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Medieval iron industry and settlement and Bronze Age burial cairns extending from 260m north west of Eel Beck to 140m south east of Wash Beck

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Medieval iron industry and settlement and Bronze Age burial cairns extending from 260m north west of Eel Beck to 140m south east of Wash Beck

List entry Number: 1019453

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: County Durham

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Holwick

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 11-Oct-2000

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 34351

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

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 evolved gradually during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Northern Pennines sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area characterised from the Middle Ages by dispersed settlements, with some nucleations in more favoured areas. The sub-Provinnce is formed by discontinuous high moorland landscapes; agricultural settlement has been episodic, in response to the economic fortunes of adjacent sub-Provinces. Other settlements have been associated with the extraction of stone and other minerals. 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) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small settlment units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to shared common land or road systems. 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 building foundations 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 Province and the Northern and Western Province 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. During the medieval period mining was necessary to procur a wide range of raw materials. These included coal, and the ores of lead, copper and iron. A variety of techniques were used including opencuts, hushes, shafts, adits, bell-pits and shaftline rakes. Medieval coalmines with complex stall and pillar structures have sometimes been found during modern quarrying operations. Surviving medieval mines are rare because they have tended to be destroyed by later mining operations. Primitive iron smelting sites can date from the Iron Age to the end of the medieval period (500BC-AD1500). The evidence for early iron smelting often consists of a heap of iron-rich slag. Medieval iron smelting sites are frequently found near streams and are known as bloomeries. In the bloomeries iron ore was fired to about 1200 degrees Centigrade, using charcoal as fuel. This caused a chemical reaction, producing a mass of iron called a bloom, which was then hammered to remove any residual slag. Bloomeries were usually located close to a source of wood for charcoal-making. The charcoal used in bloomeries was made by burning wood with a limited supply of air. This was done by stacking the wood either in a pit or on a platform, and by limiting the air suply by covering the stack with earth and turf. Until about 1450 charcoal was made in pits; around that time charcoal-making evolved into a largescale process and charcoal was made in larger quantities, on platforms. This complex area of multiperiod archaeology contains well-preserved remains of round cairns, early medieval settlement including farmsteads, field systems and cairnfields, medieval mines, two bloomeries and several charcoal pits. The round cairns form part of a wider prehistoric landscape in Upper Teesdale. This includes evidence of Bronze Age settlement, burnt mounds, cairns and Roman period native settlements and field systems. The medieval settlements are part of a pattern of dispersed settlement in the area. Their remains are well-preserved and apparently early in date. The medieval mines, bloomeries and charcoal pits form an important part of the medieval iron industry in the area, and will make a significant contribution to the study of iron working of this period. The relative distribution of medieval settlement and bloomery iron smelting sites may be significant.

History

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

Details

The monument includes two early medieval settlements, a medieval farmstead and field systems, mines, bloomeries, charcoal pits, two Bronze Age burial cairns and cairnfields. These remains are in an area 1.69km long by 1.05km wide, on rough grazing land south of Holwick, extending from 260m north west of Eel Beck to 140m south east of Wash Beck. One early medieval settlement lies near White Earth, extending along a grassy limestone bench from Sand Force on Rowton Beck northwestwards beyond Eel Beck. This settlement contains five farmsteads, lying within a complex of subrectangular fields. Within these fields are a number of clearance cairns. The settlement is bounded on the south west side by a long field boundary extending from Rowton Beck to Eel Beck, along the top of the scarp. On its north west side the settlement is bounded by a flat boggy area on the Whin Sill. Further south west of the settlement a long field boundary runs south east-north west from a waterfall on Rowton Beck to Eel Beck. Between this boundary and White Earth settlement is a cairnfield with at least 12 cairns partly enclosed by a rubble bank. The second early medieval settlement is further east, extending south east from Easter Beck on both sides of the water race to beyond Wash Beck. The farmsteads of this settlement are much more widely distributed. Six of them lie within a large field system with earth and stone banks; one lies on a ridge north of this field system. The field system also contains at least 14 clearance cairns. Another more discrete group of at least seven clearance cairns lies south of the field system on a low ridge north west of Wash Beck. All the farmsteads in both settlements include the remains of at least one long building between 11m and 23m long, and between 6m and 10m wide, most of which have an entrance in the gable end. The walls survive as low earth and stone banks. Many of the farmsteads have a yard or garth, usually attached to one side of the long building; several also have one or more smaller buildings in close proximity. A more isolated farmstead, with its own field system, lies close to the sheepfold on Stone Houses scar. The farmstead is represented by the grass-covered remains of four rectangular buildings, three of which are ranged round a garth, the fourth being a little further north. The field system includes a large irregular enclosure attached to, and extending south east from, the farmstead garth, and further boundaries extend north and west of the farmstead. A small subcircular enclosure lies a few metres north west of the modern sheepfold. Another, larger, subrectangular enclosure lies about 500m south east of the sheepfold. Three small clearance cairns occupy the space between this and the farmstead. An additional small area of medieval fields lies at the foot of Stone Houses scar near Easter Beck. This consists of a series of interlocking subrectangular and irregular rubble-banked fields. A small D-shaped enclosure is attached to the south east boundary of this field system. An area of medieval iron ore mining extends for about 270m north west along a limestone bench from the White Earth settlement. The workings include prospecting trenches, a prospecting hush, opencuts, barrow tips and several small shaftmounds. An additional small opencut lies further south east, in the limestone scarp north west of Easter Beck. The waste from this opencut contains calcite, suggesting the presence of a mineral vein which may have yielded iron or lead ores. Two shafts further up Easter Beck, on the other side of the beck, south of the water race, may represent workings on the same vein. The ore from the medieval iron ore mines was smelted at bloomery iron smelting sites, one of which lies on Eel Beck, south west of the White Earth settlement, and another on Rowton Beck, south of the settlement. The bloomeries are visible as heaps of tap slag, 6m and 3m in diameter respectively. Charcoal is visible in animal disturbance at both sites. The charcoal for smelting the iron was made in small pits, several of which are scattered across the monument between Eel Beck and Wash Beck. They take the form of subcircular hollows between 2m and 3m in diameter and 0.3m to 0.4m deep. They are often surrounded by a low ring of grass-grown spoil. The two Bronze Age burial cairns are distinguished from clearance cairns by their relative isolation and prominent positions. One lies on the crest of a ridge about 100m south of Sand Force on Rowton Beck, and the other on a knoll between Rowton Beck and Easter Beck, about 200m north of Stone Houses scar. The first cairn measures 4m in diameter and is 0.3m high. The second is 6m in diameter and 0.2m high. The surfaces of tracks, the modern walls and fences and the modern sheepfold at Stone Houses 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 155
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 114
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 121
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 122
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 123
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 122
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 94
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 119
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 150

National Grid Reference: NY 90989 25548

Map

Map
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End of official listing