Prehistoric settlement and burnt mound at Bleabeck Washfold


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


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric settlement and burnt mound at Bleabeck Washfold
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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 87295 27371

Reasons for Designation

Stone hut circles and hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers. Most date from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). The stone- based round-houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; the remains of the turf, thatch or heather roofs are not preserved. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may lie in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth or stone. Frequently traces of their associated field systems may be found immediately around them. These may be indicated by areas of clearance cairns and/or the remains of field walls and other enclosures. The longevity of use of hut circle settlements and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt (fire-crazed) stones, ash and charcoal, usually sited next to a river or lake. On excavation, some form of trough or basin capable of holding water is normally found in close association with the mound. The size of the mound can vary considerably; small examples may be under 0.5m high and less than 10m in diameter, larger examples may exceed 3m in height and be 35m in diameter. The shape of the mound ranges from circular to crescentic. The associated trough or basin may be found within the body of the mound, or, more usually, immediately adjacent to it. At sites which are crescentic in shape the trough is normally found within the `arms' of the crescent and the mound has the appearance of having developed around it. The main phase of use of burnt mounds spans the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age, a period of around 1000 years. The function of the mounds has been a matter of some debate, but it appears that cooking, using heated stones to boil water in a trough or tank, is the most likely use. Some excavated sites have revealed several phases of construction, indicating that individual sites were used more than once. Burnt mounds are found widely scattered throughout the British Isles, with around 100 examples identified in England. As a rare monument type which provides an insight into life in the Bronze Age, all well-preserved examples will normally be identified as nationally important. The prehistoric settlement at Bleabeck Washfeld survives well and is one of several prehistoric settlements in Upper Teesdale. It will add to knowledge relating to prehistoric settlement and land use in the uplands. The burnt mound also survives well and is one of several burnt mounds in Upper Teesdale. It will add to knowledge relating to burnt mounds and their role in Bronze Age society.


The monument includes a stone hut circle settlement and an adjacent burnt mound, situated on the west side of Bleabeck at Bleabeck Washfold. The settlement consists of at least two hut circles, a complex of interlocking enclosures, and the remains of a small rectangular building. The largest hut circle lies at the south west edge of the site, is 13m in diameter, and has a small annexe on its north side. The rubble walls of this hut circle are 2.5m wide and 0.6m high. To the south west is a smaller, less conspicuous hut circle 5m in diameter, the walls of which are visible as a slight stony crest. North east of the two hut circles is the complex of interlocking enclosures, which partly underlies the modern washfold. The rubble walls of the enclosures are similar to those of the larger hut circle, but have been partly robbed to provide stone for the modern washfold. A number of small hollows in this area may also be the result of this stone collecting. At the north east end of the site are the remains of a small rectangular building, 6m by 5m, with rubble walls 1m thick. This building may have been contemporary with the prehistoric settlement, or could represent a later, possibly medieval reuse of the site. South of the settlement there are indications that the course of Bleabeck has altered at some unknown date. Between the former and present courses of the beck is a burnt mound. This is visible as two grass covered heaps of burnt and cracked stone, with a hollow between the mounds. The smaller, southern mound is 6m by 3m and 1m high. The larger mound is 15m by 6m and 1m high. The hollow between the mounds is 2m wide. All modern walls and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features in 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:
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Books and journals
Coggins, D, Fairless, K, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in Durham Archaeological Journal, , Vol. Vol 11, (1995), 1-5


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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