A palisaded hilltop enclosure, a carved rock and a small enclosure, 480m north west of Brier Dykes, Baldersdale


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.

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 94824 19926

Reasons for Designation

A palisaded hilltop enclosure is a small defended site of domestic function dating to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age (c.550-440 BC). Their distribution is largely restricted to north-eastern England, the Borders and southern Scotland. They are generally located on spurs, promontories or hilltops covering areas of less than 0.4ha. The boundaries of these sites are marked by single or double rock-cut trenches which originally formed the settings for substantial palisades. Remains of circular buildings are found within the palisaded areas, along with evidence for fenced stock enclosures. Palisaded sites are the earliest type of defended settlements recorded in the area and are thought to be a product of increasingly unsettled social conditions in the later prehistoric period. They imply an extensive use of timber, confirmation that large areas were heavily wooded at this time. Although the palisades at individual sites may have undergone several phases of replacement or refurbishment it is thought that the tradition of building this type of site spanned only around 150 years. After this the use of earthen banks and ditches to form the defensive perimeter became more common. Excavation has demonstrated that at several sites the earthen defences were preceded by timber palisades. Palisaded enclosures are a rare monument type with fewer than 200 known examples. They are an important element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern and are important for any study of the developing use of defended settlements during the later prehistoric period. All identified surviving examples are believed to be nationally important.

Prehistoric rock carving is found on natural boulders and rock outcrops in many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland, Durham, and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the `cup' marking, where small cup-like hollows are worked into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more `rings'. Single pecked lines extending from the cup through the rings may also exist, providing the design with a `tail'. Other shapes and patterns also occur but are less frequent. Carvings may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. They date to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (2800-c.500 BC) and provide one of our most important insights into prehistoric `art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. All positively identified prehistoric rock carvings sites will normally be identified as nationally important. The carved rock, the palisaded enclosure and the associated small enclosure 480m north west of Brier Dykes survive well and form an important part of the prehistoric landscape on the north side of Baldersdale, which includes other carved rocks and evidence of prehistoric land use and settlement.


The monument includes a palisaded hilltop enclosure, a prehistoric carved rock, and a small enclosure on the north side of Baldersdale, 480m north west of Brier Dykes. The visible remains of the palisaded enclosure consist of a slight bank and an external ditch, forming a parallelogram with rounded corners, 85m by 85m. The bank is typically 0.2m to 0.3m high and 3m wide, the ditch being present as a slight dip. Excavations in 1982 revealed evidence for a timber palisade in the enclosure ditch, and an arc of postholes in the interior may have been part of a hut circle. On the east side of the enclosure there is a slight earthern bank parallel to the main enclosure boundary, which suggests a double palisade on this side. The carved rock is situated in the break of slope which forms the south east edge of the palisaded enclosure. The rock is partly covered by turf, and the visible part measures 1m by 0.5m by 0.1m. The carving consists of two cups. The small enclosure is trapezoidal and is situated on slightly lower ground on the east side of the palisaded hilltop enclosure. It measures 20m by 36m and is bounded by a bank, 2.5m wide and 0.4m high, with an external ditch, except on the south side where the remains of the bank are less substantial.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Fairless, K, Coggins, D, Brier Dykes, (1982)
Fairless, K, Coggins, D, Brier Dykes, (1982)


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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