval period onwards (from AD 450), when the practice of transhumance is also known from documentary sources and place name studies. Their construction appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. 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 enclosures and circular house foundations to the north east of Dunsdale form a well preserved example of a Roman period native settlement and retain significant archaeological deposits. It is one of a group of similar Romano-British settlements in the area and will contribute to any study of the settlement pattern at this time. The shieling will also retain significant archaeological deposits. The subsequent reuse of the site during the medieval period is characteristic of many similar sites in this area. This subsequent reuse forms a significant part of the site's history. The remains of both periods will contribute greatly to any study of continuity of occupation, or later re-occupation of earlier sites, in this area.


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


This monument includes a native enclosed settlement dating to the Roman period and a medieval shieling. It is situated 165m north east of Dunsdale, adjacent to the Bizzle Burn. The monument consists of three conjoined enclosures of earth and stone banks, the interiors of the enclosures are slightly scooped into the ground surface. The circular stone foundations of several prehistoric buildings lie within and adjacent to the enclosures. The stone foundation of a rectangular building of medieval date, interpreted as a shieling, lies to the east of the enclosures and is included within the monument. The site is situated on a small area of level ground on the very edge of the steep east bank of the Bizzle Burn, the ground also falls away sharply to the north where the Bizzle Burn joins the main valley of the Lambden Burn. The settlement is overlooked to north and south by the steep slopes of The Cheviot and Coldburn Hill. The enclosures comprise three irregularly shaped areas contained within earth and stone banks up to 0.75m high and between 1m and 3m wide. The westernmost enclosure covers a D-shaped area 12m long and 9m wide, the interior has been divided at a later date into three smaller compartments by two walls of loose rubble. The central enclosure covers a sub-rectangular area 14.4m long by 10.5m wide, it contains the stone foundations of a sub-circular building. The easternmost enclosure contains a long, narrow area 24.5m by 9m. The eastern wall of this enclosure is a continuation of the northern wall of the central enclosure. This enclosure formed a courtyard for a circular stone building, 6m in diameter, which was built into the south west corner. The circular stone foundations of a further three prehistoric buildings, between between 4.5m and 7m in diameter and up to 0.5m high, are clustered around the outside of the westernmost enclosure. These buildings may originally have been contained within an enclosing wall which has subsequently been lost by the erosion caused by the Bizzle and Lambden Burns. The site has had a complex history and the enclosure walls represent more than one phase of construction. Some of the divisions are likely to be associated with the later occupation of the site during the medieval period. Evidence of this later occupation is apparent in the foundations of a rectangular building which lies 4m to the east of the enclosure complex. This building is interpreted as a medieval shieling. It is 15.3m long and 5.3m wide, the walls are 1m wide and up to 0.2m high. The building is sub-divided by an internal cross-wall.

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


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

Legacy System number: 24618

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana, 4 ser 42' in Enclosed Stone Built Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. 42, (1964), 63

End of official listing