Prehistoric field system and unenclosed hut circle settlement on eastern slopes of Hart Heugh, 550m south west of Earlehillhead


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018441

Date first listed: 03-Jul-1964

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Feb-1999


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric field system and unenclosed hut circle settlement on eastern slopes of Hart Heugh, 550m south west of Earlehillhead
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Earle


National Grid Reference: NT 97273 25824


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

Reasons for Designation

Cord rig is the term used to describe a form of prehistoric cultivation in which crops were grown on narrow ridges subdivided by furrows. The average width between the centre of the furrows is 1.4m. Cord rig is frequently arranged in fields with formal boundaries but also occurs in smaller, irregular unenclosed plots varying between 30 and 60 sq m in size. It often extends over considerable areas, and is frequently found in association with a range of prehistoric settlement sites and with other types of prehistoric field system. 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. Cord rig cultivation is known throughout the Border areas of England and Scotland, where it is a particular feature of the upland margins. 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 northern 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.

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 artifical 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. Cultivation terraces are artifically created platforms found on hillslopes and provide these with a stepped profile. They were created by ploughing around the hillslope following the contours. The effect of this ploughing was to cut into the hillslope and to spread soil out onto the downslope to form a level platform which could then be used for cultivation. Such contour ploughing prevented major soil erosion on the hillslope and probably also helped retain moisture. Such terraced field systems originated in the prehistoric period; they are found particularly in Northumberland and neighbouring Scottish border counties. They are one of the relatively few types of prehistoric field system which survive and are important for studies of prehistoric land use and agricultural practices. The prehistoric field system and unenclosed hut circle settlement on the east slopes of Hart Heugh are well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. The monument will provide important information about settlement and farming practices during this period and is one of a group of broadly contemporary monuments located around Hart Heugh. It forms part of a wider landscape of archaeological sites whose remains are well preserved in the Cheviot Hills.


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


The monument includes the remains of a prehistoric field system and unenclosed hut circle settlement on the eastern slopes of Hart Heugh. The remains survive as upstanding earthworks and buried remains. The field system comprises two enclosures, cultivation terraces, cord rig and a field bank. The first enclosure is situated immediately below crags at the eastern end of Hart Heugh summit and is divided into two parts by an internal bank. Its overall measurement is 75m north-south by 45m east-west and is enclosed by a low and sinuous bank of earth and stone up to 1.5m wide. On the eastern side are smaller sub-rectangular enclosures and the whole is considered to represent enclosures for animal husbandry. Running from the crags at the east end of Hart Heugh, in a north easterly direction, is a field bank believed to be contemporary with the enclosure and immediately above the crags is a smaller sub-rectangular enclosure, 9.4m by 6.3m, defined by banks up to 0.25m high. The walls of this enclosure are thought to have been partially robbed to provide building material for a modern shelter a few metres to the north west. To the east of the enclosure are at least five cultivation terraces stepped down the hillside, the level area of each terrace measuring an average 6m wide and 1m deep. Located on these terraces are five hut circle platforms with an average diameter of 6m. East of these terraces is an area of cord rig which, although difficult to see on the ground, is clearly visible on aerial photographs. The cord rig is bound by an east-west field bank on the south which, at its west end, terminates at a hut circle, 4m in diameter. A small field plot is attached to the south of this bank. Overlying the cord rig towards the east end of the monument are the remains of three sides of a sub- rectangular enclosure about 9m square.

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: 31716

Legacy System: RSM


Gates, T, NT/9725/A, (1980)

End of official listing