Prehistoric enclosure, associated field system, cairnfield, round houses and medieval shielings on E and SE slopes of Brands Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016239

Date first listed: 18-Jun-1973

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Jan-1998


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric enclosure, associated field system, cairnfield, round houses and medieval shielings on E and SE slopes of Brands Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Ilderton


National Grid Reference: NT 98002 23642


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

Reasons for Designation

In the uplands of Northern England a wide variety of prehistoric enclosures can be found. These range from relatively large, rectangular enclosures with earth and stone banks, to smaller, irregular areas enclosed by rubble and boulder walls. Most are dated to the Bronze Age, Iron Age or early Romano- British period (2000BC-200AD). They were constructed as stock pens, or as protected areas for crop growing and were sometimes subdivided to accomodate animal shelters and hut circles for farmers or herders. Their variation in form, longevity and relationship to other monument classes provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and landuse among prehistoric communities. Irregular aggregate field systems are groups of contiguous fieldplots of prehistoric or Roman date. They are visible as irregular clusters of low, curving earthworks, rarely covering more than 10ha overall. They formed part of a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. They are a rare monument type and 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. Such field systems may be found in association with cairnfields. 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 landsurface to improve its use for agriculture. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated. 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 (2000-700BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the 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. Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on uplands. Shielings are reasonably common but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here. The enclosure, hut circles, cairnfield, irregular aggregate field system and shieling on the east and south east slopes of Brands Hill form a well preserved and unusually complex archaeological landscape. They will retain important archaeological information in terms of both significant archaeological deposits and of spatial relationships between the various components. They are part of a group of broadly contemporary settlements and field systems on the slopes of Brands Hill whose archaeological remains survive well. They form part of a wider archaeological landscape and will contribute to any study of the settlement pattern during these periods.


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


The monument includes an enclosure, unenclosed round houses and associated field systems and cairnfield dating to the prehistoric period. It also includes a medieval shieling. The enclosure is situated on a natural level platform on the south east face of the hill. The associated field system and cairnfield extend eastwards on gently sloping ground. A deep natural gulley forms the south western boundary of the site. The enclosure is oval in shape and measures 40m by 45m. It is defined by thick drystone walls up to 8m wide and 1.5m high. The enclosure wall is overlain by a later sheepfold but the remains of the earlier wall are visible within the collapsed walls of the sheepfold. The original enclosure wall can be seen to have been 4m wide and survives up to a height of 0.4m. It has an inner and outer face of large stones and the core is filled with small rubble. Immediately to the east of the enclosure are the remains of two long, narrow rectangular buildings which are interpreted as shielings. The enclosure is surrounded by an extensive cairnfield which covers an area of at least 480m by 370m. The cairns range in size from 2m to 5m in diameter and are up to 0.4m high. The majority of the cairns appear to be associated with field clearance resulting from the agricultural activity taking place around the enclosure. However, there are several cairns which appear to be funerary in origin and would have functioned as burial mounds. These cairns are located on the outer limits of the cairnfield. One funerary cairn, located near the southern edge of the cairnfield, appears to be a ring cairn. It is 5m in diameter and the outer bank, which is 0.3m high and has clearly visible kerb stones, encloses a central area 1.5m in diameter. A further set of at least five cairns lie on the very eastern limit of the cairnfield, separated from it by a steep break in slope. These cairns are larger than the others and occupy a plateau of level ground which overlooks ground sloping away more steeply to the east. One is situated on an enhanced natural knoll; their appearance and siting also suggest a funerary function. Within the cairnfield lies the field system, which comprises three distinct irregular clusters of field plots and a number of other field banks. The field plots are mostly rectangular or sub-rectangular in shape and are aligned roughly north-south along the contour of the hill. There are at least eight clearly defined plots, with an average size of 40m by 30m. They are defined by slightly sinuous field banks, up to 1.5m wide and o.3m high or by lynchets up to 0.4m high. To the north east of the northernmost cluster of field plots lies an area, defined on the south side by lynchets, which has been completely cleared of stone and has a smooth appearance. Such areas have been interpreted elsewhere in the Cheviots as areas prepared for cultivation. The stone foundations of at least two unenclosed prehistoric round houses lie adjacent to the field plots. The post and wire fence and a dry stone wall which bound the monument are excluded from the scheduling.

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: 29330

Legacy System: RSM


Gates, T, Survey of settlement on Brands Hill at 1:1250, 1979, unpublished, for SMR enhancement
Sites and Monuments Record, Northumberland, (1969)

End of official listing