Reasons for Designation
A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt (fire-crazed) stones, ash and
charcoal, usually sited next to a river or lake. On excavation, some form of
trough or basin capable of holding water is normally found in close
association with the mound. The size of the mound can vary considerably; small
examples may be under 0.5m high and less than 10m in diameter, larger examples
may exceed 3m in height and be 35m in diameter. The shape of the mound ranges
from circular to crescentic. The associated trough or basin may be found
within the body of the mound or, more usually, immediately adjacent to it. At
sites which are crescentic in shape the trough is normally found within the
`arms' of the crescent and the mound has the appearance of having developed
The main phase of use of burnt mounds spans the Early, Middle and Late Bronze
Age, a period of around 1000 years. The function of the mounds has been a
matter of some debate, but it appears that cooking, using heated stones to
boil water in a trough or tank, is the most likely use. Some excavated sites
have revealed several phases of construction, indicating that individual sites
were used more than once.
Burnt mounds are found widely scattered throughout the British Isles, with
around 100 examples identified in England. As a rare monument type which
provides an insight into life in the Bronze Age, all well-preserved examples
will normally be identified as nationally important.
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 within the Northern Pennines sub-Province of the Northern
and Western Province, an area characterised from the Middle Ages by dispersed
settelemnts, with some nucleations in more favourable areas. The sub-Province
is formed by discontinous 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 settlement 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.
One of the most common forms of medieval boundary was a ditch and bank. The
bank was probably surmounted by a hedge or fence. The bank was often
asymetrical in profile with one steep and one shallower side, the ditch being
on the steep side. This boundary was used in a variety of situations including
the enclosure of hunting parks, of coppice woods and at the interface between
enclosed land and open land within a medieval hunting forest. In hunting
forests the steep side of the bank faced the open land and the ditch was also
on that side; this was to hinder the entry of deer into the enclosed land, but
to facilitate their exit.
The burnt mound survives well. It is one of several burnt mounds in the
locality and forms part of the wider prehistoric landscape of Upper Teesdale,
which includes burnt mounds, burial cairns, settlements, enclosures and field
This medieval farmstead and linear earthwork survive well and together will
provide important information on medieval settlement and land division in
Upper Teesdale. The associated enclosures have been damaged by later stone
digging, but remain an important part of the archaeological context of the
farmstead and earthwork, and will retain evidence of medieval land use and
The monument includes a medieval linear earthwork, enclosures, farmstead and a
Bronze Age burnt mound north west of Heatherlea. It is in two separate areas
of protection. The medieval linear earthwork consists of a sinuous bank and
ditch running west-east across three modern fields and then curving round
close to the edges of another field; in some places it is under a modern
fieldwall. It varies in its state of survival; the west end is better
preserved than the east which has partly been ploughed out in the past and in
places is only just visible.
At the west end the linear earthwork commences as a grass-covered bank 4m wide
and 0.6m to 0.7m high, with a ditch on its north side. The south side of the
bank has a shallow slope and the north is steep. At this point the modern
fieldwall is in the ditch, which is 3m to 4m wide and 0.4m deep. At the head
of the second field from the west the fieldwall is on the north edge of the
ditch, which is 3m to 5m wide and 0.4m deep. The bank at this point is 4m wide
and up to 1m high. The south side is steeper than it is further west but the
north is still the steeper side. There is some rabbit burrowing here,
revealing the bank to be of earth with some stones, with no obvious structure.
The boundary continues eastwards in this manner until it is about 50m into the
third field, where it becomes a slight bank. This represents the earthwork in
a ploughed state. It runs eastwards for 70m and is 4m wide and only 0.2m high.
At its east end the bank curves slightly southwards and there is a gap of 65m
until the next field to the east. The west end of this next part of the bank
also curves southwards, probably forming an incurving entrance with the
opposed southcurving end. In this field the earthwork extends right across the
field and has been ploughed so it is therefore similar to the previous slight
bank. At the east end it turns south and becomes a pronounced bank running
southwards parallel with the east wall of this field. At its south end it
turns west and crosses the field as a lynchet which passes under the west wall
of this field, turns north and stops at a small stone digging pit. This last
stretch of earthwork is stony, 3m wide and 0.5m high.
Just south of the incurving entrance is a group of small rectangular and oval
earth and stone banked enclosures, partly underlying a modern drystone wall.
The enclosure banks are typically 2m wide and 0.2m to 0.3m high. They have
been extensively damaged by stone digging at some time in the past.
The medieval farmstead consists of the grass-covered remains of a long
rectangular building measuring 26.5m by 8m. This is situated near the
north east corner of the field immediately west of Heatherlea. The medieval
building is orientated south east-north west, and its walls consist of banks
2m to 3m wide and up to 0.3m high. There are two possible entrances through
the south east wall, but no visible internal divisions. The long walls of the
house are not quite straight, so the building appears to have a slight kink.
The burnt mound lies just south of the linear earthwork and enclosures,
adjacent to a modern fieldwall, on the opposite side of the wall from a spring
head. The burnt mound consists of a low charcoal-rich earth and stone mound
with both charcoal and burnt stone fragments visible in molehills. The mound
measures 14m from north to south and extends 6m east from the modern
fieldwall. The mound rises to a height of 0.6m above the surrounding ground
The modern fieldwalls are excluded from the monument, although the ground
beneath these features is included.
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.