Unenclosed settlement, four later prehistoric settlements and enclosure, field system and cairnfield on Ritto Hill, west and north west of Linhope
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1020248
Date first listed: 24-Sep-1934
Date of most recent amendment: 10-Oct-2001
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park: NORTHUMBERLAND
National Grid Reference: NT 95903 16619, NT 96129 16138, NT 96140 16230
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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
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. In Cumbria and Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlements dating to the later prehistoric and Roman periods have been identified. The majority were small, non-defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. 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. In north Northumberland unenclosed settlement forms have also been identified which lack any form of enclosure wall around the stone round houses. Usually located on gently sloping ground, these unenclosed forecourt settlements comprise one or more round stone houses with entrances, which open into a large stone-walled forecourt or courtyard. These homesteads were being constructed and used by non-Roman natives before and during the period of the Roman occupation and clearly their origins lie in settlement forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. 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, some surviving as prominent hollow ways. 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. The prehistoric/Romano-British settlements, field system and cairnfield on Ritto Hill, survive well. As a group of related sites that are good examples of their type and demonstrate well the nature of settlement and agricultural practice during these periods. The remains of the settlements indicate rebuilding on the same site over time, and the nature and duration of the different phases will add to our knowledge of the social organisation of their inhabitants. The associated field system including the hollow ways and the cairnfield, which display stratigraphic relationships with some of the settlement remains, will contribute to our understanding of the nature and longevity of land clearance and agriculture from the Bronze age through to the Roman period.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the known extent of the upstanding and buried remains of
an unenclosed hut circle settlement, an irregular aggregate field system and a
cairnfield of later prehistoric date, four settlements and an enclosure of
late prehistoric/Romano-British date, situated on the north east and south
east facing slopes of Ritto Hill. The scheduling is divided into three
separate areas of protection. Further settlements and field systems to the
north, south and east are the subject of separate schedulings.
The unenclosed settlement, the core of the field system and cairnfield, two of
the prehistoric/Romano-British settlements and the enclosure are contained
within the first and most northerly area of protection. The unenclosed
settlement, which is situated on a levelled area of the hill slope, is visible
as the remains of up to two circular stone-founded houses or hut circles. The
first hut circle is situated upon a level platform and is 6m in diameter
within the fragmentary remains of an enclosing wall. This wall is best
preserved on the east side where it stands to a maximum height of 0.5m. The
second hut circle is visible as a level platform 8m in diameter within the
spread remains of its walls which stand to a height of 1m.
The two settlements and enclosure of later prehistoric/Romano-British date are
situated in a linear arrangement along the contour of the hill slope
immediately above the unenclosed settlement. The first and more northerly, has
been identified as an unenclosed forecourt settlement. It is visible as the
remains of a level sub-circular area or courtyard measuring 10.5m north to
south by 6m east to west partially enclosed by a stone wall up to 5.1m wide
and 1.6m high. The remains of two circular stone-founded houses or hut circles
define the western side of the courtyard. The first hut circle is 4.8m in
diameter within a stone wall 1.9m wide and 0.4m high; this wall retains some
of its original facing stones. There is an entrance through the east wall of
the house that opens into the courtyard. The second and less well defined hut
circle, which is partially overlain by the first, is 3m in diameter within the
remains of a surrounding stone wall now spread to 1.2m wide and 0.3m high. The
site of what is thought to be a third hut circle is visible as an elevated
platform about 3m across situated between the first hut circle and the wall of
The second settlement, also identified as an unenclosed forecourt settlement,
is situated 35m south east of the first and comprises two separate phases. The
settlement is visible as the remains of a sub-circular enclosure, levelled
into the hillside, and measuring 14.2m north to south by 13m east to west. It
is partially enclosed by a wall of boulders up to 3.3m wide and 1.2m high with
an entrance through the south east wall 2.1m wide. Partially overlying this
enclosure there are the foundations of a second, later settlement with walls
1m wide and between 0.2 and 0.4m high; a prominent hut circle defines its
north west corner and this hut circle is considered to have replaced an
earlier house on the same site. The fragmentary remains of what is thought to
be an internal dividing wall, some 0.7m wide and 0.2m high, lies within the
The associated enclosure is situated 10m south east of the second settlement.
It is levelled into the hill slope and, sub-circular in shape, it measures
14.1m north to south by 11m east to west within boulder walls a maximum of
3.5m wide and 1m high. There is an entrance 2.3m wide through the north wall
that opens onto a prominent hollow way. This enclosure is similar in form to
the adjacent unenclosed forecourt settlement although there are no visible
remains of associated round houses. It is therefore considered that this
enclosure functioned as a stock enclosure.
Between and surrounding all of the settlements there are the fragmentary
remains of a field system visible as field boundaries formed either by linear
banks or lynchets. The linear banks are irregularly shaped and constructed of
roughly coursed boulders with some facing stones remaining. The banks range in
size from 1m to 2.5m wide and between 0.4m and 0.7m high. They are fragmentary
in nature and hence individual fields or plots cannot be identified. Soil
movement downslope, caused by cultivation during the use of the field system
has led to the formation of lynchets and some appear to have been enhanced
giving a terraced effect. The lynchets are visible as marked steps along the
contour of the slope adjacent to the settlements. The scarps of the lynchets
are 0.2m to 1.9m in height. One particularly fine group of four parallel
lynchets, each about 120m long, is situated at the north end of the complex
and one of the group retains a stone revetment. At least one of the lynchets
is earlier than the most northerly unenclosed forecourt settlements as its
scarp, which stands to a height of 0.4m, has clearly been cut into by the
construction of the hut circle.
Two track ways visible as prominent hollow ways cross the area of the
settlements and field system. The most prominent, which enters the complex at
the south east corner, varies between 5m and 9m wide and is a maximum of 1.8m
deep. It runs in the direction of the later prehistoric/Romano-British
settlements and enclosure and also branches to the north towards the
unenclosed hut circle settlement. A second hollow way enters the complex on
the east, is a maximum of 6m wide and 1.4m deep and leads to the group of four
lynchets at the north end of the complex.
The remains of at least six field clearance cairns are scattered within the
field system. They range from 0.4m to 1m high and are between 2m and 4.5m
long. Most are roughly elongated in shape with a general north to south
orientation. The cairns are related to land clearance prior to agricultural
activity and are thought to be the earliest remains at the site.
Further remains of the field system and cairnfield in addition to a third
later prehistoric/Romano-British settlement are contained within the second
area of protection, which is 270m south east of the first. The field system is
visible as two prominent lynchets about 60m long, scarped into the hillslope.
A large clearance cairn is situated 6m up slope from the two lynchets; it
measures 8.5m north to south by 8m and stands to a maximum height of 0.5m. The
later prehistoric/Romano-British settlement is situated immediately up slope
from the clearance cairn and has been scooped into the slope. It is oval in
shape and has maximum dimensions of 34m north to south by 20m east to west
within walls of roughly coursed boulders. Although disturbed by modern tree
planting, the southern end of the enclosure is visible as a slight earthwork.
The enclosing wall is spread to 4m wide and stands to a maximum height of 0.3m
with a 2m wide entrance through the north wall. The interior of the enclosure
has been leveled into the hillslope to form a courtyard; this has created a
raised platform above it to the west some 1.1m high. The courtyard has been
divided by a wall 1m wide and the upper platform contains the site of a
circular hut circle, 6m in diameter, which itself has been scooped into the
A fourth, late prehistoric/Romano-British settlement is contained within the
third and most southerly area of protection, which is situated 50m south of
the second area of protection. Although disturbed by modern tree planting, the
northern end of this settlement is visible as a slight earthwork. The
settlement, which is sub-oval in shape measures about 18m north to south by
20m east to west within a substantial stone wall. The enclosing wall is a
maximum of 4.2m wide and stands up to 1.3m. The interior of this settlement
has been levelled into the slope of the hill; the remains of a circular round
house are considered to exist in the eastern part of the interior visible as a
setting of large boulders.
All 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.
Legacy System number: 32769
Legacy System: RSM
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