Four Romano-British settlements, field system and cord rig cultivation on Fairney Cleugh


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Four Romano-British settlements, field system and cord rig cultivation on Fairney Cleugh
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 87735 95841, NY 87772 96281

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.

A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined fields of prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in a block or blocks which lie approximately at right angles to each other, usually with a settlement as a focal point. Fields are generally square or rectangular, and the blocks give an ordered if, irregular, shape to the field system as a whole. They are characteristically extensive monuments; the number of individual fields varies from two to 50 but this is, at least in part, a reflection of bias in the archaeological record rather than the true extent of such land divisions during their period of use, as continued land-use has often obliterated traces of the full extent of such field systems. The fields were the primary unit of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. As a rare monument type which provide an insight into land division and agricultural practice during their period of use, all well preserved examples will normally be identified as nationally important.

Cord rig cultivation is visible as a series of narrow ridges and furrows no more than 1.4m across between the centres of furrows. It is frequently arranged in fields with formal boundaries but it also occurs in smaller, irregular unenclosed plots varying between 30 to 60 square metres in size. It can be fragmentary or more extensive, often extending over considerable areas and it is often found in association with a range of prehistoric settlement forms and with prehistoric field systems. It generally survives as a series of slight earthworks and it is frequently first discovered on aerial photographs, but it has also been identified by excavation as a series of ard marks beneath several parts of Hadrian's Wall. The evidence of excavation and the study of associated monuments demonstrates that cord rig cultivation spans the period from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period. Cord rig cultivation is known throughout the Border areas of England and Scotland but it is a marked feature of the upland margins. The discovery of cord rig cultivation is of considerable importance for the analysis of prehistoric settlement and agriculture; all well preserved examples, particularly where they are found with prehistoric or Romano-British settlements, will normally merit statutory protection.

The extensive settlement and agricultural remains on Fairney Cleugh are very well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. The cord rig field system is one of the most extensive field systems in the county. Taken together with the associated settlement remains it will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric and Romano-British settlement and farming.


The monument includes the remains of four settlements of Romano-British date and a field system containing areas of cord rig cultivation, situated across an extensive area of gently sloping moorland. The monument is divided into two areas. The first and most easterly settlement consists of a sub-rectangular enclosure which measures a maximum of 15m across within an outer bank of stone and earth 2m to 3m wide standing to a maximum height of 1m. Abutting the enclosure wall in the north west there are the foundations of a double walled circular stone founded house 7.5m in diameter with an entrance in the north east wall giving access into the larger enclosure. There is an entrance through the eastern wall of the main enclosure. These remains conform to a type of Romano-British settlement known elsewhere in the area where one or more circular houses have entrances which give direct access into a large walled enclosure or forecourt. Some 310m north east of this settlement, are the remains of a second settlement of Romano-British date. This is visible as a sub-rectangular enclosure measuring 20m north west to south east by 21m, within a stony bank 3.5m wide and standing to a maximum height of 1m. There is an entrance through the south eastern wall of the enclosure and within the interior there is a single stone founded circular hut-circle 7.5m in diameter situated against the enclosure wall in the north west corner. A second hut-circle situated 7m north east of the enclosure measures 5.5m in diameter and has an entrance through its south wall. What are thought to be the remains of a third enclosure are situated 240m north east of the second on a slight plateau above steep slopes to the north. This enclosure, circular in shape measures 17m in diameter within low stony walls standing to a maximum height of 1m and up to 3m wide where they have become spread. In the north east corner of the enclosure there is a raised platform 10m in diameter. A fourth settlement is situated 480m west of the third in a slight hollow on a south east facing slope. The settlement consists of a sub-rectangular enclosure measuring 30m north west to south east by 19m containing the remains of at least four stone founded circular houses. The four houses range in diameter from 5m to 9m and are thought to have given direct access into the enclosure.

Surrounding and in between the four settlements there is an extensive field system which consists of low stony banks on average 0.5m wide and standing to a height of 0.3m. The banks which are a maximum length of 330m, generally run from north to south and divide the area into large fields. Within the field system there are well preserved areas of prehistoric cultivation known as cord rig. The cord rig cultivation is visible on aerial photographs as a series of narrow, straight rigs and is visible on the ground as slight earthworks on average 1.4m wide between the centres of the furrows. Much of the cord rig, which runs parallel to the field walls, appears to be contained within the field system suggesting that some areas of cultivation are contemporary with it. In other areas, however, the cord rig cultivation extends over some of the field walls. The second area encloses an outlying block of cord rig associated with that to the north.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, An Archaeological Survey of the MOD Training Area, Otterburn, (1977)
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, An Archaeological Survey of the MOD Training Area, Otterburn, (1977)
Gates, T, Air Photography and the Archaeology of Otterburn Training Area, (1995), unpubld
Gates, T, Air Photography and the Archaeology of Otterburn Training Area, (1995)
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 5 ser 6' in Excavation and Field Survey in Upper Redesdale, (1978), 61-86
Topping, P, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Early Cultivation in Northumberland And The Borders, (1989), 161-180
Gates T, TMG 13968/32-49, (1995)
Gates T, TMG 13968/32-8, (1995)
Gates T, TMG 13968/47-8,
Neg No SF 1701/32-36, Gates, T, Fairnry Cleugh 2 (1?), (1978)
NY 89 NE 19,
NY 89 NE 20,
NY89NE 17,
NY89NE 19,
TMG 13968/42-9, (1995)


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.

End of official listing

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