Bronze Age unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield, 630m south west of triangulation point on Gains Law


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017956

Date first listed: 29-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of Bronze Age unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield, 630m south west of triangulation point on Gains Law
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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 95013 27807


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 earliest 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 vary from two 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 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 Bronze Age unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield on the south eastern slopes of Black Law survive in good condition despite a limited amount of excavation. Excavation has provided dating evidence to the Early Bronze Age and demonstrated the survival of significant archaeological deposits. The monument is one of a group of Bronze Age settlements and field systems situated at the head of the valley of the Humbleton Burn. It forms 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.


This monument includes an unenclosed hut circle settlement and an associated field system comprising a cairnfield, cultivation terraces and field plots. The remains survive as upstanding earthworks on the gentle south east slopes of Black Law above a deeply cut ravine. The settlement and field system have been surveyed and partially excavated by C Burgess between 1979 and 1982 and are believed to date to the Early and Middle Bronze Age. Burgess proposed three main phases of agricultural activity beginning with clearance cairns, followed by lyncheted terraces and finally large irregular fields defined by stone banks; some of the houses overlie field banks and are believed to have a chronological sequence from south (earliest) to north (latest). They are accompanied by features interpreted as stock pens and farmyards. The unenclosed settlement comprises at least seven houses scattered along the foot of a distinct break in slope. They survive as circular banks, on average 1.5m wide and up to 0.5m high, and several are terraced into the foot of the slope. The largest hut circle is 10m across and was partially excavated by Burgess, revealing a stone structure superimposed on an earlier timber house and a still earlier posthole structure. Early Bronze Age pottery sherds were recovered from the house and the adjacent field. The associated field system comprises a cairnfield of at least 50 clearance cairns situated in the southern part of the monument. The cairns range in size, the largest measuring 5m by 6m and standing 0.5m high, and appear to be a mixture of clearance and probable burial cairns, including a possible ring cairn. Some cairns have evidence of a kerbed edge and some have a hollow in the centre, suggesting possible antiquarian investigations. One cairn was excavated by Burgess and revealed two grave pits, one of which contained a pottery vessel. The northernmost of these cairns are incorporated into the lynchets of a system of narrow terraces which lie across the central area of the monument. To the north of these terraces a series of field banks, around 2.5m wide and up to 0.2m high, are interpreted as the latest phase of agricultural activity on the site and show evidence of plough agriculture through the formation of lynchets at some of the field margins. The post and wire fence along the eastern side of the monument and the stone wall at the western side of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

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: 29340

Legacy System: RSM


NT 92 NE 84,
NT 92 NE 92,

End of official listing