Burial cairns, burnt mound, Roman native settlement, medieval settlement with field system and iron industry remains, and five shielings on Holwick Fell


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Burial cairns, burnt mound, Roman native settlement, medieval settlement with field system and iron industry remains, and five shielings on Holwick Fell
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 88511 27585, NY 89694 26688

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.

A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt (fire-crazed) stones, ash and charcoal, usually sited next to a river, lake, or spring. 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 usually found within the `arms' of the crescent and the mound has the appearance of having developed around it. 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. 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 constructions 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 artificial 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 slooe. 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 in 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. In County Durham, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland, several distinctive types of native settlement dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non-defensive, enclosed farmsteads 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, especially in the Cheviots, the enclosures were curvilinear in form. Further south a rectangular form was more common. Elsewhere, especially near the Scottish border, another type occurs where the settlement enclosure was 'scooped' into the hillslope. Frequently the enclosures reveal a regularity and similarity of internal layout. The standard layout included one or more stone roundhouses situated towards the rear of the enclosure, facing the single entrance way. In front of the houses were pathways and small enclosed yards. Homesteads normally had only one or two houses, but larger enclosures could contain as many as six. At some sites the settlement appears to have grown, often with houses spilling out of the main enclosure and clustered around it. At these sites up to 30 houses may be found. In the Cumbrian uplands the settlements were of less regimented form and unenclosed clusters of houses of broadly contemporary date are also known. These homesteads were being constructed and used by non-Roman natives throughout the period of the Roman occupation. Their origins lie in settlement forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. These homesteads are common throughout the uplands where they frequently survive as well-preserved earthworks. In lowland coastal areas they were also originally common, although they can frequently only be located through aerial photography. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact 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 account of 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 North 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-Province is formed by discontinuous high moorland landscapes; agricultural settlement has been episodic, in response to the economic fortunes af 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 centuries following the Roman withdrawal from Britain. 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 open-cuts, hushes, shafts, adits, bell-pits and shaftline rakes. Medieval coal mines 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 supply by covering the stack with earth and turf. Until about 1450 charcoal was made in pits; around that time charcoal-making evolved into a large-scale process and charcoal was made in larger quantities, on platforms. 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 pasture around the permanently occupied farms to communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns reflecting transhumance are known from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC) onwards. However, the construction of herdsmen's huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling houses of farms, only appears from the early medieval period onwards (from AD 450), when the practice of transhumance is also known from documentary sources and, notably, place-name studies. Their construction appears to cease at the end of the 16th century. Shielings vary in size but are commonly small and may occur singly or in groups. They have a simple sub-rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling, although occasional turf-built structures are known, and the huts are sometimes surrounded by a ditch. Most examples have a single undivided interior but two- roomed examples are known. Some examples have adjacent ancillary structures, such as pens, and may be associated with a midden. Some are also contained within a small ovoid enclosure. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here. Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important. This area of complex multi-period archaeological remains contains well- preserved remains of round cairns, a hut circle, a burnt mound, a Roman period native settlement, an early medieval settlement, a medieval iron ore mine, eight bloomeries and several charcoal pits, and five shielings. The round cairns, hut circle, burnt mound and Roman period native settlement form part of a 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 settlement is part of a pattern of dispersed settlement in the area, and together with the shielings will add to the sum of knowledge relating to medieval settlement and land use in the North Pennines. The medieval mines, the bloomeries and the charcoal pits form an important part of the medieval iron industry in the area, and will make a significant contribution to the study of medieval iron working. The relative distribution of medieval settlement and bloomery iron-smelting sites may be significant.


The monument includes a complex area of multi-period archaeological remains, consisting of Bronze Age burial cairns, a hut circle, a burnt mound, a Roman period native settlement, an early medieval settlement with associated field system, clearance cairns and boundary banks, and evidence for a medieval iron industry including mine workings, bloomery smelting sites and charcoal-making pits, and five shielings. It is in two areas of protection. The three burial cairns are between 8m and 12m in diameter. One lies under a medieval boundary bank between Simy Folds and Wool Ingles, at NGR NY88442752, and survives to a height of 0.7m. The other two are east of Simy Folds. The more westerly lies at NGR NY89002753, north of a shooting track, in small rubble-banked medieval fields, and survives to a height of 0.6m. Stone has been removed from it, probably to construct the medieval field banks. The more easterly cairn lies at NGR NY89492736, at the west end of some medieval strip fields on a ridge east of Simy Folds. It has had most of the stone removed for stone walling, and survives as a grassed-over spread of stone just visible on the crest of the ridge. The hut circle with an associated rubble bank is at NGR NY88082753, north of Ore Pit Holes, at the south side of a shooting track and bridleway. The hut circle is 9m in diameter, with rubble-banked walls 2m wide and 0.3m high. A grouse grit feeder has been built over the wall on the north side of the hut circle, robbing stone from the hut circle wall. The associated rubble bank forms an arc between the hut circle and the shooting track. The burnt mound is at NGR NY89302759, south of Hield House and east of Simy Folds. It is situated at a spring, slightly north of a small covered reservoir. The burnt mound is grass-covered, 5m in diameter and 0.8m high. There is a juniper bush growing on the mound and there is no central hollow. Some burnt stone is visible in patches on the mound. The Roman period native settlement occupies a quarried sandstone outcrop at Wool Ingles, and extends below the outcrop north east of the scarp. The settlement consists of three large enclosures. The northernmost of these contains five hut circles. North east of the enclosures, below the scarp, is an area with three small clearance cairns, some rubble banks forming two small rectangular enclosures, and the remains of a rectangular building which is joined to the base of the scarp by a another length of rubble bank. The rectangular building may represent medieval reuse of the area. The early medieval settlement is centred around Simy Folds and includes the remains of five farmsteads, each with several rectangular buildings arranged around a small yard. The farmsteads lie in a complex of small rubble-banked fields with occasional clearance cairns. East of Simy Folds, on a low ridge north of the shooting track is an area of medieval strip fields. A series of substantial grass and heather covered rubble banks radiates from the settlement, extending towards Bink Scar in the north west, Wool Ingles in the south west, the scar overlooking Mizzes House in the east, and Scar Beck in the south. This last boundary has a continuation from Scar Beck to Eel Beck, east of Holwick Fell. The medieval iron industry is represented by a large area of ironstone mining at Ore Pit Holes, eight bloomery iron-smelting sites and at least eleven charcoal-making pits. The ironstone mines cover an area 900m long and up to 250m wide. They consist of a complex of opencuts, hushes and shafts. Most of the shafts are closely spaced in lines called rakes. The mining remains are dominated by a single shaftline rake which extends the length of the area. Three of the eight bloomery sites lie just north of this rake, two near Caldron Sike, NGRS NY87722731 and NY87702731, and one about halfway along, at NGR NY87932730. Three more lie just south of the shooting track leading to Bleabeck Washfold, two of them west of Caldron Sike and the third near the junction of the track with the bridleway, NGRS NY87592738, NY87662742 and NY88042751. The other two bloomeries are at Simy Folds. The sites of the bloomeries are visible as mostly grassed-over heaps of iron slag, up to 10m in diameter. Several of these slag heaps have had slag removed in the past, leaving a ring of slag with a central hollow. Four of the charcoal pits are near the west end of Simy Folds early medieval settlement. At least two other charcoal pits can be found east of Simy Folds, and at least five more north of Ore Pit Holes. The charcoal pits are visible as slight hollows 2m in diameter. Some have been disturbed by animals and charcoal can be seen in the upcast soil. The five shielings are dispersed along the scar between Hield House and Holwick Scar. They consist of the remains of small, drystone-walled, rectangular buildings. The buildings range in size from 7m by 5m to 11m by 5m. The walls are constructed of whinstone and are from 0.5m to 1.5m thick and from 0.5m to 1m high. The fences, grouse butts and track surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. The covered reservoir, its associated structures and enclosing fence are totally excluded from the scheduling.

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.

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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), 144
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 144
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 145
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 124
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 115-117
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 25-26
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, Fairless, K, Batey, C E, 'Mediaeval Archaeology' in Simy Folds: An Early Mediaeval Settlement, (1983), 15-16
Coggins, D, Fairless, K, Batey, C E, 'Mediaeval Archaeology' in Simy Folds: An Early Mediaeval Settlement, (1983), 14
Coggins, D, Fairless, K, Batey, C E, 'Mediaeval Archaeology' in Mediaeval Archaeology, , Vol. 27, (1983), 1-26
cairn under mediaeval bank, Laurie, T, cairn, (1999)
Jet beads from barrow, Laurie, T, (1999)
shielings on the scar, Coggins, D, Shielings, (2000)


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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