Romano-British settlement site to the east and south-east of East Mellwaters farmhouse


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Field immediately to the east of the garden around East Mellwaters farmhouse.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Field immediately to the east of the garden around East Mellwaters farmhouse.
County Durham (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A compact, unenclosed Romano-British settlement with associated remains, surviving as earthworks and buried deposits.

Reasons for Designation

The Romano-British settlement site to the east and south-east of East Mellwaters farmhouse is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period, survival, potential: as a well preserved Romano-British site with its upstanding earthworks indicating a good archaeological potential to provide an insight into the native population during the period of Roman rule; * Group value: with the adjacent prehistoric settlement remains that are thought to have been established slightly earlier in the Iron Age.


In Northern England, Iron Age and Romano-British native settlements take a variety of forms. Although the majority appear to have been small, non-defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms, some appear to have had no clear outer boundary. Some, generally in the uplands and known from the Bronze Age onwards, are loose, unenclosed groupings of round-houses or smaller hut circles. Such settlements may have been the result of transhumance: settlements only periodically occupied to take advantage of summer grazing. The relative stability, the Pax Romana, established by the Romans saw some new native settlements develop from the late first century AD that also lack enclosing boundaries, but are thought to have been occupied year round and not just seasonally. Many aligned themselves with roads or trackways, but examples are also known that appear to have been focused on a broader village green. Romanising influence is also thought to have seen a shift from round houses and curvilinear enclosures to more rectilinear layouts and structures.

The prehistoric earthworks at East Mellwaters are extensive and are thought to represent a succession of settlement sites that were established and then perhaps abandoned in turn over the centuries. These earthworks have not been investigated by archaeological excavation, and there are no records of any datable finds. The monument lies about 2.5km to the west of the Roman fort at Bowes, and just south of the Roman road that runs westwards over Stainmore, thought to follow one of the principal prehistoric routes over the Pennines. The local farming economy in the Iron Age and Romano-British periods is thought to have been mainly pastoral, but supplemented with a small amount of arable including cereals.

The Romano-British settlement site that lies on the north side of the Sleightholme Beck was described by Robinson (2001) as a platform settlement. In contrast to the separately scheduled walled settlement site on the south side of the beck, this settlement is unenclosed. It includes a series of rectangular platforms and terraces considered to represent house platforms and associated yards, all aligned in an orderly, compact layout across a south-facing slope, possibly focused on a village green on the west side. The settlement appears to form part of a rectilinear field system of narrow rectangular fields which probably originally extended over most of the area between the River Greta and Sleightholme Beck. This field system, which is also thought to be Romano-British, is not included in the scheduling.

The alternative interpretation that the settlement site dates to the medieval period is possible, but is considered unlikely. There is no evidence of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation which would be expected to accompany a compact settlement layout such as this. Instead, a medieval settlement in the vicinity of East Mellwaters would be expected to be more irregular and dispersed, probably in the form of a single farmstead, the precursor to the modern farm.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: a compact, unenclosed Romano-British settlement site surviving as earthworks and associated buried remains.

DESCRIPTION: the monument occupies raised ground on the north side of the Sleightholme Beck, west of the confluence with the River Greta. Much of the area is a gentle, south-facing slope.

The settlement includes about seven rows of rectangular platforms and demarcated areas, roughly aligned into four north-south lines. The two lines to the west (on slightly lower, flatter ground) are generally demarcated by gullies and banks, being 15m x 10m on average. These are interpreted as representing garden enclosures, yards or animal pens. The two rows to the east are generally terraced into the hillside and are interpreted as representing house platforms, the clearest measuring around 11m by 5m. The platforms and yards are closely spaced with little evidence of intervening trackways.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the settlement earthworks are contained within a modern field, the area being drawn to follow a line immediately inside the modern boundaries as mapped. Two small areas adjacent to entrances to the field, to the west and north-west, which have had modern disturbance and lack earthworks have not been included in the scheduled area, as shown on the map. The fragmentary remains of the associated field system extending around the settlement are also not included in the scheduling.

MAPPING NOTE: the accompanying map to this record only shows the extent of this scheduling. Two further prehistoric settlement sites on the south side of Sleightholme Beck, form separate scheduled monuments.


Books and journals
Robinson, P, 'The settlements and field systems at East and West Mellwaters ' in Vyner, Blaise, Stainmore : the archaeology of a north Pennine pass : an archaeological survey of Bowes Moor, Co. Durham, undertaken in conjunction with the improvement of the A66 Trans-Pennine Trunk Road , (2001), 61-70
Laurie, T, 'An enclosed settlement near East Mellwaters Farm, Bowes' in Durham Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 1, (1984), 35-39


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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