Unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system, cairnfield and cord rig cultivation immediately north west of Linhope Spout


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system, cairnfield and cord rig cultivation immediately north west of Linhope Spout
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NT 95768 17276

Reasons for Designation

In a densely settled and highly developed country such as England, the landscapes of all but the most bleak mountain summits are, to varying degrees, the product of centuries and millennia of human development. Except in areas today considered to be marginal, most traces of the earliest stages in this process have been erased or modified by later development and only survive in a fragmentary manner. The prehistoric settlement remains that survive beyond the margins of more recent cultivation in upland areas such as the Cheviots provide a rare opportunity to recognise the prehistoric shape of the landscape. The Breamish Valley is one of the main valleys draining the Cheviot Massif. Because of comprehensive field survey during the 1980s, it is also one of the best recorded upland areas in England. The field evidence for human activity within the valley is diverse and spans at least five millennia from the Neolithic to the post-medieval period. Of particular importance are the well- preserved and extensive upland prehistoric remains, including settlements, field systems and cairnfields. On the enclosed land within the valley, archaeological remains are more fragmentary, but they survive sufficiently well to show that human activity extended below what is now open fell land. Due to excellent state of survival, their archaeological integrity, and their rarity in a national context, most recorded prehistoric and later monuments within the Breamish Valley will 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 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. 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. Irregular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover large areas and comprise a collection of contiguous field plots which are irregular in shape and size and which accreted around a focal point, usually a settlement. Individual fields are generally small and fall within the 0.2ha-0.6ha range and their individual shape and size was the result of local factors such as topography and short term agricultural requirements. The field boundaries, which follow straight or sinuous courses, are usually dry stone walls, with lynchets being a feature on sloping ground. Component features common to most systems include entrances and occasionally trackways. Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone cleared from the surrounding land surface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots. 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 during the Bronze Age. Cord rig is the term used to describe a form of prehistoric cultivation in which crops were grown on narrow ridges subdivided by furrows. Cord rig is frequently arranged in fields with formal boundaries but also occurs in smaller, irregular unenclosed plots varying between 30 sq m and 60 sq m in size. It often extends over considerable areas, and is frequently found in association with a range of prehistoric settlement sites and with other types of prehistoric field system. It generally survives as a series of slight earthworks and is first discovered on aerial photographs. Cord rig cultivation is known throughout the Border areas of England and Scotland, where it is a particular feature of the upland margins. Despite having been partially excavated, the unenclosed settlement immediately north west of Linhope Spout survives reasonably well. The form and method of construction of the houses will add to our knowledge of the nature of this type of settlement and of the social organisation of the inhabitants. The associated field system and cairnfield survive well and will contribute to our understanding of the nature and longevity of small-scale clearance and agricultural exploitation during the Bronze Age. The superimposition of fields of cord rig rather than the more usual irregular small plots enhances the importance of the monument. The cultivation is unusually extensive and this is one of few known sites where ridges with an `S'-bend plan are visible. The settlement and agricultural remains near Linhope Spout represent one of the most elevated permanent settlements in Northumberland, and are thought to mark the limit of Bronze Age expansion into the interior of the uplands. Taken together with the contemporary remains on Standrop Rigg, they will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement and agriculture.


The monument includes the known extent of the upstanding and buried remains of an unenclosed hut circle settlement, irregular aggregate field system, cairnfield and cord rig cultivation of Bronze Age and Iron Age date, situated on south facing slopes above the Linhope Burn. The site is bounded by the Dunmoor Burn to the east and the Het Burn to the west. The adjacent unenclosed settlement and field system on Standrop Rigg are the subject of a separate scheduling. The unenclosed settlement is situated at high altitude and is considered to be one of the most elevated in the county. It is visible as the remains of two stone-founded circular houses. The first round house which occupies a central location within the complex, is 8m in diameter within a stone and rubble bank up to 1.4m wide and 0.5m high. An entrance 0.65m wide is visible through the south west wall. This house was partially excavated in 1989, when several postholes were discovered within the south west quadrant of the interior. There was an original entrance 0.7m wide through the south wall, which had subsequently been blocked with stone. This house is thought to be Iron Age in date. The second roundhouse, situated about 100m north west of the first, is visible as a circular stony platform about 5.5m across. This hut circle was excavated in 1989 and shown to be roughly sub-oval in shape and to abut an earlier field boundary. It is thought to be of Bronze Age date. The encircling wall of rubble faced with stone, was 1.25m wide and stood to a height of 0.35m. There was an entrance 1m wide through the south east wall. Excavation showed that this house had been abandoned and partially demolished towards the end of the Bronze Age in advance of a small cairn being constructed over its western side. This cairn is associated with a sub-oval stone setting of uncertain function. The unenclosed settlement is situated within an associated field system visible as a series of irregular earthen field banks and lynchets . The field banks are a maximum of 4m wide and stand to a maximum height of 0.7m. They divide the area into a series of small irregular plots. One of the lynchets situated about 0.3m south of the first hut circle was partially excavated in 1989; the lynchet was shown to have had a complex development and was thought to bound an area of cultivation to its south. The latter cultivation was visible as a series of marks cut into the sub soil, thought to be made by an ard, a form of primitive wooden plough. The marks were a maximum of 0.16m wide and 0.15m deep with a `V'-shaped profile. The cairnfield is visible as at least 11 roughly shaped circular clearance cairns scattered across the field system. Most of the field plots contain one or two cairns, though no individual plot contains more than two. The cairns vary in size from 2m to 6m across and stand to a maximum height of 0.6m. The cairns are related to land clearance prior to agricultural activity and are thought to be the earliest remains at the site. An extensive system of prehistoric cultivation known as cord rig is superimposed upon the settlement, field system and cairnfield. The cord rig runs across the contours of the hillside and varies between 1.1m to 1.6m wide between the centre of the furrows. It overlies several of the earlier field boundaries and has disturbed several of the small clearance cairns indicating that it represents a later phase in the development of the field system and is thought to be Iron Age in date. Some areas of the cord rig are irregular in plan with furrows which do not run parallel to the ridges and is thought to have been hand dug with a spade. However, immediately east of the first round house, there is an area of cultivation, which contains unusually long rigs, up to 220m in length. These longer rigs are also slightly curving in profile and are thought to have been created by ploughing. A section of this cord rig cultivation was excavated in 1989; upon excavation the furrows were shown to be about 0.4m wide and up to 0.1m deep from the crest of the ridges. The 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.

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Books and journals
Gates, A, 'Settlement in North Britain 1000BC - AD 1000' in Unenclosed Settlements in Northumberland, , Vol. 118, (1983), 103-148
NT91NE 49,
NT91NE 70,
NT91NE 71,


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.

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