Roman period native settlements, field system and medieval shieling on the east slope of Brands Hill, 550m west of Middleton Old Town


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Roman period native settlements, field system and medieval shieling on the east slope of Brands Hill, 550m west of Middleton Old Town
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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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:
NT 98547 23895

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 irrgegular, shape to the field system as a whole. The fields were the primary unit of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. They are 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 to be of national importance. Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here. The Roman period native settlements and associated enclosures and paddocks on the east slope of Brands Hill are well preserved and will contain significant archaeological deposits. The shieling, hollow way and remains of medieval cultivation will contain important information about how the site was exploited in the medieval period. Both the Roman period native settlement and the medieval remains form part of a wider archaeological landscape and will contribute to the study of the wider settlement pattern during this period.


The monument includes a native settlement and field system dating to the Roman period and a medieval shieling. It is situated on a level plateau on the east slope of Brands Hill and is overlooked by higher ground to the north west. The settlement comprises two enclosed settlements, two embanked enclosures, possibly for stock, and the remains of four small enclosed fields or paddocks laid out in a linear fashion following the contour of the hill. The southernmost settlement comprises a sub-oval enclosure, 32m by 45m, defined by a bank of earth and stone, 3m wide and up to 1m high, and with an entrance on the east side. The interior of the enclosure contains the circular foundations of two prehistoric houses; the entrances to both houses face east and open onto a raised level platform, 9m by 8m, which overlooks a scooped courtyard. This settlement is situated within a small, irregular field plot or paddock defined by a low rubble and earth bank. Parts of this paddock are visible on the ground and the whole is clearly visible on aerial photographs. Immediately to the north west of this settlement is an oval enclosure, 15m by 21m, defined by an outer bank 3m wide and up to 0.4m high. The interior of the enclosure is divided by a slight bank, 2m wide, aligned east-west. The circular foundations of a prehistoric house are attached to the outer bank of the enclosure on the north west corner. Approximately 5m to the north of this lies a second enclosure, oval in shape and measuring 12m by 10m. It is defined by a bank 3m wide and up to 0.7m high, the outer face of which is defined by massive earthfast boulders. The entrance faces east. The interior of the enclosure is higher than the exterior, forming a slightly raised platform. On the south side of this enclosure are the remains of a small L-shaped enclosure or annexe, with remains of a low bank extending southwards from it. On the north side, the remains of a slight bank partially enclosing the main enclosure bank, but on a slightly different alignment, appear to represent the remains of an earlier structure. To the east and north east of the two enclosures are two irregularly shaped paddocks defined by low banks of rubble and earth up to 2.5m wide and 0.4m high. The eastern bank of the paddocks is more robustly constructed, up to 4m wide and 1m high, and this may represent a later, probably medieval, enhancement of an earlier feature. The northern paddock contains the stone foundations of an unenclosed prehistoric round house and the foundations of two rectangular buildings, interpreted as the remains of medieval shielings. Immediately to the north of the two paddocks lies the remains of the second enclosed settlement. This comprises a sub-rectangular enclosure, 28m by 32m, defined on the south, west and east sides by a substantial outer bank up to 5m wide and 1.5m high. The entrance to the enclosure is on the south east side and is marked by a large upright stone. The northern end of the enclosure has been scooped into the hillside to a depth of 2.5m. There are slight traces of an exterior bank on this side. In the north west corner of the enclosure are the stone foundations of a prehistoric roundhouse, 9m in diameter, and the possible remains of a hut platform. The enclosure lies within a further small paddock. The eastern edge of the paddock is defined by a low rubble and stone bank, the western edge comprises a stone revetted bank, 0.75m high, enclosing ground which appears to have been artificially raised to create a level platform. The northern edge of the paddock would have extended beyond the modern drystone wall, but the land to the north of this has been improved and there is no visible evidence of any remains in this area. The land immediately to the north of the drystone wall has therefore not been included within the scheduling. In the south east corner of the site are the slight remains of medieval ridge and furrow associated with the medieval village of Middleton Old Town and a hollow way skirts the southern edge of the site. These remains are included in the scheduling as they will contain important information about the relationship between the prehistoric and medieval remains in this area. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are dry stone walls and post and wire fence defining the north edge of the site, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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


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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.

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