Stone circle, defended settlement, Romano-British farmstead and field system, Roman camp and group of shielings immediately south of Greenlee Lough


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Stone circle, defended settlement, Romano-British farmstead and field system, Roman camp and group of shielings immediately south of Greenlee Lough
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Bardon Mill
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 77536 69532

Reasons for Designation

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were carefully designed and laid out, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. A small stone circle comprises a regular or irregular ring of between 7 and 16 stones with a diameter of between 4 and 20 metres. They are widespread throughout England although clusters are found on Dartmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, in the Peak District and in the uplands of Cumbria and Northumberland. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England, over 100 are examples of small stone circles. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

During the later prehistoric period (seventh to fifth centuries BC) a variety of types of defensive settlements were constructed and occupied in the northern uplands. At the smaller end of the size range were defensive settlements; some were located on hilltops and others are found in less prominent positions. The banks and ditches for defence were of earthen construction. Within the enclosure a number of stone or timber-built round houses were occupied by the inhabitants, and their stock during the cold winter months. Defended settlements were occupied by small family groups who used them as farmsteads. They are a rare monument type and were an important element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern. All well preserved examples are considered to be of national importance. In 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 the enclosures were curvilinear in form while in the southern part of the county a rectangular form was more common. Frequently, the enclosures reveal a regularity of internal layout with one or more round-houses situated towards the rear of the enclosure, facing the single entrance. These homesteads were being constructed and used by non-Roman natives during the period of the Roman occupation although their origins lie in settlement forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important. Cord rig is the term used to describe a form of prehistoric cultivation in which crops were grown on narrow ridges subdivided by furrows. Cord rig is frequently arranged in fields with formal boundaries but also occurs in smaller, irregular unenclosed plots. It often extends over considerable areas and is often found in association with a range of prehistoric settlement sites. It generally survives as a series of slight earthworks and is frequently first discovered on aerial photographs, but it has also been identified beneath several parts of Hadrian's Wall by excavation of marks created by an ard (a simple early wooden plough). The evidence of excavation and the study of associated monuments demonstrates that cord rig cultivation spans the period from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period. The discovery of cord rig cultivation is of importance for the analysis of prehistoric settlement and agriculture as it provides insights into early agricultural practice and the division and use of the landscape. Less than 100 examples of cord rig cultivation have been identified in England. As a rare monument type all well preserved examples, particularly where they are immediately associated with prehistoric or Romano-British settlements, will normally be identified as nationally important. Roman camps are rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures which were constructed and used by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as practice camps. They were bounded by a single earthen rampart and outer ditch and in plan are always straight-sided with rounded corners. Normally they have between one and four entrances which were usually centrally placed in the sides of the camp and were often protected by additional defensive outworks. Roman camps are found throughout much of England, although most known examples lie in the midlands and north. Around 140 examples have been identified and, particularly in hostile upland and frontier areas, they provide an important insight into Roman military strategy and organisation. All well preserved examples are identified as being of national importance. 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 around the permanently occupied farms to communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. The construction of specialised transhumance huts is known from the early medieval period onwards (from AD 450), when the practice is also known from documentary sources, in particular place-names. Shielings vary in size but are commonly small and occur singly or in groups. They are normally sub-rectangular in shape, defined by drystone walling, although occasional turf-built structures are known. Both one and two roomed examples are known. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice. Those examples which survive well and help illustrate medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important. The prehistoric, Roman and medieval complex south of Greenlee Lough is well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. The complex provides evidence for occupation, on a seasonal or permanent basis, which spans more than five thousand years. Taken as a whole, the monument will add greatly to our understanding of settlement and activity in the area during this time.


The monument includes the remains of a stone circle of Bronze Age date, a defended settlement of Iron Age date, a farmstead and field system of Iron Age/Romano-British date, a Roman camp and the remains of at least 15 shielings of medieval date, situated on the south facing slope of a rocky escarpment, above the southern shore of Greenlee Lough. At the extreme north east side of the monument there are the remains of a stone circle 16m in diameter. The circle contains at least 14 stones, four of which are large sandstone boulders standing from 0.7m to 1.1m high. The ten smaller stones all stand to a maximum height of 0.3m. Within the south western part of the stone circle there is a small circular mound of stone and earth standing to a height of 0.1m. The defended settlement, which is situated immediately north west of the stone circle, has been constructed against the northern edge of the cliff which affords natural defence on this side. The settlement is roughly rectangular in shape and measures a maximum of 48m east to west by 38m north to south, within a broad ditch on average 4m wide and 1m deep. Outside the ditch there is a substantial rampart between 4m to 6m wide and standing to a maximum height of 1.2m. At the extreme western end of the monument are the well preserved remains of a farmstead thought to be of Romano-British date. The farmstead, which is roughly circular in shape, measures 26m in diameter within a slight bank of stone and earth on average 2m wide and 0.3m high. Within the enclosure the scarps and banks of several earthwork features are visible, some of which are thought to be contemporary with the farmstead and represent the remains of habitation. To the north and south of the Romano-British settlement, are the remains of an associated field system. The field system is visible as a series of linear banks of earth oriented north to south which divide the area into small enclosures or fields. Within the fields there are areas of prehistoric cultivation or cord rig visible as slight ridges on average 0.1m high. The ridges are separated by narrow furrows visible as vegetation marks. Five small areas of the field system were excavated between 1983 and 1985; these excavations demonstrated that not only was cord rig present within areas of the field system where it was not visible as an earthwork, but that it also survived beneath the surface remains of later 18th century cultivation. It was also shown that the cord rig field system had undergone at least one period of reorganisation during its use. In addition, one of the excavations showed that the linear field boundaries were later in date than the cord rig as cord rig survived beneath one of the boundaries. A hollow way, with banks on either side 0.5m high and 1.5m wide, is visible running from the eastern side of the enclosure for at least 170m. This hollow way is thought to be contemporary with the farmstead and its field system and gave access for people and beasts through the enclosed fields. Some 80m east of the Romano-British farmstead, a Roman camp has been constructed over part of the associated field system. The camp, which is roughly, though not exactly rectangular in shape, measures 142m from north west to south east and 118m from south west to north east. The enclosing rampart stands to a maximum height of 0.6m and is up to 3m wide. The surrounding ditch measures up to 0.4m deep and 2m wide. There is a gateway set in the centre of the north and south sides of the camp; each is defended by a clavicula, a curving internal section of the rampart. There are thought to have also been gateways through the eastern and western sides of the camp, but they are now occupied by a modern track. A small area of the ditch and rampart was excavated in 1984. The ditch was shown to be `V'-shaped and measured 1.9m wide and was 0.8m deep. The rampart, which was separated from the ditch by a narrow berm or open space, was shown to be of clay construction 2.2m thick and 0.4m high with a turf kerb 0.8m wide. Within the Roman camp there are the footings of three buildings; immediately north of the modern track the rectangular foundations of a building 9m by 4.5m stand 0.2m high and some 34m to the north the slight footings of a second building 9m square are visible. The third building, which measures 9m by 5m, lies south of the modern track in the south west angle of the camp. All of these buildings are thought to be post-Roman in date and represent later re-occupation of the fort. It is uncertain whether these buildings are shielings or whether they represent earlier more permanent occupation. During the medieval period, a number of shielings were constructed within and surrounding the defended settlement at the north eastern end of the monument. The remains of 15 shielings are clearly visible, four of which overlie the defences of the settlement, indicating that they are later in date. The shielings, which are largely aligned east to west, are all of similar form and they vary in length from 5.5m to 9.8m and are between 3m to 4.3m wide. Several of the shielings have doorways situated slightly off centre in the long, southern side. The majority of the shielings consist of a single room, but two have been divided into two rooms by a slight internal wall. The shielings were not all in use at the same time and it is thought that there are two different phases as some buildings partially overlie the foundations others. All stone walls and fences which cross the monument and their associated gates are excluded from the monument, although the ground beneath these features 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.

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Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 33-4
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Greenlee lough, (1994), 30-1
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England, (1994)
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England, (1994)
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England, (1994)
Welfare, A, 'Archaeological Reports for 1984' in Excavations at Greenlee Lough, (1985), 30-1
Welfare, A, 'Northern Archaeology' in The Greenlee Lough Palimpsest: Interim Report 1985, , Vol. Vol 7:2, (1986), 35-7
NY76NE 43,


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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