Reasons for Designation
In Cumbria and Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlements
dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non-
defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. In many areas they were of stone
construction, although in the coastal lowlands timber-built variants were also
common. In much of Northumberland, especially in the Cheviots, the enclosures
were curvilinear in form. Further south a rectangular form was more common.
Elsewhere, especially near the Scottish border, another type occurs where the
settlement enclosure was `scooped' into the hillslope. Frequently the
enclosures reveal a regularity and similarity of internal layout. The standard
layout included one or more stone round-houses situated towards the rear of
the enclosure, facing the single entranceway. In front of the houses were
pathways and small enclosed yards. Homesteads normally had only one or two
houses, but larger enclosures could contain as many as six. At some sites the
settlement appears to have grown, often with houses spilling out of the main
enclosure and clustered around it. At these sites up to 30 houses may be
found. In the Cumbrian uplands the settlements were of less regimented form
and unenclosed clusters of houses of broadly contemporary date are also known.
These homesteads were being constructed and used by non-Roman natives
throughout the period of the Roman occupation. Their origins lie in settlement
forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. These homesteads are common
throughout the uplands where they frequently survive as well-preserved
earthworks. In lowland coastal areas they were also originally common,
although there they can frequently only be located through aerial photography.
All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be
identified as nationally important.
Primitive iron smelting sites can date from the Iron Age to the end of the
medieval period (500 BC-AD 1500). The evidence for early iron smelting often
consists of a heap of iron rich slag. Medieval iron smelting sites are
frequently found near streams and are known as bloomeries. In the bloomeries
iron ore was fired to about 1200 degrees Centigrade, using charcoal as fuel.
This caused a chemical reaction, producing a mass of iron called a bloom,
which was then hammered to remove any residual slag. Bloomeries were usually
located close to a source of wood for charcoal making. The charcoal used in
bloomeries was made by burning wood with a limited supply of air. This was
done by stacking the wood either in a pit or on a platform, and by limiting
the air supply by covering the stack with earth or turf. Until about 1450
charcoal was made in pits; around that time charcoal-making evolved into a
larger scale process and charcoal was made in larger quantities, on platforms.
The Roman period native settlement between Bleabeck Force and the Tees
survives well, and it is one of several Romano-British settlements in Upper
Teesdale. Their form and distribution will add to knowledge relating to
Romano-British settlement and land use in upland areas.
The bloomery also survives well, and will make a significant contribution to
the study of the early iron industry in Upper Teesdale.
The monument includes a Roman period native settlement and a bloomery iron
smelting site at Bleabeck Foot in Upper Teesdale. The Roman period native
settlement is situated on the steep slope south of the Pennine Way, on the
east side of Bleabeck and the wall known as Fell Dike. The settlement consists
of a rubble-banked enclosure, containing three hut circles, and two additional
hut circles which lie outside the enclosure, on flatter ground between the
enclosure and Fell Dike. Also included in the monument is a curving stretch of
rubble-bank on steep ground south west of the settlement enclosure.
The enclosure measures 23m in diameter. The walls are stony banks, up to 2m
wide and 0.6m high, incorporating several large boulders. The hut circles
within are each 7m in diameter and have rubble-bank walls up to 2m wide and
0.6m high. The two hut circles outside are visible as circular level areas
with a stony crest on the uphill side. The curving stretch of rubble-bank is
up to 2m wide and 0.6m high, and appears to be slighted by a later track.
The bloomery is 8m ENE of Bleabeck Force, on a steep slope south of the
settlement. The bloomery is visible as a spread of iron slag below the natural
terrace, indicating that the bloomery hearth was on the terrace. The hearth
will survive as buried remains below the ground surface.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.