Hut circle, cultivation terraces and farmstead of later prehistoric date, and medieval settlement and field system 800m and 740m south of Elsdonburn Shank


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020380

Date first listed: 14-Mar-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Aug-2001


Ordnance survey map of Hut circle, cultivation terraces and farmstead of later prehistoric date, and medieval settlement and field system 800m and 740m south of Elsdonburn Shank
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Kilham


National Grid Reference: NT 86109 28539, NT 86232 28486


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.

In Cumbria and Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlements dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non-defensive, enclosed homesteads 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 round-houses situated towards the rear of the enclosure, facing the single entranceway. 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. 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 there they can frequently only be located through aerial photography. All homestead sites which survive sustantially 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 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 gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Cheviot sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, the upland mass straddling the English-Scottish border. The sub-Province has not been sub-divided and forms a single local region. Settlement is now largely absent, but the area is characterised by the remains of linear dykes, field boundaries, cultivation terraces and buildings which bear witness to the advance and retreat of farming, both cultivation and stock production, over several thousand years. The distinctive, difficult upland environment means that many of the medieval settlement sites relate to specialist enterprises, once closely linked to settlement located in the adjacent lowlands, such as shielings, but the extensive remains of medieval arable farming raise many unanswered questions about medieval land use and settlement, touching economic, climatic and population change. 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 areas such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South Eastern Province and 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. Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into strips (known as lands) which were allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams produced long, wide ridges, and the resultant 'ridge and furrow' where it survives is the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual strips or lands were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal headlands at the plough turning-points and lateral grass balks. Furlongs were in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow, especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive contribution to the character of the historic landscape. It is usually now convered by hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure. The hut circle, cultivation terraces and farmstead of later prehistoric date, and medieval settlement and field system 800m and 740m south of Elsdonburn Shank are well-preserved and represent settlement at the site spanning three millennia. The prehistoric hut circle and cultivation terraces will provide evidence for the nature of Bronze Age settlement and agriculture, and the Romano-British farmstead will add to our understanding of the rural landscape and economy of the uplands during the Roman occupation. The medieval settlement of Heddon and the remains of its field system is a good example of its type and will add to our knowledge of the diversity of medieval settlement in England. The remains are part of a group of high quality archaeological sites in the northern Cheviots and form part of a wider archaeological landscape.


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The monument includes the remains of a hut circle, a series of cultivation terraces and a farmstead of later prehistoric date, as well as part of the medieval settlement of Heddon and its associated field system. It is situated on a wide saddle of land between Coldsmouth Hill and Ring Chesters with wide views to the north and south. The monument is divided into two separate areas of protection. The remains of the late prehistoric hut circle, cultivation terraces, farmstead and the core of Heddon medieval settlement and field system are contained within the first area of protection. The cultivation terraces are visible as a series of broad, level terraces stepped into the natural slope of the north facing hill. Situated on one of the terraces is an isolated hut circle, 3.5m in diameter internally with walls up to 1m high. A farmstead of Romano-British date, orientated north east to south west, lies 240m to the south west on a south facing hill slope. It comprises an enclosure, about 25m by 23m, and annexe, about 18m by 15m, scooped into the hillside. At the south western end of the annexe is a well-formed hut circle, 5m in diameter. Beyond the farmstead, to the west, are a series of three levelled and embanked platforms, divided one from the other by a stream, and interpreted as house platforms. Between, and partially overlying, the later prehistoric remains the core of the medieval settlement of Heddon and part of its associated field system are visible. Heddon was a member of the barony of Muschamp and is first mentioned in documents in 1296, when there were five taxpayers. In the Poll Tax of 1377, eleven adults are recorded. By the middle of the 16th century, however, the village had already been abandoned for several decades. The village plan is visible as the prominent earthworks of a single row of houses with crofts or garden areas to the rear. At least six rectangular platforms or tofts are orientated roughly north to south and contain the sites of individual dwellings or longhouses. The longhouses are visible as earthworks which measure between 35m and 8m long and between 0.5 and 1.2m high, and are divided unequally into two or more rooms. At the northern end of the row, the houses are sited on a raised terrace. To the rear of each toft are the remains of an elongated enclosure or croft, each bounded from its neighbour by a low bank; the largest plot measures 30m by 15m. Beyond the crofts are a series of broad cultivation terraces and a field plot containing ridge and furrow cultivation remains, associated with the medieval settlement and defined by low banks, walls and lynchets. The remains of a further medieval longhouse, part of the medieval settlement, is contained within the second area of protection. This house measures 30m by 7m and is separated from the main row of the settlement by a wet and boggy area of land. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these include all fence lines and stone walls which cross the monument, fence and gate posts and concrete pads within the former sheep stall, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 34221

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dixon, P J, The Deserted Medieval Villages of North Northumberland, (1986), 321-4
NT 82 NE 26,

End of official listing