Prehistoric unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield 340m south west of triangulation point on Gains Law


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017954

Date first listed: 29-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield 340m south west of triangulation point on Gains Law
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1017954 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 12-Dec-2018 at 20:03:44.


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

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Akeld


National Grid Reference: NT 95498 27848


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

Reasons for Designation

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can only be identified by the artificial earthwork platforms created as level stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or indicated by groups of clearance cairns. Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but it is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the Early Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of enclosed and defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials. Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period, although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age. The considerable longevity and variation in the size, content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period. A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined fields of prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in a block or blocks which lie approximately at right angles to each other, usually with a settlement as a focal point. Fields are generally square or rectangular and the blocks give an ordered, if irregular shape to the field system as a whole. They are characteristically extensive monument types; the number of individual fields varies from 2 to approximately 50, but this is, at least in part, a reflection of bias in the archaeological record rather than the true extent of such land divisions during their period of use, as continued land use has often obliterated traces of the full extent of such field systems. The fields were the primary units of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. As rare monument types which provide an insight into land division and agricultural practice during their period of use all well preserved examples will normally be identified as nationally important. The prehistoric unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield south west of Gains Law are well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. They form part of a wider landscape of well preserved archaeological sites in the north Cheviots and will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of settlement and agriculture during this period.


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


The monument includes the remains of an unenclosed hut circle settlement and an associated field system, including field plots and a cairnfield. It is situated on a relatively level shelf of land, above a ravine, located on the lower south western slopes of Gains Law. The field plots, roughly rectangular in shape, are defined by low banks of earth and stone and by scarps terraced into the hillslope, both standing to a maximum height of 0.2m. At the northern end of the monument is a cairnfield which contains at least 15 field clearance cairns, some of which are connected by low stony banks defining the edge of a field plot. The cairns are generally circular in shape and measure up to 5.5m in diameter. Some of the cairns appear to be funerary in character with kerbs laid down to define their edge; the largest cairn stands up to 0.8m high with a kerb and a slight hollow in the centre, probably the result of robbing in the past. A cairnfield lies to the north beyond the field system described above, but its extent has not yet been established and it is therefore not included in the scheduling. The unenclosed settlement comprises three well preserved hut circles, each measuring 10m in diameter and formed by a bank of earth and stone between 1m and 2m wide; these banks stand between 0.3m and 0.5m high. Two of the hut circles lie within a field plot; the third lies at the eastern edge of the monument and lies on a platform terraced into the hillslope. A possible hut circle located near the entrance to a field plot was partially excavated in 1982 by C Burgess. This revealed a loose stone structure between 5m and 5.6m in diameter but which lacked a levelled foundation and contained no internal features such as postholes or indications of a doorway; this has lead to its interpretation as a stock pen.

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: 29338

Legacy System: RSM


NT 92 NE 101,
NT 92 NE 44,

End of official listing