Shielings and later farmstead on Cock Law, 600m north west of Horseholme


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017724

Date first listed: 12-Mar-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Feb-1998


Ordnance survey map of Shielings and later farmstead on Cock Law, 600m north west of Horseholme
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle (District Authority)

Parish: Kingwater

National Grid Reference: NY 66325 71416


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

Reasons for Designation

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 (c.2000-700 BC) onwards. However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval period onwards (from AD 450), 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, although occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two roomed examples are known. 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.

The system of summer transhumance or shielding survived until its decline in the 17th century in many areas of Northern England. By the mid-18th century it had been replaced by permanent farmsteads. The decline in shielding was largely due to the inefficient nature of a largely pastoral economy which demanded the evacuation of the winter settlements for several months. More efficient systems of pasture management were introduced which in some places resulted in summer pasturing giving way to all year occupation. The permanent farmsteads which resulted are similar to shielings in form and construction, although the later houses are often larger. Permanent farmsteads are distinguished from shielings by the fact that they stand alone and are usually accompanied by enclosures for the penning of cattle. They frequently also have circular or rectangular stack stands upon which winter fodder was stored and some have small plots containing spade dug cultivation or lazy beds. Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. The borders local region comprises the great slope of land between the high Cheviots and Solway, where hamlets and scattered farmsteads predominate, and where bastles and tower houses recall the social conditions of the Anglo- Scottish borders before the mid-7th century. The eastern part of the region, containing the wastes of the Bewcastle Fells and Spadeadam, can be seen as a separate subdivision; it was occupied by shieling grounds during the Middle Ages and the Tudor period, and preserves the remains of associated settlement sites. The farmstead on Cock Law is well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. It is a fine example of a farmstead of this date and its importance is enhanced by its association with medieval shielings, from which it is thought to have developed.


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


The monument includes the remains of a farmstead of post-medieval date, situated on the summit of a ridge. The farmstead, which is oriented east to west, is visible as the turf foundations of an enclosure which measures 101m east to west by 37m north to south; a later extension on its western side measures 84m by 46m. The walls of the enclosure are on average 1.5m wide and stand to a maximum height of 0.7m. Within the original eastern part of the enclosure there are the remains of four rectangular buildings of turf construction with walls standing to a maximum height of 1m. Three of the buildings are oriented east to west. The most westerly measures 7.6m by 4m and, situated some 5m to the east, the second building measures 9m by 5m with a small straight sided annexe attached to its eastern side. Some 60m further west are the remains of the third building, measuring 8m by 5m, which also has a straight ended annexe attached to its eastern end. The fourth building, which measures 6m by 3.7m, is situated to the north of the others and is oriented north to south. Within the secondary western extension there is a single building oriented east to west and measuring 10.7m by 6.1m. It also has a straight sided annexe attached to its eastern side. Exploratory excavation at the farmstead in 1960 unearthed a 17th century clay pipe bowl. The farmstead is situated within the area known to be the medieval shieling grounds or summer pastures of the tenants of Brampton and it is thought that the farmstead and the internal buildings developed from earlier shielings situated in this area.

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: 25138

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 44-47

End of official listing