Unenclosed settlement, part of a field system, Romano-British aggregate village and group of shielings, 470m south east of Whitehall


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019929

Date first listed: 18-Mar-1969

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Oct-2001


Ordnance survey map of Unenclosed settlement, part of a field system, Romano-British aggregate village and group of shielings, 470m south east of Whitehall
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Kirknewton


National Grid Reference: NT 89293 25779


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

Reasons for Designation

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 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 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.

A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined fields of prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in a block or blocks which lie approximately at right angles to each other, usually with a settlement as a focal point. Fields are generally square or rectangular, and the blocks give an ordered, if irregular, shape to the field system as a whole. They are characteristically extensive monuments; the number of individual fields varying between 2 and 50, but this is, at least in part, a reflection of bias in the archaeological records rather than the true extent of such land divisions during their period of use. The fields were the primary unit of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. Romano-British aggregate villages are nucleated settlements formed by groups of five or more subsistence level farmsteads enclosed either individually or collectively, or with no formal boundary. Most enclosures, where they occur, are formed by curvilinear walls or banks, sometimes surrounded by ditches, and the dwellings are usually associated with pits, stock enclosures, cultivation plots and field systems, indicating a mixed farming economy. In use throughout the Roman period (c.43-450 AD), they often occupied sites of earlier agricultural settlements. Romano-British aggregate villages are a very rare monument type with examples recorded in the north of England and on the chalk downlands of Wessex and Sussex. Their degree of survival will depend upon the intensity of subsequent land use. 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 upland communal 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. The unenclosed settlement, part of a field system, Romano-British aggregate village and group of shielings, 470m south east of Whitehall survive well and represent settlement spanning three millennia. The prehistoric hut circle settlement, cultivation terraces, cairnfield and field walls will provide evidence of the nature of Bronze Age settlement and agriculture. In addition, the Romano-British village will add to our understanding of the rural landscape and economy of the uplands during the Roman occupation, while the medieval shielings will contribute to the wider study of settlement and land use during the medieval period.


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


The monument includes the remains of an unenclosed hut circle settlement and part of a field system of prehistoric date, an aggregate village of Romano-British date and a group of shielings situated on the steep western slope of Hare Law on the east bank of the College Burn. Other settlements to the west are the subject of separate schedulings. The field system includes cultivation terraces, clearance cairns and field walls. A series of cultivation terraces, oriented north to south, are visible as five levelled areas about 12m across stepped into the natural slope of the hill to provide land for cultivation. Scattered across the cultivation terraces are at least 40 clearance cairns which are visible as mounds of earth and stone up to 0.6m in diameter and 0.2m high. Running at right angles to the contour of the hillside are a series of field walls, visible as sinuous banks of loose rubble between 1m and 1.5m wide and up to 0.5m high. Along the bottom of the slope, on more level ground, are further fragments of field walls, at least 15 clearance cairns, four hut circles between 3m and 6m in diameter, and a pair of conjoined houses, each 7m in diameter. At the north western corner of the field system are two roughly parallel trackways which run at right angles to the contour of the hillside up to the level of the cultivation terraces. They are believed to be contemporary with an unenclosed hut circle settlement which is located at the eastern edge of the field system. The settlement is visible as the circular foundations of at least nine prehistoric houses about 4m in diameter with walls up to 0.3m high. Further down the slope, beneath the cultivation terraces and an area of scree which lies to the south of them, is an aggregate village of Romano-British date. It consists of four enclosed farmsteads, three of which are linked by a trackway. The most northerly farmstead, which is oriented north to south, is visible as an oval enclosure 30m by 20m, within a bank of stone and earth measuring up to 0.6m wide and stands up to 1m high. There is an entrance, marked by a large boulder on the north side, through the west wall of the farmstead. Within the farmstead there are two scooped platforms, one of which contains the foundations of a hut circle. A secondary enclosure, oriented east to west, has been added to the south west side of the farmstead and measures 23m by 30m with an entrance through the west wall. An isolated hut circle adjoins a trackway 20m south of the most northerly farmstead. It is visible as a level platform 6.5m in diameter surrounded by walls 1.5m wide. A second farmstead lies to the south west and is visible as two conjoined oval enclosures with a later sheepfold built on top of the northern part. The northern compartment, oriented east to west, measures 20m by 21m within a bank of stone and earth 6.5m wide marked by orthostats around its outer edge. Within the compartment there is a platform scooped into the hill slope to a maximum depth of 0.7m. The smaller southern compartment, also oriented east to west, measures 12m by 13m and is enclosed by a wall 2m wide and up to 0.5m high; the outer face of the wall is visible as a line of orthostats with an entrance through the west wall. Immediately to the south lies a third farmstead which is visible as a sub-oval enclosure about 37m north to south by 34m east to west within a bank of earth and stone 3.5m wide and up to 1m high. There is an entrance, 1.5m wide and marked by a large orthostat on one side, through the west wall of the farmstead. Built on the eastern perimeter of the farmstead is a hut circle visible as an oval enclosure 3m by 6m with walls standing 0.75m high. Within the enclosure the interior has been reused in the medieval or post-medieval periods for the site of rectangular buildings thought to be the remains of shielings with walls standing 0.75m high. A trackway links all the Romano-British settlements. It extends from the northern farmstead in a south westerly direction across and down the hill slope for about 280m. The track measures an average 4m wide and is a maximum 1.5m deep in places. There is a slight bank on the east side and on the west a revetted bank 0.3m high. It continues downhill to the edge of the terrace above the College Burn. A fourth settlement, oriented north to south, lies about 70m south of the third and is visible as an oval platform about 34m by 20m scooped into the natural slope of the hill to a maximum depth of 2m. On the platform are two conjoined hut circles, 9m in diameter within walls 1.5m wide and standing three courses high, and an enclosure 10m by 5.5m. There is an entrance 1.5m wide through the north wall of the enclosure. The strainer post of the fence at the corner of the plantation in the south west corner of the site is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it 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: 34229

Legacy System: RSM


NT 82 NE 3,
Topping, P, A Survey of College Valley, North Northumberland, 1981, BA Dissertation, University of Durham

End of official listing