Defended settlement and field boundary on Horsley Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 09280 66242

Reasons for Designation

During the mid-prehistoric period (seventh to fifth centuries BC) a variety of different types of defensive settlements began to be constructed and occupied in the northern uplands of England. The most obvious sites were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these a range of smaller sites, sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha and defined as defended settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others are found in less prominent positions. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction, some sites having a single bank and ditch (univallate), others having more than one (multivallate). At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Within the enclosure a number of stone or timber-built round houses were occupied by the inhabitants. Stock may also have been kept in these houses, especially during the cold winter months, or in enclosed yards outside them. The communities occupying these sites were probably single family groups, the defended settlements being used as farmsteads. Construction and use of this type of site extended over several centuries, possibly through to the early Romano-British period (mid to late first century AD). Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern of the northern uplands and are important for any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during this period. All well-preserved examples are believed to be of national importance.

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age to the end of the 5th century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. The field boundaries can take various forms (including dry stone walls, orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include entrances and track ways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which people utilized the fields over the years have been identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the field system. Field systems represent a coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time and can thus provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries. Those which survive well or which can be positively linked to associated settlements are considered to merit protection.

The defended settlement on Horsley Hill survives reasonably well and contains significant archaeological deposits. It is one of a small group of similar settlements in the Tyne valley and will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of Iron Age settlement and society in the region. The survival of an associated field boundary adds to the importance of the monument.


The monument includes a defended settlement of Iron Age date, situated in a prominent location on the highest part of Horsley Hill, where it commands extensive views in all directions. The settlement is visible as the remains of a roughly circular enclosure, 46m in diameter, within a slight stone and earth rampart. For much of its circuit, the rampart is visible as a slight scarp or as a low spread bank, but where it is best preserved on the north west side it measures a maximum of 9m wide and stands up to 0.5m high. An area of erosion on the north eastern side has revealed the stone core of the rampart. On the western side of the enclosure there are traces of a surrounding ditch measuring 7m wide which it is thought originally continued around the south side where it has become infilled. The northern and eastern sides of the enclosure are protected by natural slopes beyond the rampart. There is a clear entrance through the eastern side of the enclosure associated with a spread field boundary or trackway. This feature, which runs in an easterly direction for 16m, is thought to be part of a formerly more extensive field system.

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:


Books and journals
Tolan-Smith, M, Landscape Archaeology in Tynedale, (1997), 74
NZ06NE 17,


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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