Unenclosed hut circle settlement, two round cairns, medieval transhumance settlement and two pillow mounds, 360m south east of Rey Cross Roman camp


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016468

Date first listed: 02-Jul-1999


Ordnance survey map of Unenclosed hut circle settlement, two round cairns, medieval transhumance settlement and two pillow mounds, 360m south east of Rey Cross Roman camp
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1016468 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 16-Jan-2019 at 08:09:23.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Bowes

National Grid Reference: NY 90240 12091


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

Reasons for Designation

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can only be identified by the artificial earthwork platforms created as level stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or indicated by groups of clearance cairns. Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but it is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the Early Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of enclosed and defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrows of the lowlands. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity 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. Shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or marshland. These huts reflect a system called transhumance, whereby stock was moved in spring from lowland pasture around the permanently occupied farms to communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns reflecting transhumance, are known from the Bronze Age onwards. However, the construction of herdsmens huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling of farms only appears from the early medieval period onwards, when the practice of transhumance is also known from documentary sources and, notably, place-name studies. Their construction appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. Shielings vary in size but are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups. They have a simple sub-rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling. Some examples have adjacent ancillary structures, such as pens and may be associated with a midden. Some are also contained within a small ovoid enclosure. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here. Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important. A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction of rabbits from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of purpose built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries. The mounds vary in design, although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into the underlying subsoil or bedrock. A typical warren may contain between one and 40 pillow mounds and occupy an area up to 600ha. Early warrens were mostly associated with the higher levels of society; however, they gradually spread in popularity, so that by the 16th and 17th centuries they were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the country. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and ecclesiastical estates. All well preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of protection. A sample of well preserved sites of later date will also merit protection. The prehistoric and medieval settlements 360m south east of Rey Cross Roman camp are well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. They represent the physical remains of transhumance in the Stainmore Pass spanning a period of five millennia and will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of seasonal settlement in the region.


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


The monument includes the remains of a hut-circle settlement and two round cairns of prehistoric date, a seasonally occupied medieval and post-medieval settlement and two pillow mounds, situated on a sheltered, south facing terrace in the valley of the River Greta. The complex is also in the Stainmore Pass immediately below the steep escarpment upon which the Rey Cross Roman camp is situated. All year round settlement in this area is thought to have been unlikely and all the remains are thought to represent seasonal or periodic occupation. The hut circle settlement is visible as the remains of at least six circular stone founded houses and at least four sub-circular enclosures scattered along the length of the undulating terrace. The hut circles vary in diameter between 5m and 11m and on average stand 0.5m high with walls up to 1.5m thick. The most prominent hut circle, which is situated near the north western corner of the settlement, stands alone upon the top of a low rise. Some 30m to the east there is a second hut circle attached to a larger oval enclosure, the latter sub-divided by a low wall, and a third hut circle also with an adjoining enclosure is visible 9m to the south east. Two sub-circular mounds of stone thought to be the remains of two round cairns are situated some 30m south east of the hut circles at the centre of the monument. The most westerly of the two cairns, which is situated on a low knoll, is sub-circular in shape and measures 4m by 5m across. The second cairn, some 30m east of the first, measures 11m by 8m. This cairn has been incorporated into a group of later structures which it is thought were constructed upon the central area of the hut circle settlement. The later group of structures are thought to represent seasonally occupied medieval or post-medieval settlement and include the remains of two rectilinear buildings and a larger rectilinear yard or paddock; a series of discontinuous stone walls link the structures, giving the appearance of a surrounding enclosure. The walls also extend beyond the complex to the south. To the east of this complex, and at the eastern end of the monument, there are further remains of the hut circle settlement, including a well-defined, prehistoric hut circle and a larger sub-circular enclosure. Some 20m beyond the latter to the east are the remains of two further conjoining hut circles or enclosures. At the western end and at the north eastern periphery of the monument there are two well preserved mounds of stone and earth which have been interpreted as the remains of pillow mounds representing the remains of a rabbit warren. The first and most westerly mound measures 4m wide and is 25m long and 0.5m high; it is flanked by parallel ditches 1m wide. The second mound measures 3m wide and is is 15m long. At the extreme north western end of the monument, immediately west of the isolated hut circle, further remains of stone structures, some rectangular in form, are visible; these are thought to represent a later stage in the development of the medieval settlement. One of these structures, a circular stone mound, 10m in diameter, is thought to represent the remains of a kiln.

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: 32714

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Vyner, et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass, (1998)
Vyner. et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass (Draft), 1998,
Vyner. et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass (Draft), 1998,

End of official listing