Prehistoric enclosure, field system and cairnfield, and medieval and early post-medieval settlements and field systems 600m SSW of Blacklyne House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016089

Date first listed: 23-May-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Sep-1997


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric enclosure, field system and cairnfield, and medieval and early post-medieval settlements and field systems 600m SSW of Blacklyne House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle (District Authority)

Parish: Bewcastle

National Grid Reference: NY 54200 80889


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

Reasons for Designation

Within the upland landscape of Cumbria there are many discrete plots of land enclosed by stone walls or banks of stone and earth, most of which date to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700BC), though earlier and later examples also exist. They were constructed as stock pens or as protected areas for crop growing and were sometimes sub-divided to accommodate stock and hut circle dwellings for farmers and herdsmen. The size and form of enclosures therefore may vary depending upon their particular function. Their variation in form, longevity and relationship to other monument classes provide important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occassion their distribution can be seen to define field plots. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials. Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (from c.3400 BC), although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the early Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in size, content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period. Regular aggregate field systems are one of several methods of field layout known to have been employed from the Bronze Age to the Roman period (c.2000 BC-AD 400). They comprise discrete blocks of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries set out roughly at right angles to each other. The fields are bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches and fences and the majority are thought to have been used mainly for crop production. They represent a coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time and can thus provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries. Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Cumbria-Solway sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area characterised by dispersed hamlets and farmsteads but with some larger nucleated settlements in well-defined agriculturally favoured areas, established after the Norman conquest. Traces of seasonal settlements, or shielings, dominate the high, wet and windy uplands, where surrounding communities grazed their livestock during the summer months. The Borders local region comprises the great slope of land between the high Cheviots and the Solway, where hamlets and scattered farmsteads predominate, and where bastles and tower houses recall the social conditions of the Anglo-Saxon borders before the mid-17th century. The eastern part of the region, containing the wastes of the Bewcastle Fells and Spadeadam, can be seen as a seperate subdivision; it was occupied by shieling grounds in the Middle Ages and the Tudor period, and preserves the remains of associated settlement sites and, in some cases, evidence of associated field systems. Early post-medieval dispersed settlements are morphologically similar to the earlier medieval dispersed settlements in this area, and in the absence of documentary sources precise dating is often difficult. They frequently occupy the same or an adjacent area to that previously occupied by a medieval dispersed settlement, and in many cases represent a continuity in use of the medieval site into the early post-medieval period. The prehistoric enclosure, field system and cairnfield, and medieval and early post-medieval settlements and field systems 600m SSW of Blacklyne House survive well and will retain significant archaeological deposits associated with prehistoric, medieval and early post-medieval use. The monument represents evidence of long-term management and exploitation of the landscape during prehistoric times. Additionally the monument is a good example in the Border Region of a medieval dispersed settlement and associated field system which, despite being relocated a short distance to the north, continued in use into the early post-medieval period. The monument will add greatly to our understanding of the wider border settlement and economy during the medieval and early post-medieval period.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a sub-circular prehistoric stock enclosure, together with an irregular aggregate field system and an associated cairnfield, a medieval dispersed settlement of two periods and an associated field system, and an early post-medieval dispersed settlement and associated field system. It is located on a broad gently sloping terrace to the east of a low cliff 600m SSW of Blacklyne House. The prehistoric stock enclosure measures approximately 18m by 17m externally and has large boulder walls up to 0.3m high. It lies at the north eastern end of an associated regular aggregate field system which consists of four stone-walled rectangular fields, each of differing sizes ranging from the smallest, which measures 23m by 11m, to the largest which measures 45m by 23m. The eastern boundary of these fields runs parallel to the base of the low cliff, the cliff itself forms the western boundary. There are entrances in the eastern boundary wall to three of the four fields. To the east of the enclosure and field system there is a cairnfield consisting of upwards of ten cairns measuring between 2.5m to 7m in diameter and up to 0.5m high. These cairns are interpreted as representing field clearance as part of the preparation of the land for agriculture. A short distance to the north east of the prehistoric stock enclosure there is a medieval dispersed settlement of two periods with an associated field system. The house belonging to the first period measures 19.5m by 9.75m externally with walls surviving up to 0.3m high, and has opposed narrow central entrances in the long sides. The later medieval house was built within the ruins of the earlier house and measures 14m by 6.7m externally with walls surviving up to 0.3m high; it also has opposed narrow central entrances in the long sides. To the south east and north east there is an associated field system which includes two rectangular fields, two rectangular stock enclosures, an L-shaped stone wall running across virtually the full width of the terrace east of the low cliff, and traces of at least three small outbuildings or folds. At the northern end of the monument there is an early post-medieval dispersed settlement and associated field system consisting of an enclosure measuring c.76m by 71m, formed in part by natural features and by the walls of the earlier medieval field system. In the north west corner of this enclosure is a smaller irregular enclosure measuring 27m by 17m within which are the remains of a house measuring c.10m by 6m, situated in the angle where two hollow ways join. Two sub-rectangular folds at the southern end of the monument and a circular stone pig trough near the base of the low cliff are associated with this latter settlement. This post-medieval settlement had been abandoned by the late 18th century.

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: 27783

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 44-50
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Monuments Threatened or Destroyed, (1963), 12-13

End of official listing