Prehistoric cairnfield and unenclosed settlement, Romano-British village and field system and medieval field system on north east slopes of Brands Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric cairnfield and unenclosed settlement, Romano-British village and field system and medieval field system on north east slopes of Brands Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. 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 98014 24605

Reasons for Designation

Romano-British aggregate villages are nucleated settlements formed by groups of five or more subsistence level farmsteads enclosed either indivdually or collectively, or with no formal boundary. Most enclosures, where they occur, are formed by curvilinear walls or banks, sometimes surrounded by ditches, and the dwellings are usually associated with pits, stock enclosures, cultivation plots and field systems, indicating a mixed farming economy. In use throughout the Roman period (c.43-450 AD), they often occupied sites of earlier agricultural settlements. Romano-British aggregate villages are a very rare monument type with examples recorded in the north of England and on the chalk downlands of Wessex and Sussex. Their degree of survival will depend upon the intensity of subsequent land use. In view of their rarity, all positively identified examples with surviving remains are considered to merit 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 landsurface to improve its use for agriculture. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated. The majority of clearance cairns appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). Cairnfields are sometimes found in association with unenclosed hut circles. These were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers and have been shown to date to the Bronze Age, although they were still being constructed and used in the early Iron Age. Both cairnfields and unenclosed hut circles provide information on the development of land use and agricultural practices and also on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period. Medieval cultivation systems, when in association with a known medieval settlement, will provide important information on the nature and diversity of medieval farming economy. The prehistoric, Romano-British and medieval remains on the north east slope of Brands Hill represent a complex and extremely well preserved archaeological landscape. The main components of this landscape will contain significant archaeological deposits. They form part of a wider archaeological landscape on Brands Hill of prehistoric, Roman and medieval date and, as such, will be important in any study of the wider settlement pattern during these periods.


The monument includes a prehistoric cairnfield and associated unenclosed settlement, a Romano-British village and field system and a medieval field system. It is located on the gentle north east slope of Brands Hill, overlooking Coldgate Water. A spring feeding the Coldgate Water rises on the north west edge of the settlement. The Romano-British village comprises five dispersed enclosed settlements. The village is enclosed on the south, west and east sides by a sinuous earth and rubble bank, up to 5m wide and up to 1m high. The northern edge of the village is defined by break in slope as the land falls away to the river valley below. The five settlements vary in size, construction and complexity. They range from a simple sub-rectangular enclosure with a single house platform to an irregular enclosure containing the foundations of at least nine round houses. This latter enclosure, which lies on the south west edge of the settlement, shows clear evidence of expansion, with additional enclosure banks and round houses added to the northern edge of the original settlement. Four of the settlements are at least partly enclosed by substantial earth and stone banks up to 5m wide and 2m high; several of these banks contain large upright stones, or orthostats, of pink sandstone which appear to be purely for decorative effect. The entrances, which all face east, are defined by large boulders or orthostats and the remains of a paved entranceway is visible in at least one. The fifth enclosure is scooped into the hillside to a depth of approximately 1.5m and has a slight enclosure bank on the east side. The five enclosures contain a total of at least 22 dwellings, visible as stone foundations for circular houses. Most of these dwellings are ranged along the east edge of their enclosures and overlook scooped courtyards. Traces of internal dividing banks are also visible in some of the enclosures. The settlements are associated with a series of field plots and trackways. The field plots are rectangular and aligned roughly east-west. The plots are defined by low stone banks and lynchets. The remains of other banks which do not clearly define plots are also present. Some of the banks incorporate clearance cairns. At least one trackway runs through the field system and a second links the two settlement enclosures on the south west edge of the village and extends westwards as far as the outer village enclosure bank. This latter track is up to 5m wide and is defined by a bank up to 0.5m high and containing large boulders and orthostats. The western entrance of the track is defined by two very large boulders. The field system is overlain by a medieval field system of ridge and furrow which is believed to be associated with the nearby deserted medieval village of Middleton Old Town. The layout of the medieval field system was conditioned by the pre-existing Romano-British field plots and so has allowed their preservation. The remains of activity which predates the Romano-British village survives on the periphery of the site, in the areas where the medieval ploughing has not extended. This comprises a number of cairns, mostly on the north east, south and south west edges of the settlement; a more extensive area of cairns and slight field banks lies to the south of the southern village enclosure bank. The majority of the cairns appear to be clearance cairns but on the north east edge of the settlement are the remains of at least three funerary cairns. One of these funerary cairns was partly excavated c.1949 and the remains of two cists are clearly visible. The other two cairns are ring cairns up to 5m in diameter and surviving up to 0.5m high. Also surviving in this north east part of the site are the stone foundations of at least two unenclosed prehistoric round houses and two small D-shaped enclosures with internal dividing walls. A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling; these are a modern post and wire fence and a drystone wall, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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:


1:1250, Gates, T, Brands Hill North, (1979)
Gates, T, Brands Hill North measured survey at 1:1250, unpublished survey for SMR
Gates, T, Brands Hill North, (1980)


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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