Romano-British and medieval settlement, field system, cord rig cultivation, cairnfield and round cairn on Barracker Rigg


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016201

Date first listed: 07-Apr-1997


Ordnance survey map of Romano-British and medieval settlement, field system, cord rig cultivation, cairnfield and round cairn on Barracker Rigg
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Otterburn


National Grid Reference: NY 88040 97163, NY 88216 97972, NY 88345 97409, NY 88523 97599, NY 88606 97749


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.

Farmsteads, normally occupied by only one or two families and comprising small groups of buildings with attached yards, gardens and enclosures, were a characteristic of the medieval rural landscape. In some regions, particularly in northern areas, abandoned prehistoric and Roman enclosures were often re-occupied and adapted by the construction of additional, usually rectangular buildings. The sites of many farmsteads have been occupied down to the present day but others were abandoned as a result of, for example declining economic viability or epidemics like the Black Death. In the northern border areas, recurring cross-border raids and military activities also disrupted agricultural life and led to abandonments. A regular 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 varying 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. The fields were the primary unit of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. As rare monuments types 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 of varying size with formal boundaries but it also occurs in smaller irregular unenclosed plots varying between 30 to 60 square metres. Cord rig 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 in association 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 to the Roman period. Cord rig cultivation is known throughout the borders of England and Scotland but 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 in association with prehistoric or Romano-British settlements, will normally merit statutory protection.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age. They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mounds in stone-lined compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visible element in the modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrow of the lowlands. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone cleared from the surrounding land surface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occassion their distribution pattern 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, although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age. 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 organization during the prehistoric period.

The settlement, agricultural and funerary remains on Barracker Rigg are extremely well preserved and are good examples of their type. Taken together they will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric and Romano British settlement and agriculture.


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


The monument includes the remains of a settlement of Romano-British date re-occupied during the medieval period, an extensive field system containing cord rig cultivation associated with several field clearance cairns, a cairnfield and a substantial round cairn of Bronze Age date situated on gently sloping south facing slopes on Barracker Rigg. The monument is divided into five separate areas. The settlement, which is contained within the second area, includes a series of oval and sub circular enclosures and several associated circular dwelling houses forming three main complexes. The most northerly group consists of a large oval enclosure 15m by 12m within a stone wall 1.3m wide and standing to a maximum height of 1m. It has a clear entrance in the south east and a single adjoining circular house 9m in diameter surrounded by a wall of stone 1.6m wide and 0.5m high. A sub rectangular enclosure attached to the south east side of the main enclosure is thought to be a later addition. Situated immediately to the west there is a second large enclosure 45m by 17m within a stone wall. This enclosure is sub-divided and has three clear entrances; it contains a well preserved circular house 9m in diameter situated on an elevated platform. The third element consists of several irregular enclosures, the best defined ones being oval in shape and measuring 13m across. There are also at least two rectangular platforms 6m by 3m which are likely to be the bases for dwelling houses. These latter features are considered to represent re-occupation of the settlement in the medieval period and are probably contemporary with the later rectangular enclosure attached to the end of the first complex. The other remains conform to a type of Romano-British settlement identified in the Borders of northern England and southern Scotland where one or more circular houses have entrances which give direct access into large walled enclosures or forecourts.

Immediately west of the settlements there is an extensive field system containing cord rig cultivation which is contained within the first and third areas. The cord rig is visible as the remains of at least two large fields and several smaller plots of narrow, straight rigs running down slope on average 1.4m wide between the centres of the furrows and standing to a maximum height of 0.20m. The field system is visible as a series of low field walls on average 0.3m high and double walled track ways on average 5m wide, in many cases forming the boundaries of the fields of cord rig. The remains of at least four circular cairns of stone and earth, on average 0.6m in diameter and standing up to 0.9m high are interpreted as field clearance cairns associated with the cultivation of the area. In a prominent position above the Barracker Sike, on the northern edge of the fields of cultivation there is a large round cairn. It is composed of stone and earth and measures 12m east to west by 10.5m and stands to a maximum height of 0.7m. The mound has become spread and was originally circular in shape. The exact relationship of the cairn to the cord rig cultivation is unclear but it is likely to be an earlier feature of probable Bronze Age date. To the east of the Romano-British and medieval settlements, and on the east side of the range road, a plot of cord rig measuring 200m by 80m has been identified on aerial photographs and is contained within a fourth area. Some 400m north of the settlements on Barracker Rigg there are the remains of a cairnfield visible as the remains of at least 16 cairns of stone and earth. The cairnfield is contained within the fifth area. The cairns are circular and elongated in form and several are irregularly shaped. They vary in size but are on average 5m in diameter and stand to a maximum height of 0.8m; others are slightly larger up to 7m across and some are visible as low circular platforms. It is considered that the cairns indicate an area of ground clearance in preparation for agricultural use.

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: 25162

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
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)
Charlton, D B, Day, J C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 5 ser 6' in Excavation and Field Survey in Upper Redesdale, (1978), 61-86
Gates, T, 'Rural Settlement in the Roman North CBA GP 3' in Farming on the Frontier: R-B fields in Northumberland, , Vol. CBA GP3, (1982), 40
Topping, P, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Early Cultivation in Northumberland And The Borders, (1989), 161-180
Gates T, TMG 13968/74-9, 80-7, (1995)
Gates T, TMG 13968/74-9, 80-7, (1995)
Gates T, TMG 14743/75-6, (1995)
Neg No 1701/29, Gates, T, (1978)
NY89NE 12,
NY89NE 13,
NY89NE 16,

End of official listing