Defended settlement, field system, cairnfield, round cairn and medieval settlement, 300m south east of Barrow


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018937

Date first listed: 03-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Defended settlement, field system, cairnfield, round cairn and medieval settlement, 300m south east of Barrow
© 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 - 1018937 .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 15-Dec-2018 at 07:08:29.


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

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Alwinton

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Harbottle


National Grid Reference: NT 91439 05950


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

Reasons for Designation

During the mid-prehistoric period (seventh to fifth centuries BC) a variety of different types of defensive settlements began to be constructed and occupied in the northern uplands of England. The most obvious sites were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these a range of smaller sites, sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha and defined as defended settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others are found in less prominent positions. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction, some sites having a single bank and ditch (univallate), others having more than one (multivallate). At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Within the enclosure a number of stone or timber-built round houses were occupied by the inhabitants. Stock may also have been kept in these houses, especially during the cold winter months, or in enclosed yards outside them. The communities occupying these sites were probably single family groups, the defended settlements being used as farmsteads. Construction and use of this type of site extended over several centuries, possibly through to the early Romano-British period (mid to late first century AD). Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern of the northern uplands and are important for any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during this period. All well-preserved examples are believed to be of national importance.

A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined square or rectangular fields of prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in an ordered block or blocks which lie approximately at right angles to each other, usually with a settlement as a focal point. They are characteristically extensive monuments; the number of individual fields varies between 2 and 50, but this is often only a partial reflection of their original extent: many of the boundaries have been removed by later farming activity. The fields were the primary unit of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. Less than 250 such field systems have been identified and, as a relatively rare monument type which provides an insight into land division and agricultural practice during their period of use, all well preserved examples will normally be identified as nationally important. 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 (from c.3400 BC), although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). 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. Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrows of the lowlands. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. 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 last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Wear-Tweed sub-Province of the Central Province, an area long characterised, except for the western margins, by nucleated settlements both surviving and deserted. Variations within the sub-Province reflect land ownership as well as terrain: on some estates in Northumberland there was much dispersal of farmsteads and consequent village and hamlet depopulation after the Middle Ages. The Cheviot Margin local region is a narrow transition zone between two contrasting areas, the high moorlands of the Cheviots and the agriculturally favourable lowlands of the Tweed Valley and the Northumbrian Vales. Fieldwork has shown that this region retains archaeological traces likely to date from many periods, providing evidence for sequences of land occupation. Medieval settlements are mainly in the form of small hamlets and isolated farmsteads. In some areas of medieval England, settlement was dispersed across the landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or principal) settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region, but where they survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used for building, the outline of the building foundation may still be clearly visible. Communal areas of the settlements frequently include features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South Eastern and the Northern and Western Provinces of England. They are found in upland and also some lowland areas. Where found, their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest. The defended settlement and its associated field system and cairnfield 300m south east of Barrow are reasonably well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. The medieval settlement illustrates reuse of an earlier settlement and will add to our understanding of the nature and diversity of medieval settlement in the region. The importance of the monument is enhanced by the existence of a well preserved round cairn which indicates Bronze Age activity in the area. Taken as a whole, the complex represents settlement and activity spanning four millennia.


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


The monument includes the remains of a defended settlement, an associated field system and cairnfield of prehistoric date, a round cairn of Bronze Age date and a medieval settlement, situated on the flat top of a spur above the south bank of the Barrow Burn. On the north and north eastern sides, the enclosure is defended by steep natural slopes, while on the south side the ground rises gently. The defended settlement is visible as an enclosure, roughly oval in shape, measuring 55m north west to south east by 35m north east to south west, within a bank of stone and earth 2m wide and standing to a maximum of 1.2m high; the bank is surmounted by a later, narrower stone wall. There is an original entrance through the east wall of the enclosure which retains its northern door jamb. Outside the stone wall on the north west, south and south east sides, which lack natural protection, there is a ditch up to 3m wide and a maximum of 0.2m deep below the inner bank. Outside the ditch there is an outer bank 3m wide which stands to a maximum height of 0.2m. Outside the enclosure to the south on a north facing slope, there are the remains of an associated field system; this is visible as a series of stone walls orientated north to south on average 2m wide and standing to 0.5m. The stone walls, which are about 15m apart, divide the area into long rectangular fields. Several lynchets, visible as slight scarps orientated east to west, divide these fields into smaller parcels. Within and surrounding the field system there is a cairnfield containing at least seven stone built cairns on average 2m in diameter and standing 0.4m high. At NT 9153 0597, in a prominent location at the eastern edge of the high plateau and slightly to the east of the field system, there is a round cairn of stone and earth construction, 3m in diameter and standing to a maximum height of 0.4m. The defended settlement was reused during the medieval period, and a settlement of this date is visible as the remains of at least three raised platforms set against its south side. The first and most westerly platform contains the foundations of a substantial rectangular building 14m by 9m, with walls standing to a maximum height of 1m. There is an entrance in the north end of its east wall with one upright door jamb. The second platform lies immediately to the east and is 13m by 9m. The third and most easterly platform, which is roughly oval in shape, is 10m by 6m respectively and has an entrance gap in its north side. During the medieval reuse of the enclosure, its northern part was in use as a cultivated field. This is visible as an oval, sunken area defined on the north and south sides by slight scarps 0.2m high which are interpreted as lynchets. During this period of cultivation, the south wall of the enclosure was raised by the addition of a narrow wall of boulders. All fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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: 32747

Legacy System: RSM


NT90NW 15,

End of official listing