2006 Resource Assessments – all periods

The First version of the North East Regional Research Framework (NERRF), published in 2006 is available as a PDF download here, but the Resources Assessments for all periods are now online on this page. Please use the menu on the left to navigate to the period you would like to read.

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic

Specialist Group consisted of John Davies (independent scholar), Peter Rowe (Tees Archaeology), Penny Spikins (Dept of Archaeology, University of York), Chris Tolan-Smith (independent consultant), Clive Waddington (Archaeological Research Services), Mark White (Dept of Archaeology, University of Durham), and Rob Young (Northumberland National Parks Authority).

History of research

Perhaps due to the relatively low visibility of Mesolithic remains compared with the monumentality of later prehistoric periods or the spectacular nature of Roman features in the North-East, very little work was carried out on this period before the 20th century. After World War I, however, a new generation of independent archaeologists showed a closer interest in the seemingly ephemeral remains of early prehistory. In the south of the region workers such as Arthur Raistrick (1896-1991), Charles Trechmann (1884-1964), Frank Elgee (1880-1944), Clare Fell (1912-2002), and Edward Hildyard were all involved particularly in the recording of significant numbers of early lithics, and through their work it became possible to recognise a distinctively Mesolithic archaeology of North-East England. Arthur Raistrick, though he mostly worked in Yorkshire, was responsible for some of the first regional syntheses of the existing evidence (e.g. Raistrick 1933a; 1934; Raistrick and Bennett-Gibbs 1934). He taught at King’s College in Newcastle (a forerunner of the university) and retired as a Reader in Geology in 1956. Throughout the 1930s he was active in recording Mesolithic material in the region, including the important site at Crimdon Dene in County Durham (Raistrick and Westoll 1933; Raistrick et al 1935).

In Cleveland, Charles Trechmann, a geologist by training, and Frank Elgee mainly worked on the coast, though from the 1930s Elgee increasingly carried out work on the moorland edge of Cleveland. This work was later continued by Don Spratt (e.g. Spratt et al 1976). Trechmann’s interest in the coastline led to his work on the submerged forest at Hartlepool (Trechmann 1936; 1946), as well as at Hart, close to Crimdon Dene (Weyman 1984).

To the west, in the North Pennines and particularly Weardale, work was dominated by Edward Hildyard and Clare Fell. This interest was continued by Rob Young as part of his PhD thesis (Young 1984). In Teesdale, Mesolithic material was recovered as part of multi-period fieldwork by Denis Coggins (Coggins 1986), which included investigations at Middle Hurth (Coggins and Fairless 1997). Work in this area has also recovered possibly Upper Palaeolithic and both Early and Later Mesolithic material at Towler Hill (Coggins et al 1989).

There has been less work outside the North Pennines and south Durham/Teesside. One significant collection was built up by Fritz Berthele, a forestry worker active in north Northumberland. He collected a large number of objects in the course of his work from the mid 1960s to the mid 1990s (Hewitt 1995). On the Northumberland coast, as early as the 1920s, Francis Buckley collected flint in the area around Bamburgh, as well as inland on Lucker Moor and around Chatton and Belford (Gilks 1993, 1; Buckley 1922a; 1922b). More detailed overviews of the history of research of the early prehistory of the North-East can be found in papers by Young (2000b; 2002).

The period has continued to be one in which important work has been carried out by independent workers, such as John Davies (Davies 1983; 1995) and Norman Harbord (Harbord 1996), as much as by professional archaeologists. Until the Durham Archaeological Survey in the early 1980s there was relatively little wider institutional interest in the period (Haselgrove and Healey 1992). More recently, however, significant work has been carried out on the Mesolithic of the region, especially in Northumberland. This has examined both individual sites, such as unpublished work at Low Hauxley (Bonsall 1984), investigation at Howick (Waddington et al 2003) and at Nessend Quarry, Holy Island (Young and O’Sullivan 1993; Beavitt et al 1985; 1986; 1988; 1990), and at a wider landscape scale, in the Milfield Basin (Waddington 2000a) and Tynedale (Tolan-Smith 1997c).

Existing research frameworks

There are a number of existing research agendas for early prehistory written at the national level (e.g. Prehistoric Society 1999), as well as those for more specific regional issues (e.g. Adams 1996; ASUD 1993; Frodsham 2000; Harding et al 1996; Young 2002), although none cover the range of material presented in this Resource Assessment.

Factors influencing survival of resource

The early prehistoric archaeological resource is greatly affected by post-depositional factors. The sheer length of time between deposition and recording means that largescale geomorphological factors, which are not significant for later periods in this region, play their part in the known distribution of Mesolithic sites (Figure 9). For example, only by understanding the patterns of coastal change can we appreciate just how ‘coastal’ the Mesolithic sites of the North-East might have been (Young 2000b, 184). During the 1930s and 1940s most early researchers did not recognise that there had been any significant coastal change, though it was clear from Trechmann’s work on the submerged forest at Hartlepool that there had been important shifts in the coastline. In fact, there have been two main influences on the coastline of the North-East: global sea level rises and isostatic uplift following the retreat of the ice sheets. This has led to significant coastal erosion. In an early piece of research on this topic, it was suggested that in the south of the region, around Saltburn, up to three miles of coastline had been lost through erosion since c. 8,000 BC (Agar 1954). There is still the potential, however, for the survival of Mesolithic material in a submerged context in the NorthEast, as the recent discovery of subsurface Mesolithic remains near Tynemouth indicates.

It is only to the north of the ‘hinge’, which lies around Holy Island, that uplift has had a more dominant influence than sea-level rise, and there is potential for dry-land beach sites, such as the undated deposits around the Castle on Holy Island (Hogg 1972). Ultimately, any consideration of the changing coastline brings into sharper focus the position of the North-East in relation to the post-glacial land bridge between Britain and Europe. In her major recent survey of ‘Doggerland’, Coles has suggested that the final separation of the British mainland from Doggerland occurred around 5,800-3,800 cal BC (Coles 1998, 67). While the land bridge may have been inundated by the early Holocene, the presence of an inhabited landmass perhaps only 100km to the east must not be forgotten (Coles 1998, 72-75).

A more subtle problem in the recognition of coastal prehistoric sites is that caused by the large-scale, postmedieval practice of dumping ship’s ballast (comprising stones and gravel from elsewhere in the country). For example, large ballast dumps are known from the mouth of the Wear and this practice may well have led to the redeposition of Mesolithic objects from elsewhere in the country on to the North-East coast. To complicate matters further, seaweed was traditionally taken from the coast to use as a fertiliser, potentially moving this newly introduced material still further inland.

In lowland areas there is a range of threats to the archaeological resource. The region’s gravel terraces, such as those in the Milfield Basin, from which much Mesolithic material has been recovered, are under significant threat from gravel extraction. There is also a more general threat to sites from ploughing, which is particularly destructive on light, sandy soils, and thinner soils on steep hillsides. Various flint scatters in Teesside have been tested by trial trenching through the development control process (e.g. Waughmann 1999; Carne 1997) but all have proven to be severely truncated by medieval and post-medieval ploughing. Another distorting factor is the 18th- and 19th-century practice of liming fields which introduced burnt flint onto the ploughsoil and this appears to be particularly problematic in the south of the region.

In the uplands, peat growth has had a major impact, with up to 4m of peat covering Mesolithic surfaces in some areas. This has clear implications for the visibility of early prehistoric activity. Nonetheless, in some locations peat is eroded through animal or human activity, or it may be subject to wider-scale degradation through longer-term processes, such as de-watering. This can lead to the higher visibility of Mesolithic remains, though these processes also threaten to destroy them.

Despite post-depositional factors and the inherently ephemeral nature of early prehistoric remains, there are still occasional discoveries of intact Mesolithic surfaces in unexpected locations. At Darlington Market Place, for example, an intact Mesolithic or Neolithic land surface with artefacts and possible structural remains was found to be preserved around 1m below the modern ground surface (ASUD 1994, 14-15). Elsewhere, Mesolithic tools and a possible Early Neolithic ditch were identified beneath the Roman fort at South Shields (Hodgson et al 2001).

As with other periods, the record is also significantly influenced by patterns of research. Historically, as was noted above, there have been more researchers in South Durham/Teesside and the North Pennines than to the north of the Tyne. In Northumberland, most work has focused on the coastal zone, with little progress in the Cheviots.

A serious problem is the relatively low profile of Mesolithic archaeology with members of the general public. Unlike remains from later periods, which can be distinctive and easily recognisable, early prehistoric remains can be fragmentary and difficult to recognise without training. The consequence of this is the relatively small number of early prehistoric chance finds reported by the public.

A final issue affecting known distributions is a potential bias in the identification of raw materials. Most fieldworkers can identify flint without difficulty, and this may have led to an over-representation of flint finds to the detriment of other raw materials exploited, such as quartzite and chert. Nonetheless, it must not be assumed that the absence of Mesolithic material is purely due to a lack of research in a particular area; despite extensive work by experienced archaeologists in the Wall Zone, for example, little Mesolithic material has so far been recorded there.

Environmental background


Following the end of the last Devensian glaciation and the beginning of the Holocene interglacial, the landscape of the North-East was free of ice by c. 15,000 BP though the retreat of the ice sheets continued to have major impacts. In many areas great depths of till were dumped in the lower valley regions, with sand and gravel outwash terraces forming in areas of the South Tyne valley and eastern flank of the Cheviots. In parts of the Cheviots and the North Pennines meltwater torrents cut channels that are now preserved as dry valleys. In higher areas, highenergy flows cut deep into valley floors leaving relict river terraces. These rivers have often shifted their course across their valley floors and terrace surfaces, leaving palaeochannels, while in lower lying areas the decreasing energy of the rivers led to the deposition of large quantities of alluvium and other water-borne sediments. In the Milfield Basin, which has been the focus of much research, a series of interleaved layers of Holocene alluvial fills and valley floor peats have built up to a thickness of 4m (Tipping 1998). Evidence for the latest major phase of sediment deposition has been dated to c. 7,500 cal BP to c. 4,000-3,500 cal BP, earlier than elsewhere in the region (Tipping 1998).

Vegetational history

There is little palynological evidence for clear human impact on the region’s vegetation cover in the early prehistoric period, though there have been detailed studies carried out both to the south, on the North York Moors, and to the north around Hawick in the Borders, where such activity has been identified (Simmons and Innes 1988; Innes and Shennan 1991). This may have much to do with the research interests of the region’s palynologists, though there are other problems with pollen cores in the region, and in many cases dating is either absent or inadequate. With the advent of Accelerated Mass Spectroscopy (AMS) dating and Bayesian techniques for calibration there is potential for much more accurate dating in the future.

In pollen diagrams, human activity is represented by changes in plant types and the regular presence of charcoal particles (rather than their occasional presence, which would be more typical of natural fires). There is some indication of woodland clearance, albeit on a small scale, and it has been suggested that the presence of heather pollen in the earliest layers in the sequence at Bloody Moss, Otterburn (Northumberland), may imply anthropogenic forest clearance at this time (Moores and Passmore 1999, 21). Work on a sequence from Akeld Steads (Northumberland) has shown that isolated peats began to form on the valley floor before 11,854-11,214 cal BP (Tipping 1996). Continuous peat accumulation came to an end at around 7,500 cal BP with a series of flood deposits. Pollen evidence indicates a corresponding decline in Alnus (alder) and a rise in wetland herbs.

A number of pollen samples were taken during work on the A66 road-widening scheme on Stainmore. These showed peat formation from 6,289-5,949 cal BC and, until the early 4th millennium BC, mixed woodlands, including Betula (birch), Quercus (oak), Ulmus (elm), and Tilia (lime) stood on well-drained slopes. The presence of charcoal suggests anthropogenic forest clearance, although this did not last long and the levels for Betula, Quercus and Tilia had returned to their earlier levels by 5,117±68 BP. The elm decline at this site appears to be dated to 4,728±52 BP (Gear and Turner 2001, 33; Figure 10).

A dated pollen sequence from organic, alluvial sediments from the Howick Burn (Northumberland) will provide an exceptionally important example of a sequence from a coastal context (Clive Waddington pers comm). Howick has also produced a rare example of Mesolithic plant macrofossils, and a large quantity of charred hazelnuts has been recovered from the Mesolithic structure there (Waddington et al 2003: Figure 10).

Faunal remains

Despite the scant and ambiguous evidence for Palaeolithic human occupation in the area, there are a number of isolated faunal finds, including a hippopotamus bone of Ipswichian date from Stockton-on-Tees, and a Devensian rhinoceros bone from Brierton (Teesside) (Stuart 1982; Trechmann 1939). A number of Late Glacial elk and deer finds include discoveries of elk at Neasham (Co. Durham), the River Skerne in Darlington (Co. Durham), and Giant Irish deer from South Shields and Seaton (Teesside) (Trechmann 1936; 1939; Huntley and Stallibrass 1995, 89).

Bos horn cores are known from a number of Mesolithic sites, such as from Moor House (Durham) (Johnson and Dunham 1963). A very deeply stratified, but undated auroch horn has been recorded from Hedgehope Hill (Northumberland) (Berthele Collection), and a red deer antler pick has been found at Hatfield House, North Bailey, Durham. An important assemblage of animal remains has also been recovered from the occupation site at Howick, which produced burnt bone fragments, including identifiable remains of grey seal, wild pig, dog or wolf, bird and fox (Waddington et al 2003).

There are virtually no recorded suites of invertebrate remains. In fact, there is relatively little evidence from the prehistoric period as a whole in the region, though at Low Hauxley, Amble (Northumberland), a buried soil and peat, some of which may be of Mesolithic date, has been assessed for invertebrate remains (Issitt et al 1995). The sediments there were found to contain both aquatic and terrestrial species and mollusc shells (Huntley and Stallibrass 1995, 97; Bonsall 1984).

Palaeolithic activity?

Evidence for Palaeolithic activity in the North-East is sparse. Despite reports of Lower Palaeolithic hand-axes being found, they are likely to be re-deposited artefacts from ballast dumping on the coast, even if their identifications are legitimate. There are, however, a few hints of human presence of Upper Palaeolithic date. Recent work at Howick has produced Early Mesolithic tools re-chipped into heavily corticated cores, presumably of Upper Palaeolithic date. These cores clearly came from the beach, but their ultimate origin is unclear. They could derive from offshore deposits or from coastal boulder clay and they may have been washed back in-shore after being eroded from the cliffs (Clive Waddington pers comm).

A possible Upper Palaeolithic flint blade has been recorded from Eltringham Farm, near Prudhoe (Northumberland) (Tolan-Smith with Cousins 1995) (Figure 11), and further south in Teesdale, a number of probable Palaeolithic flints have been recovered at Towler Hill in Lartington, together with possible Creswellian points and blades (Coggins et al 1989) . There is little other convincing Upper Palaeolithic material in the region.

Mesolithic activity

Scatters of Mesolithic lithics are found widely across the North-East. Unless excavated under modern conditions, however, it is very hard to characterise such sites and to assess them in terms of the activities they may represent, or to discuss any seasonal aspects of their occupation. The dating of Mesolithic lithic assemblages is often hazy. One problem has been their categorisation on the basis of projectile point types, which may make them appear younger than they really are. It is also questionable as to what extent dating techniques based on the presence or absence of conventionally recognisable tool types can usefully date assemblages consisting of other material. At Nessend, Holy Island, for example, recognisable tool types make up less than 3% of the total assemblage, the rest being cores and material from knapping (Young 2000b). Elsewhere, it is still the case that significant groups of material in museum collections require further analysis, whereas lithics from development-driven fieldwork are rarely analysed fully or published.

Earlier Mesolithic activity is known from a number of sites. In the North Pennines, Towler Hill (Co. Durham) has produced objects, as well as possible Upper Palaeolithic items (Coggins et al 1989). Further up Teesdale an early assemblage has been found at Staple Crag, Holwick (Co. Durham) (Coggins 1986; Pickin 1991). A number of early sites are also recorded from the coast, including Hart and Hartlepool in the submerged forest. In Northumberland, Rob Young excavated at Nessend Quarry, collecting material which may be earlier Mesolithic (Young 2000b).

One of the earlier dates for a lithics assemblage of later Mesolithic character comes from Fillpoke Beacon (Co. Durham), which has a radiocarbon date of 6,810±120 uncal BC (Jacobi 1976). At Howick an assemblage of over 16,000 fragments has been found inside the hut, including many microliths (Waddington et al 2003). It is notable that some areas which have produced large amounts of later Mesolithic material, such as the Milfield Basin, have yielded only small quantities of earlier artefacts (Waddington 2000a, 170).

In general, Mesolithic stone tools in the region are made from raw materials available locally. Due to the lack of good quality local flint, a range of other rock types was exploited, including chert, agate and quartz. Flint may have been collected from coastal locations, where it was washed ashore from off-shore deposits, and secondary flint deposits are also known from the boulder clays of the North-East coastal plain. Other sources of local flint include the gravel deposits from the major river basins, such as the Tyne and Till, in which agates could also be found. Another potential source of flint is the Wolds area of East Yorkshire. Quartz is widespread throughout much of the region. In addition, as we have seen, the evidence from Howick suggests reworking of some Upper Palaeolithic objects. There appears to be some regional variability in the use of these raw materials. For example, in the Milfield Basin over 50% of Mesolithic lithics are made from non-flint raw materials. This contrasts with the assemblage from Nessend, Holy Island, where around 78% of the lithics are made from flint, mainly locally derived (Young 2000b, 183).

A small number of Mesolithic sites have also provided structural remains, the most spectacular being those at Howick, discovered by John Davies and Jim Hutchinson, and excavated by Clive Waddington (Waddington et al 2003). This is one of the best-preserved Mesolithic sites in the British Isles, and dated by a sequence of over 20 radiocarbon dates. A sunken-floored hut, with rings of postholes and stakeholes and a series of hearths indicating at least one rebuilding, has parallels with a similar hut excavated recently at Dunbar (Northumberland) (Waddington and Passmore 2004, 26). Evidence for more permanent occupation on the coast is also indicated by the remains of a midden found eroding out of a cliff at Low Hauxley, Amble (Northumberland) (Bonsall 1984). This contained evidence for the consumption of shellfish; further analysis will investigate any evidence for fish bones.

Other sites include a small ‘windbreak’ structure from excavations at Bollihope, Weardale (Co. Durham) (Manchester et al nd) and several hearths and a possible linear feature at Highcliff Nab, Guisborough (Teesside) (Waughman 1996; Harbord 1996). It is possible that other remains may have been discovered and gone unrecognised and a re-assessment of older reports and references would be constructive. A small structure of possible Mesolithic date has also been recorded by a palaeochannel at Hartlepool; though a wattle panel (c. 3m x 1m) of late Mesolithic or early Neolithic date, also from the submerged forest at Hartlepool, is more likely to be the remains of a fish trap (Waughman 2005; Figure 4).

 A separate category of Mesolithic site is the small group of rock shelters probably used in this period, including Corby’s Crag, Dore Crag, Bowden Doors, Cuthbert’s Cave and Goat’s Crag (Northumberland) (Beckensall 1976; Burgess 1972; Davies 1983; Waddington 1999). Goat’s Crag, for example, produced a number of undated slots and gullies, which may be Mesolithic, and is also the site of a very rare example of rock art of probable Mesolithic date (van Hoek and Smith 1988; Figure 12).

Routeways and long-distance communication

Questions of access and long-distance communication are crucial in trying to understand the pattern of Mesolithic settlement in the area. The appearance of stone from Langdale (Cumbria) at Birkside Fell (Northumberland) suggests east-west connections, while the presence of flints from the Yorkshire Wolds implies communication either along the coast or down the Vale of Mowbray to the chalk uplands of East Yorkshire. Similar flint has been found in the Milfield Basin, and may have travelled there via an inland route, probably via the Pennines (e.g. R. Young 1987). It is unlikely to have arrived via the coast as none of the other flint from the area is Northumberland flint derived from the coastal boulder clays. Thus, the pattern of raw material supply to the Milfield area implies complex communication networks, with local groups seemingly linked into long-distance, north-south networks, but not integrated into relatively short-distance lateral networks between the coast and inland north Northumberland. The presence of sites on the coast which have seemingly easy access inland is noticeable. Good examples include those close to the steep denes on the Durham coast like Crimdon Dene, or sites further north at Budle Bay, with easy access to the interior along the Waren Burn.

Other material culture

Although early prehistoric archaeology is dominated by the study of lithics, other types of material culture are also present. Antler picks of probable Mesolithic date have been found at Cowshill, Weardale (Co. Durham) (Wymer 1977, 85), and at Hatfield College in the North Bailey, Durham (Lowther et al 1993, gazetter no. 31). Possible bone harpoons include one washed ashore in the mid 19th century near Seaburn (Tyne and Wear) (Trechmann 1936), and a bilaterally barbed flat point harpoon from Whitburn (Co. Durham) (Mellars 1970).

Museum collections

Mesolithic lithics can be found in many of the region’s museums. The largest collection is in the Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle, which holds material from Birtley, Corbridge, Bolam Lake, Bywell and Clive Waddington’s work at both Howick and in the Milfield Basin. It particularly features the collection made by Cocks and Weyman as well as the Whitburn harpoon. A gazetteer of lithic collections of all ages from the museum has recently been published (Waddington 2004). Francis Buckley’s collections of flints are also held there, though his notebooks and drawing books are held at the Tolson Museum, Huddersfield (West Yorkshire). Other major collections include those held in the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle (Co. Durham), which has material from Finchale (Co. Durham) and Hildyard’s collections of flints from Teesdale. The Sunderland Museum holds assemblages from Old Durham, Finchale, Monk Hesledon, Crimdon Dene and Fillpoke Beacon. Much material collected by Raistrick is now held by the Craven Museum in Skipton (North Yorkshire) (Croucher and Richardson 2003).

Regional overviews

The North Pennines: a review by Rob Young

The Palaeolithic Possible Upper Palaeolithic material has been discovered by Tim Laurie on the terraces of the Tees at Towler Hill near Lartington in Teesdale (Coggins et al 1989).

The Mesolithic: earlier Mesolithic evidence

The work of Denis Coggins and Tim Laurie at Staple Crag and Towler Hill in Teesdale (Co. Durham) has provided us with new information about an Early Mesolithic presence in the Pennine dales (Coggins et al l989).

The Mesolithic: later Mesolithic evidence

Between 1910 and 1916 the Weardale historian and antiquarian William Morely Egglestone was actively involved in tracing previous discoveries of flint and stone tools in Weardale. He published papers on lithic material from Redburn Common at Rookhope, and on a range of stone axes and perforated stone tools found in the dale (Egglestone 1909-1910, 1911-1912a, 1911-1912b). He may have been prompted in this by the visit of Charles Trechmann to Rookhope. Trechmann’s main area of interest was the coastal area of eastern Durham, but he was intrigued by a reference to finds around Allendale made by the Revd Howchin in 1880. The Allendale site was in an area of vegetational erosion caused by fumes from a nearby lead-smelting chimney. The finds he made here prompted him to seek out other upland areas with similar brick-built flues, or chimneys, used to take the poisonous fumes away from lead-smelting sites and thus producing similar scars of eroded vegetation (Trechmann 1905; 1912).

From Allendale, Trechmann explored the area around the Blackton smelt mill chimney in Teesdale, and in 1905 he discovered an amazing array of material. On the strength of these finds he progressed into Weardale and to the site above Rookhope from which he collected a barbed-andtanged arrowhead.

Some 40 years later Edward Hildyard, who lived at Horsely Hall near Stanhope in Weardale, began to try and examine, and if possible, collect ‘any past finds that could still be traced to individual hands and to secure them for posterity’ (Fell and Hildyard 1953, 99). He also initiated the first proper programme of field-walking in Weardale in the late 1940s! These activities were the result of two accidental circumstances. In 1946 and 1947 he was engaged in the excavation of the medieval episcopal hunting lodge at Cambokeels (Co. Durham), and in the course of his work he was surprised by the large number of flints in the excavated area. This led him to examine the spoil heaps of the water pipeline then being laid down the dale from Burnhope Reservoir to Sunderland, and again the results showed the presence of flint in some quantity. As a result, he organised the first-ever systematic survey of ploughed fields in Weardale; when the results were finally published he had discovered some 36 new flint scatter sites from the river terrace system in Weardale (Fell and Hildyard 1953; 1956).

Hildyard’s catalogue of sites formed the basis for my own fieldwork in the dale over 20 years later. My own involvement with Mesolithic material in County Durham stems for my PhD research in which I re-examined all of the extant material from the Wear Valley and carried out my own programme of field-walking in the area (Young 1984; 1987).

Coggins (1986) has produced an excellent summary of his own multi-period fieldwork in Teesdale; and Laurie has published a review of early post-glacial settlement data from the Tees and Swale Valleys (1985). Coggins, Laurie and Young also collaborated in a review of the late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic of the North Pennine dales (1989). This was an attempt at a comprehensive review of what was known about the early prehistoric period in the North Pennine area, concentrating in particular on Weardale and Teesdale. In 1997 Coggins and Fairless produced the report on their excavations at the multi-period site of Middle Hurth Edge in Teesdale (Coggins and Fairless 1997). The present writer documented a later Mesolithic flint assemblage from this site (Young 1997). Similarly, an assemblage of possibly Mesolithic flint was recorded from the earliest levels of excavation on the medieval castle at Barnard Castle (Young forthcoming). A further later Mesolithic assemblage consisting of over 200 pieces of flint and chert was recovered during excavations at the Iron Age/RomanoBritish site of Bollihope Common, near Stanhope (Co. Durham) in 1999 (Young and Webster in prep).

Mesolithic sites in the Bolam and Shaftoe area

by John Davies

The area is upland and riverine, with sites varying in altitude between 110 and 190m. The landscape is dominated by the Shaftoe escarpment which has a maximum height of 219m. Sites of a range of types have been discovered by the writer in various locations, from field searches to the recovery of material from rock shelters. These sites vary in lithic density from a few finds from campsites to more permanent or probably re-used locations. There are truncated blade forms, which are probably Early Mesolithic, from all types of locations. Most of the material recovered is flint, though there are also agate and chert samples. There are no radiocarbon dates from this area (Davies and Davidson 1990; Davies 1995; 2004).

The Shaftoe Ingoe Grit escarpment contains a series of sites which are mainly rock shelters running east-west along a valley. Rock shelters with Mesolithic forms face south (3), west (1) and north (2). There is only one east-facing shelter. Finds from these sites have been recovered from erosion scars and eroding rock shelter floors, and include a suite of diagnostic Mesolithic pieces mainly microliths or microburins, and to a lesser degree denticulates and scrapers.

Only one site has been partially excavated, this over three seasons involving volunteers and professional oversight (approximately four weeks in total). From an area of 29 square metres, 1,200 pieces were recovered. A preliminary assessment of the material has shown some Early and Late Mesolithic microliths and microburins, scrapers and burins as well as backed blades. There are also some later blades and scrapers which are probably Neolithic, a cup marked stone and a Late Neolithic/Bronze Age barb-and-tang arrowhead. The site also has evidence of use during the early 20th century. A small section has not been examined and has been left for future study. Near this site lie several others, including an open area as well as the usual rock shelter types. Apart from the excavation none of the other sites has had any cleaning, material being collected over many years from erosions scars, etc.

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic in north Northumberland

by Clive Waddington

There are no certain dated sites belonging to the Palaeolithic in north Northumberland although the potential for reworked Palaeolithic material in the gravel spreads of the Till and Tweed valleys provide one opportunity. Other potential Palaeolithic material may be found in cave settings, although few are known from this part of the county, as there is only a limited area of limestone and some shallow caves in the sandstone escarpment. The Early Mesolithic is hinted at by the presence of the occasional broad-blade microlith found at sites such as Howick, and during field-walking in areas such as the Milfield Basin. Although these artefact types have not been securely dated in the Borders area, it is likely that they do date to the early Holocene. An important priority is to establish the presence and timing of Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic occupation in North-East England.

Apart from the unpublished date from Low Hauxley, the only radiocarbon-dated Mesolithic site in Northumberland, which is ironically the best-dated Mesolithic site in the country, is Howick (Waddington et al 2003). This site is located in central-north Northumberland in an estuarine setting on the coast (Figure 10). The evidence here reveals that the first dated evidence of human occupation in the region dates to c. 8,000 cal BC. This is the very beginning of the Late Mesolithic and, accordingly, the lithic assemblage from this site was based around a narrowblade technology. The Howick site provides the most vivid evidence for a Mesolithic settlement structure so far discovered in England and provides insights into the duration of occupation as well as the economic basis of the hunter-gatherer occupants. The long period over which the site was used suggests that occupation may, in some cases, have been of a more permanent and territorial nature than previously assumed. The 33 radiocarbon dates from the hut sequence provide very close dating for the lithic assemblage of over 13,000 pieces found inside the hut.

Mesolithic coastal sites known in the region tend to be located close to fresh water stream and river courses that fall into the sea. Other examples include those at Crimdon Dean and the flint scatter sites known from around Budle Bay. Such sites are also routeways that penetrate inland along the valleys. Recent field-walking along the Lower Tweed valley has demonstrated the importance of such routeways for Mesolithic groups. Particularly high concentrations of Mesolithic knapping debris and tools have been found at river valley sites, usually on raised gravel terraces above the flood plain such as those found at Low Shilford (Tyne Valley) and those in the Tweed Valley at St Cuthbert’s and Wark, as well as those on the gravel terraces in the Milfield Basin and further upstream around Bewick and Beanley.

Mesolithic occupation of the Cheviot Hills is poorly understood, primarily because of a lack of dedicated fieldwork but also because so little of this land is opened up by ploughing which would otherwise permit field-walking. Field-walking of the low Cheviot slopes (up to the 25m contour) on the west side of the Milfield Basin has demonstrated, however, that Mesolithic groups did indeed use these hills and particularly favoured sites close to spring heads, stream courses and areas of level ground. The sandstone uplands have been better studied with several escarpments producing evidence of rock shelter sites (e.g. Goat’s Crag, Dove Crag, Corby’s Crag, Kyloe Crags, etc). Fieldwalking by Clive Waddington on the sandstone slopes around the Milfield Basin has also demonstrated Mesolithic activity on these fells. Most recently, a stubby end scraper, directly analogous to those found at Howick, was discovered during excavations around a cup-and-ring marked rock on Hunterheugh Crags, north of Alnwick (Northumberland).

The Mesolithic period in Teesside

by Peter Rowe

The Mesolithic period for the lower Tees Valley is principally registered on the Sites and Monuments Record as flint scatter sites and stray find spots. Flint scatters indicate Mesolithic presence on the Durham Magnesium Limestone plateau. Flint collection from the North Hartlepool/Crimdon Dene area began in the 1920s. The scatters appear to show continuity into later prehistory with mixed period flint-work present (Raistrick et al 1935, 212; Weyman 1984, 44; Haselgrove and Healey 1992, 7). Excavation of a flint scatter site at Fillpoke Beacon (Co. Durham) in the late 1930s demonstrated remarkable preservation of organic deposits (Coupland 1948) with a sample later dated by radiocarbon to 6,810±140 BC (Jacobi 1976, 71). Recent archaeological evaluations at Middle Warren, Hartlepool, provide further mixed period lithic scatters with origins in the Mesolithic period (Archaeological Practice 1996).

The known Mesolithic resource in the lower Tees Valley again consists of surface scatters of lithic material, for example along the eastern bank of the Tees between Yarm and Thornaby (Spratt et al 1976, 26). Developer-funded work at Quarry Farm, Ingleby Barwick, has recently identified prolific concentrations of multi-period flint-work along the south bank of the Tees in this area (ASUD 1997).

The submerged forest at Hartlepool represents a multiperiod prehistoric sequence from the Mesolithic onwards, with diagnostic flint-work and well-preserved flora and fauna in the peat deposits (Waughman 2005). Excavations in the 1990s demonstrated that parts of the former woodland here were burnt away in the 5th millennium BC. The earliest evidence of this burning was associated with a concentration of hoof prints of juvenile wild cattle. Other Mesolithic finds include a series of wooden stakes dated to the mid 4th millennium BC. These stakes were interpreted as part of a structure connected with fishing along the edge of a palaeochannel. A late 4th millennium BC red deer skeleton was also recovered; this animal may have died of natural causes but was butchered by humans.

The Tees Estuary has to date provided no confirmed Mesolithic deposits although stray finds consistent with an early post-glacial age are present (Agar 1954, 246). The East Cleveland Plain has produced little evidence of Mesolithic activity. That which is known is represented by lithic material from the excavations of later prehistoric ritual monuments at Boulby (Vyner 1984, 187; 1988b, 188). The east Cleveland coastline is more than likely to have been exploited during the Mesolithic period, echoing coastal use further north at Hartlepool. It is likely that post-glacial erosion along this stretch of coastline has destroyed much of the evidence of settlement or land use (Agar 1960).

Three large flint scatter sites are known along the north ridge of the Upleatham Hills (Spratt et al 1976; Rowe 1994). Study of the Upleatham material recovered by Spratt (Spratt et al 1976) demonstrates the level of inference available from surface scatters. In this instance the lithic material indicates that the occupants of the sites were undertaking a wide range of domestic activities such as food processing, flint knapping and tool production while maintaining hearths. The flint scatters might, therefore, be interpreted as base camps. Stray finds again demonstrate Mesolithic activity on the Eston Hills (Healey and Jelley 1988; Healey 1988, 40-41) although no significant concentrations are known.

Flint scatters are well documented on the Moor fringes (Spratt 1993). Rescue excavation of a flint scatter site at Highcliff Nab indicated the level of information that is potentially available from such surface sites (Waughman 1996) including, in this case, a sealed Mesolithic horizon associated with flint-working. Hearths thought to correspond to this layer were identified and produced further flint-work and calcined animal bone (Harbord 1996).

The Mesolithic in the Tyne Valley

by Chris Tolan-Smith

Two major projects have contributed to our knowledge of the Mesolithic in the Tyne Valley. The first consists of fieldwalking undertaken by Joan Weyman in the 1960s and 1970s, mainly in advance of work on the A68 and A69 routes, but also including visits to sites identified by other amateurs (e.g. Weyman 1995). This work extended from the western outskirts of Newcastle (Dewley Hill at Throckley) to just beyond the confluence of the rivers North and South Tyne (Warden Hill). Much of this work has been summarised for the Mesolithic period (Weyman 1984).

The second project was undertaken by members of the Department of Archaeology at Newcastle University from 1985 onwards, and includes field-walking carried out by undergraduates, postgraduates and members of the Stone Age Tynedale Survey (SATS). This work included the western outskirts of Newcastle, but did not extend beyond Corbridge. Research on this material is ongoing but several summaries have been published (Tolan-Smith 1996; 1997a; 1997b; 1997c). In 1996 this project was extended into the catchment of the Devil’s Water, a major south bank tributary of the River Tyne, in order to address issues relating to the relationship between activity in the valley and the surrounding uplands. This led to the discovery of the Birkside Fell Mesolithic site at about 380m in the North Pennines (Tolan-Smith 1997a; 1997b).

The results of these projects suggest that Mesolithic activity was widespread but varied in intensity between locations, and the definition of discrete ‘sites’ has proved difficult or even inappropriate. Analysis has made it possible to divide the material into that arising from extractive activities, such as hunting and raw material acquisition, and maintenance or processing activities. Particularly favoured situations for the latter include the bluffs overlooking the main valley while, although evidence for hunting is virtually ubiquitous, locations providing access to raw materials appear to be deeply incised side valleys and putative glacial features such as the mounds at Dewley Hill and Warden.

There are no radiocarbon dates for the Mesolithic in the Tyne Valley, but typological considerations imply that most of this activity should be dated to the Late Mesolithic, from about 7,000 BC onwards. Weyman, however, has reported some Early Mesolithic microlith forms from the site at Warden. Although such types also occur in Late Mesolithic assemblages, the discovery of a putative Late Upper Palaeolithic artefact from Prudhoe (Tolan-Smith with Cousins 1995) leaves open the possibility of a human presence in the Tyne Valley as early as the Pleistocene/Holocene.

Neolithic and Early Bronze Age

The Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Specialist Group consisted of Stan Beckensall (independent scholar), Margarita Díaz-Andreu (Dept of Archaeology, University of Durham), Paul Frodsham (Northumberland National Parks Authority), Jan Harding (Dept of Archaeology, University of Newcastle), Steve Speak (Tyne and Wear Museum Service), Blaise Vyner (Heritage and Arts consultant), and Clive Waddington (Archaeological Research Services).

History of research

Upstanding prehistoric remains have long exerted a fascination on those wishing to understand the history of the North-East, but it was not until the 19th century that there was a concerted attempt to explore and excavate them. Amongst the more prolific of the early explorers was Canon William Greenwell, a Durham clergyman who carried out excavations on a large number of barrows in Durham, Northumberland, and Yorkshire (Kinnes and Longworth 1985). Most of the artefacts discovered by Greenwell are now in the British Museum, and his work is the subject of an important research project based in the Department of Archaeology, University of Durham (Graves and O’Connor 2003). Other early scholars mainly focused their work on Northumberland. George Tate excavated at Threestoneburn Stone Circle, Greaves Ash and Yeavering, and made a pioneering early study of rock art (Tate 1863a; 1863b; 1865). Henry MacLauchlan, an employee of the Duke of Northumberland, also made a series of important surveys on ducal estates in the 1860s (MacLauchlan 1852; 1864).

In the 20th century, despite the teaching of archaeology at both Durham and Newcastle (King’s College, Durham, until 1963), little work on the prehistory of the region was carried out before World War II. For a long time the only university scholar to undertake significant fieldwork was George Jobey, and his work mainly focused on the Iron Age, although in the 1930s Nancy Newbigin did research rock art and other sites, excavating the long cairns at Bellshiel Law and the Devil’s Lapful (Northumberland) (e.g. Newbigin 1933; 1935a; 1935b; 1936).

Since the 1970s more work has been undertaken in the region, emanating both from the universities and the independent sector, such as Basil Butcher, Beryl Charlton and the members of the Northumberland Archaeological Group in Northumberland, and Colin Burgess (e.g. Charlton 1982; Sellers et al 1986; Burgess 1980). In East Durham and Cleveland pre-War work was carried out by Charles Trechmann and Frank Elgee, but is not until the 1970s that efforts were directed to the North Pennines, with the work of Denis Coggins in Teesdale, and also of Arthur Raistrick; much of this early work primarily focused on Mesolithic material. In the lower lying areas the Durham Archaeological Survey was the first extensive archaeological survey to tackle the less immediately apparent remains of East Durham and Cleveland (Haselgrove et al 1988).

Today, the role of independent archaeologists continues to be of great significance; the work of Stan Beckensall on rock art, and Tim Gates on aerial photography has been fundamental (e.g. Beckensall 2001; Gates 2004). In the south of the region, Tim Laurie has also carried out major surveys of rock art and burnt mounds (Beckensall and Laurie 1998). Research based in universities, both local and further afield, is represented by the work of Clive Waddington and Anthony Harding in the Milfield Basin, and by Richard Bradley on the landscape context of rock art (Bradley 1996; Harding 1981; Waddington 1998a). Major fieldwork has also been undertaken under the auspices of other bodies, such as the Northumberland National Park (e.g. Frodsham and Waddington 2004).

Existing research frameworks

Several research agendas already exist for this period. The English Heritage Archaeology Division Research Agenda (English Heritage 1997) presents research priorities based on those in Exploring our Past (English Heritage 1991). The study of processes of change reflecting the change and diversification of farming communities (c. 3,000-2,000 BC) is highlighted as well as the shift from landscapes dominated by communal monuments to one of settlements and fields (c. 2,000-300 BC). Among the more specific topics considered to be national research priorities are prehistoric rock art and territories and tenure in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. There are also more regionally nuanced lists. Towards an agenda for Neolithic Studies (Harding et al 1996) underlines seven main research themes: the dynamics of the Mesolithic to Neolithic transition, regional patterning, local patterns of settlement and their relationship to monuments, improving the chronological framework, rock art, the Neolithic to Bronze Age transition, and artefact characterisation. Elsewhere, a more recent paper by Paul Frodsham (2000) argues for a research framework to encompass ‘Central Britain’. Also of relevance are the research questions listed by Don Spratt for the prehistoric and Roman archaeology of North Yorkshire (1993, 167-168).

Overview of the resource assessment


One of the most important factors in understanding the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age archaeology of the region is the issue of site preservation. The complex pattern of known sites is as much related to the influence of postdepositional factors as to the original distribution of prehistoric activity (Young 1994a). The region can be divided into two broad areas: uplands, where sites are more likely to be upstanding monuments, and lowlands, where sites more often survive as cropmarks or artefact scatters (Figure 13). Within this broad, bi-partite division, there are more localised zones of destruction. Perhaps the most significant destructive factor is the huge spread of settlement in the region. The growth of Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Consett and the towns of Teesside have smothered large areas of the lowland landscape. In East Durham, the exploitation of coalfields has also had a dramatic impact, leading to large-scale landscape disturbance and poor site preservation. In both upland and lowland areas there has been quarrying, gravel extraction and opencast mining. Much of this work is taking place on long-term planning consents and is thus outside the protective framework provided by PPG16. It potentially threatens several areas of high archaeological importance, particularly the Milfield Basin in north Northumberland. Recent projects, such as the Milfield-Geoarchaeology project and the Till-Tweed project, have created a management guidance framework based on bringing together geomorphological mapping of landforms and their archaeological associations (Passmore et al 2002). This has served to highlight the threats from gravel extraction in specific areas, and will act as a management tool for archaeological curators in the region.

Also important has been the expansion of forestry. Afforestation is mainly found in the north of the region (c. 80% in Northumberland). In total around 99,500 ha (11%) of the area is covered by forest and woodland. The major increase in planting began in the early 1930s and reached a peak between 1950 and 1960 (DEFRA 2002). Apart from Kielder Forest, much of this woodland cover is scattered and divided into thousands of woodland blocks, and this affects not only the survival of archaeological deposits, but also their visibility and management.

A range of more localised destruction factors include increased agricultural drainage and the demand of water by the conurbations which has led to a lowering of water tables. In some areas this has had a significant impact on the cycle of creation and destruction of peat, and the dewatering and disappearance of peat deposits is now a major issue, which in turn may significantly degrade the environmental archaeological resource. Other problems include damage done to monuments by people and animals and also by ploughing, which can occur even on Scheduled sites.

Coastal erosion is another factor in site preservation. For example, recent sand dune erosion at Low Hauxley has led to the discovery of burials of probable Bronze Age date eroding out of the cliff face. The proposed North-East Coast Heritage Initiative aims to start monitoring the effect of coastal erosion on the finite historic environment resource and to quantify its threat.

Patterns of previous research

Site preservation, however, is not the only issue affecting the distribution of known sites. Our understanding of the archaeology is also fundamentally influenced by patterns of earlier research. Thus, one of the most extensively studied areas is the Milfield Basin in north Northumberland. Major excavation has been carried out there by a number of scholars, and the area has also been the subject of a PhD thesis and intensive fieldwork by Clive Waddington (Miket 1981; 1985b; Harding 1981; Waddington 1997a; 1997b; 1998a; 2000a). The combination of excellent crop mark evidence and an important range of monuments has led to the area becoming one of the best understood archaeological landscapes in the country.

To the immediate south, the Cheviots and the Northumberland uplands, with their extensive upstanding remains, have also been the focus for research. There has been extensive aerial photography coverage by Tim Gates, who has also surveyed Hadrian’s Wall corridor, the Otterburn training area, and the College Valley (Gates 1997; 1999; 2000). Extensive fieldwork has been carried out by English Heritage, the Northern Archaeology Group, Peter Topping, and the Northumberland National Park. Work in Redesdale (Northumberland) includes the major survey by Beryl Charlton and John Day (which found few early remains) (Charlton and Day 1979), and the more recent excavation of the cairn at Dour Hill (Northumberland) (Waddington, Godfrey and Bell 1998).

The sandstone escarpment of the east flank of the Cheviots is home to most of the rock art in Northumberland. Although this has been subjected to extensive study by Stan Beckensall (2001), and a large number of flints has also been recovered from the area by Fritz Berthele, there has been little excavation here (Hewitt 1995).

The uplands of County Durham have seen less work, notably that of Rob Young in Weardale, though the main focus here is on earlier periods (e.g. Young 1987 and see Chapter 3). In Teesdale, there has been extensive survey by Denis Coggins and Tim Laurie (Coggins 1986; Laurie 2004). Little work has focused in the lowlands of Durham, although the Durham Archaeological Survey carried out extensive field-walking in the area (Haselgrove et al 1988). That survey also extended into Cleveland, where Blaise Vyner has worked on sites along the very southern edge of the region close to the North York Moors (e.g. Vyner 1988a; 1988b; 1991).

The advent of PPG16 and developer-funded archaeology has had a limited impact on the earlier prehistory in the region. Most upstanding prehistoric monuments are Scheduled and thus protected from development, whereas fieldwork has clearly followed the location of development in the region. The relatively small-scale interventions typical of evaluations and watching briefs are not conducive to recognising remains of this period, though large-scale field-walking is recovering flint assemblages (largely unanalysed and unpublished). That said, some important sites, such as the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age activity at Mountjoy, City of Durham, have been discovered as a consequence of planning-led investigations (TWM 2005).

Environmental background

The pollen record from Northumberland is varied. Some sequences, such as those from Fellend Moss and Steng Moss, show no evidence of human activity (Davies and Turner 1979, 801), while elsewhere crops were being grown (Tipping 1996, 27). At Swindon Hill, Drowning Flow and Bloody Moss there is early clearing of woodland and expansion of heathland (Moores 1998, 210; Young 2004b, 163). In valley bottoms and lowland areas, such as at Brownchesters Farm, Akeld Steads and Wooler, there is also evidence for forest clearance (Moores 1998, 210-211).

During the Bronze Age there was a continued expansion of heathland and commensurate forest clearance (Moores and Passmore 1999, 24; Young 2004b, 165), along with increased crop production (Moores 1998, 245-247). The rate of clearance and use of cereals appears to increase through the prehistoric period, with later clearances on a larger scale.

Very few assemblages of plant macrofossils survive from the Neolithic. The most significant being Thirlings and Whitton Hill in north Northumberland, both of which are dominated by hazelnuts, though there were also a few grains of naked barley (van der Veen 1982a; 1982b), and from ritual sites in Milfield Basin, where emmer wheat was present in very small quantities.

By the Bronze Age sites, such as Eston Nab (Teesside), Hallshill (Northumberland), and Whitton Hill, site 2 (Northumberland), produced a range of cereals, including emmer wheat, barley and small amounts of spelt (van der Veen 1992; 1984). Hazelnuts continued to be an important part of the assemblage at Eston Nab (Vyner 1988a).

Assemblages of animal bone from Neolithic sites are rare, though tiny amounts of bone were found at Ewart (Northumberland) (Miket 1981). Spot finds of wild animals include a red deer from the shore at Seaton Carew (Teesside) and a horn sheath from Ireshopeburn Moor (Co. Durham) (Stallibrass 1993; Young 1987).

Bronze Age animal remains are known from the caves at Heathery Burn and Teesdale Cave (both Co. Durham), with a wide range of wild animals that includes boar, deer and possibly bear (Greenwell 1894; Simms 1974). Wild assemblages are also known from Jarrow Docks (Tyne and Wear), Wilton (Teesside), and Hartlepool submerged forest (Teesside) (Huntley and Stallibrass 1995, 118-119).

As with other bone assemblages, the preservation of human bone is regionally variable, with the acid soils of the upland areas of the Cheviots, the Northumbrian sandstone scarp, and the North Pennines being particularly adverse to the survival of bone. The earliest human skeletal material dates to funerary contexts of the Bronze Age. Although cremation was common, inhumations have been recovered from a number of sites, such as How Tallon, Barningham Moor (Co. Durham), Low Hauxley (Northumberland) and Windmill Hill, Ingleby Barwick (Teesside).

Occupation sites

Three categories of Neolithic occupation site may be recognised based on surviving archaeological evidence. First are simple lithic scatters, such as that from New Bewick (Northumberland) (Waddington 2005b; Figure 14). These may represent a permanent or semi-permanent occupation site or merely temporary activity. If recognised purely from surface collection, it is possible that more substantial remains may be found through excavation, though due to the ephemeral nature of many Neolithic structures, the lithics may be all that survive. Such sites are found widely across the region.

 A second category of sites comprises clusters of pit features containing Neolithic objects. These pits do not appear to have a structural use, and at Coupland (Northumberland) show signs of burning and contain charcoal, pot, burnt flints and hazelnut shells (Waddington 1999, 134-136). It is possible that they were used for cooking. Such sites are noticeably clustered in and around the Milfield Basin, and are known from Coupland, Brand’s Hill, Yeavering, Thirlings, Ewart, Woodbridge Farm, Milfield, Akeld and New Bewick (Harding 1981; Hope-Taylor 1977, 348-349; Miket 1976; Waddington 2000b; Waddington and Davies 2002). The reason for this clustering is uncertain; it may be a real phenomenon or merely a reflection of the intensive research there. It is possible that these are the only surviving elements of more substantial settlements, though this does not explain the bias in their distribution.

The final group of Neolithic occupation sites are those with definite evidence for some kind of structure, including Bolam Lake (Waddington and Davies 2002), Thirlings (Miket 1981), Milfield Village (Clive Waddington pers comm) and Marygate, Holy Island (Lees 1997). These sites have produced post- and stake-holes, some packed with stone, that at least imply some form of semi-permanent activity at the sites. The pottery from Thirlings included Grimston Ware and Grooved Ware.

The evidence for settlement in the Bronze Age is more extensive. A series of excavated sites are known, such as Houseledge, Linhope Burn, Lookout Plantation and Standrop Rigg (all in Northumberland) (Burgess 1980; Topping 1993; Monaghan 1994; Jobey 1983). Some of these settlements are unenclosed, others, such as Standrop Rigg, are situated within networks of small banks of fieldclearance stones. A similar network of clearance cairns and enclosures is known at Houseledge.

Other probable Early Bronze Age sites are found widely distributed across the Cheviots and the sandstone fells of north Northumberland, though due to lack of excavation not all are easily datable. In addition, in some cases it is not easy to distinguish between hut circles and traces of ring ditches. Evidence from Standrop Rigg and Houseledge shows that Bronze Age huts could be constructed from wood, leaving a simple trench rather than any upstanding remains. An important group of sites are also known only from lithic or pottery scatters, such as Ross Links and Matfen (Northumberland) (Brewis and Buckley 1928; Turner 1989).

Although there is Early Bronze Age activity on the site of later hillforts, such as Wether Hill and Harehaugh Hill (Northumberland) (Waddington, Blood and Crow 1998), there is little evidence to suggest a Neolithic or Early Bronze Age origin for any of the hilltop enclosures and hillforts found so widely spread in the Cheviots; perhaps this situation may change following further research. Outside the Cheviots some poorly understood Neolithic activity has recently been recognised at Mountjoy, Durham, the site of an Iron Age hillfort, though it is not yet possible to characterise this activity (TWM 2005).

A final, distinct, class of Bronze Age activity is the so-called ‘burnt mound’. A small group has been excavated in Northumberland at Titlington, close to Beanley Moor (Topping 1998). These date to the 2nd millennium BC and are associated with hearths and troughs. Other burnt mounds have also been noted in Teesdale and Weardale, though they have not been subject to excavation.


Both prehistoric settlement sites and major monuments existed within a wider landscape – indeed the Neolithic saw a significant transformation in the nature of this landscape from one that was wild and frequented by groups of hunter-gatherers to one that was increasingly tamed by early agriculturalists. This long process of transformation continued well into the Bronze Age.

The two most readily identifiable elements of these earliest agricultural landscapes are cairnfields and field systems. Evidence for both in the region is now essentially limited to the uplands of the Cheviots and the North Pennines. Cairns are a common element of the upland landscapes, and may have many dates and functions, from massive Neolithic round cairns to modern cairns built by hikers. It appears, however, that the majority are related to episodes of field clearance during the Bronze Age; large stones being removed from rocky areas as the land was opened up for agriculture. These groups of cairns can vary in size and some of the largest, such as that at Chatton Sandyford (Northumberland), contain over 150 surviving examples (Jobey 1968). Crawley Edge, Stanhope (Co. Durham) is another site containing many surviving cairns (Young and Welfare 1992). The cairns themselves are generally relatively small in size but may be supplemented by stone banks seemingly made from cleared field stones which are also sometimes integrated into larger systems, as at Hindon Edge, Langleydale Common (Co. Durham). In other cases, individual cairns may be conjoined. The process of creating cairns could be complex, and did not involve simply piling up field stones. Excavation on a number of cairns surrounding the large cairn at Chatton Sandyford revealed evidence of pre-cairn activity, including burning and small pits. It is also clear that it is not possible to make a simple distinction between cairns used for burial and simple clearance cairns.

At some sites different stages in development can be recognised in the clearance patterns. At Houseledge the first phase of field clearance involved the clearance of random plots of ground with no overall plans (Burgess 1980), whereas elements of the second phase included a row of five cairns in a line, possibly respecting an earlier boundary.

Chronologically later than these groups of clearance cairns are the first field systems. Excavation at Standrop Rigg has shown a network of small, irregular fields surrounded by rubble walls containing six round houses (Jobey 1983). At Houseledge the settlement was situated within a landscape of clearance cairns, lynchets, fields and banks of clearance stone. There was also evidence for terracing, which was overlain by the latest phases of the houses and fields. This may imply a late Neolithic date for these earliest phases of terracing. Elsewhere, such as at Plantation Camp, Brough Law (Northumberland), excavation has indicated an early Bronze Age date for a stretch of revetted terrace (Jobey 1971). Wider evidence for the survival of prehistoric field systems is being revealed through aerial photography, such as Tim Gates’ survey of Bronze Age field systems, which is producing evidence for field systems, boundaries and probable stock control features. Although these are clearly prehistoric, they lack firm dating evidence at present (Gates 1983).


Neolithic: death and burial

The archaeology of Neolithic burial monuments is characterised by a diversity of types of structure, including long cairns, chambered cairns, round cairns and mortuary enclosures (Masters 1984; Vyner 1986). The long cairn at Bellshiel Law, high above Redesdale, is over 110m long, and despite excavation in the 1930s, it is still poorly understood (Newbigin 1936). A smaller chambered cairn in Tynedale, the Devil’s Lapful, was also examined in the 1930s (Newbigin 1935a). Other long cairns include Dod Hill (Gates 1982) and the recently excavated Scald Hill (Aylett and Miket 2003). A further long cairn has been identified and excavated as part of the Coquetdale Community Archaeology project at Hare Haugh (Northumberland) (Figure 15).

Although traditionally identified as a long cairn, recent investigation at Dour Hill has shown it to be a chambered tomb (Waddington, Godfrey and Bell 1998). A similar chambered cairn lies just outside the region on Great Ayton Moor (Hayes 1967). There are no confirmed Neolithic long barrows in County Durham.

Round cairns of certain Neolithic date include those at Broomridge (Northumberland) and Copt Hill (Tyne and Wear). It has also been suggested that the cairn at Chatton Sandyford (Northumberland) may be of a similar date, though it could be a later pile of stone over a spread of Neolithic burnt material. Some other substantial round mounds may also be Neolithic in date, for example, the Poind and His Man in Belsay, the Five Kings in Alwinton, and Crigdon Hill in Upper Coquetdale (all in Northumberland), though this remains speculation. Others are smaller, and often sit within large cairn fields, for example, Chatton Sandyford, Holystone, and High Knowes (Jobey 1968; Gibson 1978, 67, 87-88; Jobey and Tait 1966). Many cairns have been excavated, such as the Neolithic cairn at Street House, Loftus (Teesside) (Vyner 1984) but the precise nature of some sites is not clear; for example, the substantial mound at Dewley Hill, Throckley (Tyne and Wear), is surrounded by a concentric cropmark ditch. Vyner has also suggested that Round Hill in the lower Tees close to Ingleby Barwick may prove to have a Neolithic date (Vyner 2000, 103). The excavated mounds at Fourberry and Weetwood (Northumberland) have an established link with rock art, but no burials. Nevertheless, there is no dating evidence for these sites.

Although often interpreted as a mortuary enclosure, the excavator of the Street House ‘wossit’ (Cleveland), now sees this unusual site as a dry-land twin of Seahenge (Vyner 1988b; Blaise Vyner pers comm). Crop marks of similar sites, interpreted as mortuary enclosures, have been photographed at Ewart Park and Wark-on-Tweed (Northumberland). There is also evidence for a flat cremation cemetery associated with Grooved Ware at Yeavering.

Neolithic: monuments

Only a few henges of Neolithic date are known, the most important being those located in the Milfield Basin (e.g. Harding 1981; Lee and Harding 1987). Waddington’s excavations at Coupland suggest an early Neolithic date, though he has questioned whether it should be understood as a henge, preferring the more neutral term ‘enclosure’ (Waddington 1999, 134-143; 2001, 3-4). This unique site is connected to upland pastures by a ditched droveway. Other henges inorth of the Tyne are known at Tynemouth (Stevenson 1998) and Ewesley Station. In County Durham a possible henge is revealed as cropmarks at North Lodge, Chester-le-Street (Vyner 2000, 103), though geophysical survey suggests that it had fewer entrances than interpreted from the aerial photograph, thus the feature may be of later prehistoric date (ASUD 2000a).

The range of megalithic stone settings includes circles, rows, and individual standing stones. In Northumberland, several stone circles are known, including Threestoneburn, Hartheugh, Hethpool and Fourstones, and Duddo, though none are comparable in size to the larger examples from Cumbria and elsewhere. Little work has been carried out on these sites. Threestoneburn is perhaps the best known, with an excavation by Tate in the 1850s and a more recent survey (Tate 1863b, 452; Waddington and Williams 2002). The circles at Hethpool and Threestoneburn may have been placed to ritualise access to the Cheviots along the College Valley (Topping 1997, 120). Fewer stone circles are recorded in County Durham. One stands on Barningham Moor at the head of Osmonds Gill, overlooking a number of rock art sites and on the same ridge line as several major burial cairns, including How Tallon to the east. A smaller stone circle also stands on the watershed between Lunedale and the Eden Valley. A circle was also recorded at Egglestone on the route between Teesdale and Weardale, and although the stones were removed in the 19th century, recent geophysical survey has identified its probable location (ASUD 2001).

There are relatively few stone rows from this period, the best example being the Five King’s standing stones, near Holystone Grange, one of which was removed in the 19th century. Simple standing stones are more numerous; over 60 are recorded in Northumberland alone, and, notably, they have a mainly lowland distribution. Dating such monuments is not easy, especially since there has been little excavation. Several stones, however, do have simple rock art carved onto them, including the stones at Matfen, Ingoe, Swinburn, Chollerton and Lilburn.

In addition to cairns, henges and stone settings, other significant Neolithic monument types are enclosures and pit alignments. In a recent review of early Neolithic enclosures in northern Britain, Waddington outlined the diversity in their form, placing them in a nationwide context (Waddington 2001). Examples include Harehaugh Hill in Upper Coquetdale (Waddington, Blood and Crow 1998), where a Neolithic bank was found in addition to the later multivallate Iron Age defences (Figure 15). Charcoal from beneath the bank had a radiocarbon date of 3,360- 2,920 cal BC. Two Neolithic flints were also recorded within the circuit of this early bank. In addition to the idiosyncratic Coupland ‘henge’, Waddington has also suggested that the enclosures on the promontory at Roughting Lynn, at Salter’s Nick, Shaftoe Crags (Davies 1995, 63), the segmented enclosure beneath the Roman fort at South Shields (Hodgson et al 2001), Hasting Hill (Newman 1976), and an enclosure at Heddon-on-the-Wall are all Northumbrian examples of Neolithic enclosures (Waddington 1999, 136).

As well as segmented enclosures, discontinuous boundary features are known in another form: pit alignments. Although often thought to be predominantly Iron Age, there is increasing evidence that some may be of earlier, even Neolithic, origin. For example, the double pit alignment at Milfield North contained Grooved Ware sherds low down in its stratigraphy (Harding 1981), as did the single alignments at Ewart (Miket 1981). These early examples appear to be limited to the Milfield Basin.

The discovery of a new form of Neolithic ritual monument in the Cheviots is of great importance. The tri-radial cairn was 26 Resource assessment Neolithic and Early Bronze Age first recognised by Bill Ford and a team from the Border Archaeological Society, who excavated an example at Ray Sunniside (Ford et al 2002). A radiocarbon date from a burnt area beneath one of the arms gave a date of 2,600 BC. It is possible, however, that this represents the construction of a later structure on a Neolithic land surface. Another example was excavated at Turf Knowe (see above), which unlike Ray Sunniside, was associated with a burial of probable Neolithic date. In total, eight tri-radials have been identified at Lordenshaws, four at Hartheugh and three at Ray Sunniside; other examples are known at Brands Hill, Heddon Hill and Turf Knowe. It is not clear whether tri-radials were primarily burial monuments or sites with other prime uses which were occasionally used for burial, or indeed whether this distinction is valid.

Bronze Age: death and burial

The mortuary behaviour of the Bronze Age in the North-East is also characterised by a diversity of monumental remains, particular within cairns. Prehistoric cairns were especially susceptible to damage by early antiquarians. While some workers at least documented which cairns and barrows they investigated, many more have been entered without any record. Some of the most important early archaeological work of this kind was carried out by William Greenwell (Kinnes and Longworth 1985).

Simple stone cairns are recorded in a variety of shapes, including round, sub-circular and pear-shaped. While many stone cairns are undoubtedly related to field clearance, a significant number appear to have been used for burial, and there is evidence for more sophisticated architectural elaboration, such as the provision of kerbs.

Several cairns have been subject to substantial excavation. That at Blawearie (Northumberland) was first investigated by Canon Greenwell in 1865 and re-examined by Hewitt and Beckensall in the mid 1980s (Hewitt and Beckensall 1996). This later work revealed a kerb that had been missed by Greenwell, and showed that the cairn had been remodelled. The structure was probably not originally funerary, with burial cists for cremations and inhumations only being inserted during Phase 4. There were also a series of additional satellite cairns and an abutting semicircular cairn which appeared to seal a pyre.

Recent excavations on two cairns at Turf Knowe (Northumberland) have also revealed a complex sequence (Frodsham and Waddington 2004, 173-177). Turf Knowe South, thought at first to be a field-clearance cairn, emerged as a Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age tri-radial cairn. A large pit between two of the arms contained Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age flints, and the cairn was build directly over the upcast. The pit had two cists set into it; one contained an iron spear suggesting an Iron Age or later date. A complete food vessel was found just outside the pit in a position that suggested that it had been removed from the pit, presumably when the cists were inserted. A second pit contained a crushed food vessel. Turf Knowe North is an Early Bronze Age burial cairn with a burial cist containing a food vessel, flint flakes and jet beads. A secondary cist containing at least three incomplete cremations was added, as well as a number of other later cremations (Frodsham and Waddington 2004, 175-176). George Jobey’s excavations on a group of cairns at Chatton Sandyford also showed that there were a series of burials in the central cairn, and that the kerb was probably a later addition (Jobey 1968). At Cobden Sike, the large cairn was found to cover an earlier example; both had been edged with kerb stones (Gates 1979). At Dour Hill, a Bronze Age cist was built into the earlier Neolithic chambered long cairn (Waddington, Godfrey and Bell 1998). These excavated examples all illustrate the complexity of stone cairns, indicating that they are clearly multi-stage monuments undergoing alterations throughout their life.

A number of ring cairns are also known from the North-East, although these are not particularly common. There are several clusters, including one on Barningham Moor, another in the northern edge of the Cheviots, and a few between the Coquet and the A68. Ring cairns can be difficult to recognise and they may be mistaken for hut circles, stone circles and robbed-out stone cairns. Only a few have been adequately excavated. The ring cairn on Birkside Fell contained a pit with cremated bone and a large collared urn. The probable ring cairn at Chatley Crags contained a number of cremations and the structure of the cairn itself showed several separate periods of use (Frodsham 1995b).

The wider landscape context of many of these cairns is likely to be significant; the cairn at Wether Hill, Ingram, is located so that Simonside can be seen, and Hare Cairn is located so that Black Stitchel is visible (Frodsham 2004, 35). The cairns at Lordenshaws may have been deliberately sited to be close to Neolithic rock art at the site, whereas cairns at Hunterheugh and Fowberry appear to have been built directly over a panel of rock art. Significantly, at Hunterheugh, broken up fragments of rock with cup-and-ring marks were incorporated into the body of the cairn (Waddington 2004) (Figure 16), while a slab with cup-and-ring marks was also used in a cist within a barrow at Witton Gilbert. The landscape context of flat burials is equally significant. At Goat’s Crag and Corby’s Crag cremations have been discovered at the foot of rock outcrops (Burgess 1972; Beckensall 1976). This diversity in burial rites is clearer in the upland areas where the superstructure of monuments survives better. In lowland areas, the main surviving site type is the ring ditch. Although many are known mainly through aerial photography, very few have been excavated.

In addition to burial sites associated with ring ditches, there are several flat cemeteries containing burials placed in cists. The best examples lie beneath the Roman fort at South Shields (Hodgson et al 2001) and at Howick (Waddington 2003 et al).

Standing stones

The different types of settings of standing stones in the region include four-posters, stone circles, and lone standing stones (for wider European background see Burl 1988). Sadly, when preservation of the site is poor and stones have been removed, it is not always clear into which category a particular site fits.

Bronze Age stone circles are limited to Northumberland. The most significant examples include the Five Stones at Duddo, the possible pair of rings at Hethpool in the College Valley, and the five remaining stones at Threestoneburn. A pair of four-posters is also known from Northumberland: the Goatstones in Bellingham, and the Three Kings in Kielder Forest. One of the stones at the Goatstones has sixteen well-preserved cup marks. A slight rise within the centre of the site may be the remains of a burial cairn. The Three Kings, excavated by Aubrey Burl in 1971, also contained a central burial cairn (Burl and Jones 1972). Linear settings of stones of probable Bronze Age date are known at the Five Kings in Northumberland. Other examples include the sites on Cartington Moor, Fontburn, Whinny Hill, Lucker Moor and Dod Law. In contrast to stone circles and four-posters, isolated standing stones have a much wider distribution and are also found in County Durham. Whereas south of the Tyne the stones have a notable upland location, in Northumberland they are mainly found in the lowlands.

Bronze Age henges are known from the North-East, all to the north of the Tyne. Examples include that at Bebside, and the classic Milfield henges, which are mainly Bronze Age, though some Neolithic pottery has been found at Milfield North. A probable henge is also known from aerial photographs at Blyth.

A final group of monuments of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age date are the cross-ridge boundaries of the Cleveland Hills (Vyner 1995b). These boundaries can be of continuous bank-and-ditch construction, or they can be broken by a series of causeways. There is no direct dating evidence from the boundaries themselves, but association with burial mounds has dated them to the Early Bronze Age.

Rock art

by Clive Waddington

There has been a renaissance in British rock art studies over the last fifteen years. Much of the current work has been focused around recording, cataloguing, identifying associations, with some limited interpretation. The work of Beckensall (e.g. 1992; 1999; 2001), Beckensall and Laurie (1998), Morris (1981), and van Hoek (1982) has been seminal with respect to the cataloguing and recording of sites. Their work has provided a large, and typically well-recorded, corpus of data that has created the basis for the latest research into interpreting these symbols. The work of Bradley has been particularly influential in this regard (e.g. Bradley 1997), and together with others (e.g. Waddington 1998b; van Hoek 2001), has anchored the study of rock art within landscape and contextual approaches.

As interest has grown and research papers have multiplied, key areas of debate have emerged. Perhaps the most crucial of these from the archaeological perspective is that of chronology. Without a sound grasp of the dating sequence of rock art, and the timing of changes in the circumstances and context of deployment, it is difficult to attempt meaningful interpretation as rock art sites must otherwise remain divorced from their contemporary context. It is just such a context which is required, however, if we are to reconstruct how these symbols were deployed, experienced and construed. Furthermore, once a broad chronology has been established, then the search for regional sequences and the relationship with other rock art from Atlantic Europe can be attempted.

Understanding the associations between rock art and other aspects of material culture remains a tantalizing, and in some respects, contested area of study. For example, attention has been drawn to the relationship between the cup-and-ring repertoire and other forms of Neolithic material culture, such as arrowhead forms and ceramic styles, while the latest style of angular and geometric passage grave art has been related to Later Neolithic arrowhead forms and Grooved Ware pottery (Burgess 1990; Waddington 1998b; Bradley 1997).

Other important associations that require further research and debate include the linkage between quarried rock art panels from outcrop rock contexts and their re-use in later monuments of different forms and date. There is now clear evidence to show the use of cup-and-ring marked panels in monuments ranging from the 4th millennium cal BC to the beginning of the 2nd millennium cal BC. A general sequence that appears to hold true is that there is an early phase of rock art that occurs on natural outcrops of exposed rock; these carvings are then later incorporated into the full spectrum of Neolithic ceremonial monuments: from long cairns and stone circles to standing stones and henges. By the Early Bronze Age they are incorporated specifically within the burial monuments of the dead. The change in contextual associations through time was of course more complex than this, some outcrop rocks were clearly inscribed on more than one occasion, sometimes separated by long periods of time (see, for example, Waddington et al 2005), and some ceremonial monuments appear to have had carvings made on them only once the structure was in place. The overall sequence, however, remains secure and this throws out many questions relating to the issue of change in use, meaning, and significance through the period 4,000-2,000 cal BC. Understanding of symbols is largely formed through the context in which they are experienced, and it therefore follows that any changes in their context of deployment must be indicative of a deliberate change in significance, or in the message they were intended to convey (Figure 16). Changes in the context of rock art over time, therefore, provide a touchstone for identifying wider social change taking place throughout the Neolithic-Early Bronze Age periods.

Material culture


Of the many lithics from the North-East, a proportion are from excavation, but many more come from fieldwalking and spot finds (Figure 17). With the increase of developer-funded archaeology, excavation is becoming increasingly important, although material derived from PPG16 sites are rarely adequately written up and published. Several individuals have made major surface collections: Joan Weyman in the Tyne Valley and Milfield Basin, William Cocks in the Lower Tyne Valley, and Francis Buckley along the Northumberland coast. These collections are all held in the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle. Another major collection made by Fritz Berthele on the sandstone escarpment east of the Cheviots is held at Chillingham Castle in Northumberland (Hewitt 1995).

In the Early Neolithic there are several innovations that serve to distinguish lithic technology from that of the preceding Mesolithic. There is a widespread adoption of grinding and polishing techniques, and polished stone axes replace Mesolithic flaked axe heads. There is also a more widespread use of pressure flaking, although there is a continued reliance on narrow blade technology. A number of new forms are introduced, including leafshaped and laurel-shaped arrowheads and invasively retouched sickles. The greatest changes appear to be among the most symbolically important tool types, such as axes, knives and arrowheads. The symbolic importance of axe heads is indicated by the likely votive cache found, probably in a ditch, at Heddon-on-the-Wall (Burgess 1984, 140; Sockett 1971).

Leaf-shaped arrowheads have often been found in association with late Mesolithic flint scatters, such as at Low Shilford (Weyman 1980) and Sandyford Quarry Field, Bolam (Waddington and Davies 2002). This suggests either an overlap of lithic technology or use of the same landscape areas in both periods. One of the most important assemblages of Early Neolithic date is the group of nearly 40 flints from Sandyford Quarry. This includes broken blades and flakes as well as a scraper, leaf-shaped arrowhead, core and retouched flakes and blades. It is assumed to be contemporary with the radiocarbon dates from the site of c. 3,700 cal BC (Waddington and Davies 2002). In the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age lithic technology shows an increased frequency of retouching and edge polishing, and there is a move towards irregular flakes rather than blade-based industries. This may be a reaction to a change in resource availability, with poor-quality local flint being replaced by high-quality imported flint. While the quality of many basic tools appears to decrease, high levels of workmanship continue to be found in items with a greater symbolic value, such as arrowheads, plano-convex and discoidal and polished knives, adze blades, maceheads, and polished stone and flint axes. The symbolic importance of objects such as barbed and tanged arrowheads is indicated by their frequent appearance in Beaker Burials, and the presence of five untouched arrowheads from Pit VI at Milfield North (Harding 1981). Cruder flint objects are also known from burial contexts, however, such as the roughly worked flints from the Sneep, Bellingham, and Haugh Head, Wooler (Waddington 2004, 65, 81).

Axes and axe hammers come from a variety of sources in this period, the majority from the Group VI Langdale sources of Cumbria. Others are derived from more local sources, such as Group XVIII Whinstone (stone type from Northumberland) (Clough and Cummins 1979) and Cheviot Andesite, probably from the Upper Ingram Valley (Waddington and Schofield 1999). Occasional, more surprising sources are also identified, such as the limestone axe from Milfield.


The earliest pottery in the region is Early Neolithic Grimston Ware. Vessels of this type are thick-walled and well-made with out-turned or rolled-over rims. There is usually no decoration bar some evidence for burnishing and the fabric is usually tempered with crushed sandstone or quartz. Diatom analysis of the fabric of examples from Milfield suggests that the clay came from the River Till, indicating local production (Gibson 1986). In Northumberland there is a cluster of sites yielding Grimston Ware in the Milfield Basin (e.g. Waddington 2000b). Other findspots include Old Bewick, Bolam Lake, Harlow Hill and Hasting Hill. Dating for this ware comes from a series of radiocarbon dates from Coupland which place it in the early 4th millennium (Waddington 1999, 134-135, Appendix 8). Impressed Ware (sometimes known as Peterborough Ware) came into use in the North-East in the Middle Neolithic (c. 3,000 BC). Thicker than Grimston Ware, it often has impressed patterns made with the finger tips and twisted-cord decorations, and may be burnished. The main regional variant is Meldon Bridge Ware, which has its type-site in Peebleshire (Burgess 1976). This fabric contains large fragments of crushed stone and organic temper. Again, there is a focus in distribution around the Milfield Basin, but this pottery is also known from Allendale, Alnwick and the Ford-Crookham vicinity (Waddington 2000b, 9-10). In County Durham, four sherds of probable Meldon Bridge Ware have also recently been found at Mountjoy, Durham (Waddington 2005).

Manby (1999) listed eight sites from Northumberland which had produced Grooved Ware, but a recent reassessment by Alex Gibson has suggested that the pottery from Milfield North, Yeavering Henge, Thirlings, and Whitton Hill is more likely to be of Bronze Age date, with the pottery from Milfield North bearing decorations similar to that found on Bronze Age food vessels (Gibson 2002). He accepted, however, the Grooved Ware from Ewart and Old Yeavering, and two more sites from the Milfield Basin area have now also been added to the corpus (Clive Waddington pers comm).

Beakers appear in the region around 2,500 BC, and include some of the earliest in the British Isles. A full range of Beakers are known including long-necked, short-necked, bell, and rusticated beakers, and all-over cord-decorated examples. These have zone decoration, a thin fabric, bulbous profile, and a flat base. Although widely found in the region, many vessels come from antiquarian excavations. There is only one radiocarbon date for a Beaker context, a pit from Wether Hill (Northumberland) which was later re-used to deposit Bronze Age food vessels (Topping 2004). The major overview of these vessels is Tait’s Beakers from Northumberland (1965), although it is now out-dated.

Food vessels were introduced around 2,000 BC. They have a wide regional distribution; recent examples include fragments from the Howick cist cemetery, a site which had produced examples previously (Waddington et al 2003). Another recent example is that from Goatscrag, which contained cremated human remains (Burgess 1972). As mentioned above, a number of fragments were recovered from a pit at Wether Hill. It has been suggested by Alex Gibson that the similarity of two vessels at Bolton and Lowick implies they were made by the same potter (Gibson 2002). Cinerary urns are also widely distributed in the region. A broad overview of Bronze Age pottery in the region was published by Alex Gibson in 1978, though this is now in need of revision.


In the early Bronze Age, the first bronze objects were simple flat axes and occasional riveted axes, such as that found at Barrasford (Northumberland). The majority are casual spot finds through the improved recording of metal detector finds has led to an increase in the recovery of such objects (Philippa Walton pers comm).

In addition to bronze work there is a range of good quality gold objects from the region. Gold beads were found in a barrow burial at Corsenside in 1814 (Hodgson 1827, 167), and rings have been found at Alnwick (along with a vessel and a bronze axe) (Maryon 1937), Heathery Burn (Greenwell 1894), Stamfordham (Gray 1925). A gold basket earring was found in a barrow at Kirkhaugh in association with an all-over corded beaker (Cowen 1966; Figure 18).

 In addition to lithics, ceramics and metalwork, other artefacts have been found in contexts suggesting they date to this period. Jet objects are known from a number of sites including Chatton Sandyford, Kyloe, Capheaton, Yeavering, and Blawearie (Jobey 1968; Brewis 1928; Tait 1965, 15-16; Greenwell 1877, 418-420). Amber beads of probable Bronze Age date have been found at Old Bewick, Belsay, and Simonside. There is increased evidence for the funerary use of ochre, which has now been found on top of cist covers at Howick and at Hunterheugh (Waddington et al 2003; Clive Waddington pers comm). A small number of the enigmatic carved stone balls found widely Scotland are also known from North-East England. Type 4a stone balls have been recorded from Hetton and Houghton-leSide, and several other similar stone balls are in private hands (Speak and Aylett 1996).

Organic remains from this period are sparse. A few antler tools are held in the Berthele Collection, though their precise date and context is uncertain. A 2m stretch of Neolithic wattle hurdling found in the Hartlepool submerged forest is probably all that remains of a fish trap (Waughman 2005; Figure 4). A tree-trunk coffin radiocarbon-dated to c. 2,400-2,200 cal BC was found at Cartington, and other similar but undated coffins have been found at Wydon Eals, near Haltwhistle (Jobey 1984).

Major museum and archive collections

All of the regional museums hold some prehistoric material. On Teesside some important material is held by Tees Archaeology, including the objects from Street House Farm and Ingleby Barwick. In Middlesbrough the Dorman Museum holds the artefacts from Frank Elgee’s excavations at Eston Nab, and also material from excavations undertaken by William Hornby and John Laverick on Bronze Age burial mounds near Saltburn and Loftus. Other holdings include material from Hinderwell Beacon and finds from Socket’s excavations at Mount Pleasant in the Eston Hills. The finds from Harriet Elgee’s excavations at Loose Howe are in the British Museum in London. In Durham the two collecting museums are the Bowes Museum and the Old Fulling Museum, where collections are relatively small, though the Gilmonby Hoard is held at the Bowes.

The Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle holds a significant collection of over 170 Neolithic stone axes and a collection of pottery of a similar date, including Grimston Ware and Grooved Ware. The Bronze Age is also well represented with over 100 vessels (many intact) and 160 weapons and tools, including the Ewart Park Sword. The museum also holds the Bronze Age tree coffin from Cartington. A small number of prehistoric objects are held at the museums at Arbeia and Segedunum, mainly objects found on the sites themselves or in the immediate area. A larger collection is held by Sunderland Museum, including pots from Whickam and finds from Hasting Hill. A large quantity of flint found during excavations on the Roman villa at Old Durham is also held there, although it is not clear whether this is Mesolithic or Neolithic in date.

Alnwick Castle Museum holds a number of complete or nearly complete vessels from 19th-century barrow digging, all from Northumberland and mainly from sites on estates owned by the dukes of Northumberland, for example, from Rothbury and Longhoughton (Collingwood Bruce 1880). A number of stone hammers from similar areas could at one time also be found there, together with bronze objects, including axes, spearheads, swords from Great Tosson, Whittingham, Chatton and South Lyham, and shields from Inghoe and Aydon Castle. Another important private collection is the Fritz Berthele Collection of flints, now held at Chillingham Castle (Hewitt 1995). A small quantity of material is also held in the British Museum, including the Heathery Burn hoard, and vessels and objects from a number of burials, including Great Tosson, Copt Hill, Blawearie and Black Howe.

The Late Bronze Age and Iron Age

The Late Bronze Age and Iron Age Specialist Group consisted of Colin Haselgrove (Dept of Archaeology, University of Leicester), Iain Hedley (Northumberland National Parks Authority), David Heslop (Tyne and Wear Museums Service), Rachel Pope (Dept of Archaeology, University of Leicester), and Rob Young (Northumberland National Parks Authority).

History of research

The study of later prehistoric period in North-East England has often seemed overshadowed by work on the preceding Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods and the succeeding Roman era; both periods which left upstanding and often spectacular archaeological remains. Nonetheless, the archaeology of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age in the region is well excavated and published, with a reasonable understanding of most areas (Haselgrove et al 2001, 24-25). In particular, the advent of PPG16 and the increase in development-led archaeology in the last decade has promoted the excavation of important settlement sites using open-area techniques, allowing them to be understood in their wider landscape context. Recent excavations at Ingleby Barwick (Teesside), Faverdale and Darlington (Co. Durham), and the Newcastle Great Park show there is no decline in the pace of investigation (Figure 19).

 For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, archaeological research did not focus on later prehistory; the emphasis at the universities of Newcastle and Durham was traditionally on Roman military and Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical archaeology. Although there was a small amount of 19thcentury antiquarian work, such as the plans of hillforts drawn by the Duke of Northumberland’s antiquarian, Henry MacLauchlan (MacLauchlan 1919-22, 469), there was little significant archaeological endeavour. Notable exceptions include the Berwickshire Naturalist’s Club, which led to the pioneering work of George Tate in the 1860s (Tate 1863a; 1863b) and Revd George Rome Hall (in the 1880s) on native settlements in Northumberland (e.g. Hall 1879).

During the 1930s important work continued in Northumberland, including Thomas Wake’s investigations at Witchy Neuk, and those of Howard Kilbride-Jones at the Roman Iron Age settlement at Milking Gap (Wake 1939; Kilbride-Jones 1938). The first major phase of research into this period, however, only commenced after World War II. The most important figure in establishing later prehistory as a significant field of study in the region was George Jobey, who was probably inspired by work carried out in the Scottish Borders by Peggy Piggot, Kenneth Steer and Richard Feachem in the 1940 and 50s (e.g. Piggot 1948; Steer 1949; Feachem 1956; 1960). Following his appointment as a tutor in the extramural department at King’s College, Newcastle (later the University of Newcastle), Jobey excavated major sites at Huckhoe, West Brandon, High Knowes, Hartburn and Belling Law (Jobey 1959; 1962; 1968; 1973a; 1977). Following the establishment of the Department of Archaeology at Newcastle in the early 1970s he was appointed first to a Readership and then to a personal Chair in Prehistoric Archaeology. The importance of Jobey’s work centres on his systematic classification of the numerous, and previously largely ignored, native sites in the area, testing out hypotheses against excavation work and developing a chronology for the prehistoric period. Although best known for his work in the Cheviots, he also studied sites in lowland areas, such as Burradon, Hartburn and Marden (Haselgrove 2002, 57; Jobey 1963; 1970; 1973a).

To the south of the Tyne there was no equivalent to the work of Jobey in the 1950s to 1960s. In the following decade, however, the work of Denis Coggins in Teesdale culminated in an MA thesis at the University of Durham (published in 1986) which laid the groundwork for the study of the later prehistory of parts of the North Pennines. Coggins collaborated with Kenneth Fairless on several key sites, including Forcegarth Pastures (Fairless and Coggins 1980; 1986) and Bracken Rigg (Coggins and Fairless 1983), who was to write his PhD thesis on the Iron Age in the North-East (Fairless 1989). There has been little work on the North Pennines outside Teesdale, however, though Rob Young and Jane Webster are currently excavating on Bollihope Common (Young and Webster in prep).

In the lowlands of Durham, the increased number of aerial photographs of the area in the 1970s began to enhance the knowledge of a poorly understood area (e.g. Harding 1979). A more detailed understanding of the archaeology of the region was provided by the Durham Archaeological Survey (1983-87), which took five study areas (c. 250 sq km) and field-walked around 5% (c. 10% of available arable land) (Haselgrove et al 1988). Only a small quantity of later prehistoric pottery was recovered, however, and Haselgrove has expressed scepticism about the use of field-walking in identifying settlements of this period (Haselgrove 2002, 54).

Overall, the contribution of aerial photography has been extremely significant in expanding our knowledge of later prehistory, with individual flyers focusing on specific regions, for example, Norman McCord (1991) and Tim Gates in Northumberland (2004); Raymond Selkirk (1983) and Denis Harding (1979) in County Durham; and Blaise Vyner and Leslie Still on Teesside (Still and Vyner 1986; Still et al 1989). In Central Durham and Teesside, for example, aerial photography has revealed the cropmarks of a series of rectilinear enclosures (Haselgrove and Allon 1982, 26-27, fig 1). Several of these have now been excavated, including Coxhoe, West Brandon and Thorpe Thewles (Haselgrove and Allon 1982; Jobey 1962; Heslop 1987). Whereas sites such as Coxhoe and Shadforth are situated on the boundary between the boulder clay deposits and the Magnesian Limestone, similar enclosures are largely absent from the Magnesian Limestone Plateau itself.

The advent of PPG16 has led directly to changes in the excavation strategies used to explore later prehistoric sites. The routine use of geophysical survey as a prospection tool in advance of green-field development is helping to find new sites, for example. In 2004 survey at Faverdale, near Darlington, revealed a Late Iron Age farmstead and field system which was not visible as a cropmark, despite aerial photographs showing enclosures to the immediate north. ‘Strip and record’ techniques have also been on the increase and reveal the complexity of late prehistoric landscapes in the lowlands. Such approaches, however, are reliant on large-scale development, and are intensive in terms of manpower and finances.

Existing research frameworks

A more detailed list of regional research topics is provided by Colin Haselgrove in his overview of Late Bronze Age and Iron Age lowland archaeology (Haselgrove 2002). The same volume also contained suggestions for further research on the uplands (Welfare 2002). Other topics were put forward by Frodsham when setting the agenda on the prehistory of ‘Central Britain’, whereas the Iron Age topics for research were written firmly in the context of the National Park’s Discovering Our Hillfort Heritage project (Frodsham 2000). The Iron Age to Roman transition is addressed by Creighton (2001).

Subsistence practices

Environmental evidence for the later prehistoric period in the North-East is hugely varied. Patterns of clearance are known in the early 1st millennium AD, but due to the uncertainty inherent in radiocarbon dating it is not easy to distinguish between pre- and post-conquest clearances at a high degree of resolution. Work carried by Lisa Dumayne, however, has clarified changing patterns of vegetation along parts of Hadrian’s Wall during the Roman period (Dumayne 1992; 1993a; 1993b; 1994). This work particularly attempted to address the impact of the Roman conquest on the environment. Work by Richard Tipping (1997) has suggested, on the other hand, that the increase in agriculture in the region dated to the Late Iron Age and was not related to the impact of Roman settlement, an opinion now echoed by McCarthy and Huntley (McCarthy 1995; 1997; Huntley 2002).

Evidence from plant macrofossils has also been of assistance in determining patterns in farming. Bronze Age sites such as Eston Nab (Teesside), Hallshill (Northumberland), and Whitton Hill site 2 (Northumberland) produced a range of cereals, including emmer wheat, barley and small amounts of spelt (Vyner 1988a; 1988b; van der Veen 1984; 1992). Hazelnuts continued to be an important part of the assemblage at Eston Nab. There are also a number of assemblages of Iron Age date, of which Thorpe Thewles (Cleveland) is the most extensively sampled; that site produced spelt wheat and 6- row barley (van der Veen 1987). At Eston Nab the assemblage varied so greatly from that of the Bronze Age that a lack of permanent occupation was suggested (van der Veen 1988a). Hillfort assemblages from Dod Law and Murton in Northumberland were dominated by hulled barley (Smith 1988-89; van der Veen 1985). There is also an increasing number of small Iron Age assemblages being recovered, especially in Tyne and Wear; these show a recurring pattern of spelt/6-row barley, with more barley to the north of the area (Pratt 1996; Huntley and Stallibrass 1995; van der Veen 1992; Jacqui Huntley pers comm).

Bone survival in the acidic soils of northern Britain is, in general, poor. The most important animal bone report for an Iron Age assemblage is that for the farmstead at Thorpe Thewles (Teesside), which suggests a shift of emphasis from cattle to sheep farming (Rackham 1987b). Full analysis of the assemblage from Catcote, also in the lowland area of Cleveland, will also be extremely significant once published. A small assemblage is also known from Coxhoe (Co. Durham) (Rackham 1982a), while assemblages of calcined bones have been found at Kennel Hall Knowe and Dod Law West (both in Northumberland) (Rackham 1977; Smith 1988- 89). The wider picture appears to show a shift in cattle husbandry from a dairy regime to one focused on the production of beef. More recently, however, less work has been undertaken on animal bone from archaeological sites of this period, possibly in response to financial pressures to minimise post-excavation research on developer-funded sites (Hambleton 1999).

Agriculture and landscapes

There is a high degree of regional variation in the survival of later prehistoric field systems in the North-East. In lowland areas they are highly degraded and often known only through aerial photographs. This contrasts with better-preserved upland networks, though in neither case have field systems been recorded in detail.

In the lowlands, further systematic plotting of existing aerial photographs would undoubtedly reveal more systems. Geophysical work around some sites, such as Dinnington in County Durham (Biggins et al 1997), already shows evidence for the presence of linear pit alignments which may have served as some kind of land division. Large open-area excavation at a number of sites across the region, including Faverdale (Co. Durham), has also revealed networks of paddocks and small fields around some settlement sites, although there is no indication of how far these might spread.

In the uplands, particularly in Northumberland, aerial survey has been crucial (Gates 1997; 1999; 2000) and reveals some relative dating information. For example, at Greenlee Lough, cord rigg is overlain by a Roman camp, and at Cawfield Shield a Roman aqueduct cuts through the cord rigg (Gates 2004, 243, fig 16.3). Field systems also survive, often associated with hillforts, such as West Hill, Kirknewton (Oswald 2004b). Cord rigg and lazy beds also appear to be associated with Wether Hill. There are also large areas of cord rigg and terracing in Coquetdale and other parts of the National Park. These earthworks are of national importance, but remain frustratingly undated. Some field systems also survive in the North Pennines, for example, and close to Stanhope there are surviving coaxial field systems linked to hillside lynchets (Rob Young pers comm).


Despite the increasing quantity of work on later prehistoric settlement archaeology in the North-East, the archaeological record is still heavily biased towards the later Iron Age (though for earlier periods see Pope 2003), and wider syntheses of settlement archaeology in the region tend to Resource assessment Later Bronze Age and Iron Age 36 focus on this later period (e.g. Ferrell 1992; Haselgrove 2002; van der Veen 1992).

Cleveland and east Durham

In the lowland areas in the south and east of the region later prehistoric settlements are known mainly through aerial photographic coverage (Selkirk 1983; Still and Vyner 1986; Still et al 1989). This evidence suggests a tendency towards rectilinear enclosed settlements, although this may simply reflect the relatively better visibility of such sites as cropmarks over simpler palisaded or unenclosed occupation sites. The use of aerial photographic evidence has also led to an emphasis on the morphological characteristics of the site, perhaps unduly so. Not only is it impossible to explore development over time of a site from cropmark evidence alone, but also cropmarks are only partial reflections of underlying features, and there may be hidden complexity which is only revealed after appropriate archaeological intervention. The better-excavated sites are mainly found in Cleveland and the south of the region, the most significant being Thorpe Thewles, Catcote, Foxrush Farm (Redcar), Holme House (Piercebridge), Dixon’s Bank and Bonnygrove Farm, and Ingleby Barwick (Heslop 1987; Long 1988; Vyner and Daniels 1989; Harding 1984; Annis 1996; ASUD 2000c). Slightly to the north, sites have been excavated at Coxhoe, West Brandon, and Pig Hill, Haswell (Haselgrove and Allon 1982; Jobey 1962; Figure 20), although very little evidence has been recorded between the Wear and the Tyne. This may reflect the destruction and disturbance caused by post-medieval development, particularly the coal industry. Nonetheless, the recent excavation of an Iron Age settlement beneath the Roman fort at South Shields indicates that later prehistoric sites do survive, even in the heart of heavily built-up areas (Hodgson et al 2001). Notably, almost all the excavated sites mentioned above are of Late Iron Age date, with little excavated evidence for earlier occupation.

Several broad patterns emerge. Rectilinear enclosures (c. 0.25-1ha) appear to predominate, but unenclosed settlements are also known, such as at South Shields (Hodgson et al 2001). Clearly there is no simple dichotomy between enclosed and unenclosed settlements; sites can be traced through several stages. At Thorpe Thewles, the ditch surrounding the earlier settlement was filled in, leading to a period of open occupation (Heslop 1987). In contrast, West Brandon and Rock Castle both began as unenclosed settlements before being surrounded by palisades, and later ditched enclosures (Jobey 1962; Fitts et al 1994).

Later prehistoric settlements were often situated within a wider network of landscape features. At Dinnington, a geophysical survey showed a rectilinear Iron Age enclosure related to a pit alignment (Biggins et al 1997) that may date to the Iron Age, though the date of such features can vary widely (Waddington 1997a). In some cases these boundaries may predate settlement indicating that the sites were placed within a landscape which had already been opened up and divided for land use. Elsewhere small settlements seem to be related to more developed field systems, such as the ladder systems associated with dispersed Iron Age occupation at Faverdale, Darlington, or the small field systems near the settlements at Ingleby Barwick and Thorpe Thewles (Heslop 1987). At Dixon’s Bank, geophysical survey shows a complex system of ditches and pits forming a series of enclosures and routeways (WYAS 2002).

There is no continuity into the Roman period in many cases; only some of the larger sites, including Catcote, Thorpe Thewles and Ingleby Barwick, seem still to be present in the 1st or 2nd centuries AD. This contrasts with the pattern in North Yorkshire, where continuity occurs on a wider range of sites. On Teesside nearly all known Roman sites appear to have had an Iron Age predecessor.

The evidence for a settlement hierarchy in the region is slight (Ferrell 1992; 1997) although a number of sites may be more than simple enclosed or unenclosed settlements. Where evidence exists, these sites appear to date to the beginning or end of the later prehistoric period. For example, although just outside this region, the oppidum at Stanwick clearly had a significant regional importance (Haselgrove, Fitts and Turnbull 1991; Haselgrove, Turnbull and Lowther 1991; Haselgrove forthcoming). Although settlement was long-lived, it appears to have flourished in the 1st century AD. By contrast, the earliest defences at the hillfort at Eston Nab were Late Bronze Age in date; there was also an Early Iron Age boulder wall and an early 5th century BC ditch and bank (Vyner 1988a). Evidence from sites like these suggests that, throughout most of later prehistory, the region was weakly centralised and may have been based on household groups, interconnected by the loose ties of kinship and personal affiliation. A small number of other possible hillforts or ‘central places’ are known, such as Maiden Castle, Durham, Castle Levington and Shackleton Hill, Heighington, but these are very poorly understood (Figure 21).

North Pennines

The North Pennines form a distinct block of uplands to the west of Durham, between Stainmore and the Tyne valley. As with other upland areas, the surviving later prehistoric remains here have survived mainly as upstanding features in open moorland. In the south of the area, the archaeology of Teesdale has been dominated by the work of Denis Coggins, who identified and excavated a series of sites, including Dubby Sike (Gidney and Coggins 1988) and Forcegarth Pastures (Fairless and Coggins 1980; Coggins 1986). In Weardale, further late prehistoric sites are also known. Rob Young has identified a number of possible sites (e.g. Young 1993), and he is currently excavating a Late Iron Age/Romano-British site on Bollihope Common (Manchester et al nd) (Figure 22). Survey work has also been carried out in Stanhope Park (Nichol 2004). There has been much less investigation in the northern part of the North Pennines AONB, with Allendale being a particular lacuna.

The archaeological evidence has shown that simple settlements tended to be small in scale, with only a few houses, often surrounded by an enclosure. Excavation at Bollihope suggests that the enclosure was preceded by a shallow cobbled feature. In general there is a lack of obvious hut clusters. Despite the upland nature of the landscape, and in notable contrast to the Cheviots, there appear to be no hillforts in this area, though there is an intriguing undated ditched-and-banked enclosure at High Northgate, near Rookhope.

Coastal and south-east Northumberland

Most of the recent work on the later prehistoric archaeology of Northumberland has focused on the south-east of the region. Early work by Jobey at Burradon, Hartburn, Huckhoe and Marden (Jobey 1959; 1970; 1973a) has already been touched upon. Most of these sites were small enclosures, probably sufficient for only one household. The site at Burradon was larger in size, and contained several round houses, though it is not clear whether more than one was occupied at any one time. It was also distinguished by its double rectilinear enclosure, though it is likely that here, as elsewhere, the initial phases of settlement were unenclosed.

A further series of sites have been excavated recently, including Pegswood (Proctor 2002) and West Brunton Farm and Hawthorn Farm at Newcastle Great Park (Steve Speak pers comm; Figure 23). Modern, open-area techniques are revealing much of their landscape context. All were located within complex networks of enclosures, although there is less evidence for the incorporation of larger linear ditches into these field networks than at similar sites to the south of the Tyne. All three have also produced evidence for iron smithing. The excavation of these sites reflects the current phase of large-scale development in the south-east of the county.

Extensive geophysical work at Dinnington (Tyne and Wear) has revealed a complex site, with a series of round houses, and a rectilinear enclosure (Biggins et al 1997). Most of the houses are outside the enclosure, and there was clearly a long phase of replacement of houses. There appears to be a clear emphasis on post-hole construction with a separate drip gully, as at Coxhoe (Haselgrove and Allon 1982, 34).

All these examples show the importance of detailed investigation outside the boundaries of settlements. The excavation of larger areas has also led to improved understanding of the chronological complexity of such sites. Whereas rectangular enclosures often follow a period of open settlement, the absolute chronology for such developments remains unclear. Most sites show a complex sequence of intercutting round houses, though it is possible that at some larger sites several houses could be in use at any one time. There appears to be a notable lack of datable material after the Antonine period, and it is not yet clear whether this implies site abandonment or a decreased access to Roman material culture.

Although most occupation appears to be on a domestic scale, there is some evidence for larger settlements. The round houses discovered at Tynemouth may be an indication of a coastal promontory fort, though they could be of Romano-British date (Jobey 1967). A recently excavated site at the Vaux Brewery, Sunderland, has revealed a Late Bronze Age enclosure overlooking the River Wear (PCA North 2004). There may also have been some form of larger fort or enclosure at Dunstanburgh, which has in the past produced late Iron Age metalwork (Bosanquet and Charlton 1936), and where recent survey work has recognised a bank outside the south curtain wall as probably pre-medieval (Oswald 2004a). In the north of the coastal zone, Dod Law West has mid 3rd century BC ramparts (Smith 1988-1989). There are, however, no equivalents of the large, fortified sites found in Scotland, such as Eildon Nab or Traprain Law.

Cheviots and Northumbrian uplands

In the uplands of the Cheviots extensive remains of presumed later prehistoric date can still be seen. Much of the groundwork for the study of the region was laid by the work of George Jobey, though he himself was advancing 38 Figure 23 Excavation of a post-hole from House 1 at West Brunton, Newcastle Great Park, (Tyne and Wear). It contains a beehive quern re-used for packing. © Tyne and Wear Museum Resource assessment Later Bronze Age and Iron Age earlier work carried out in the 19th century by George Tate and others. In more recent years, a series of related projects has been carried out under the auspices of the Northumberland National Park. In particular, the aerial photographic survey carried out by Tim Gates of the Hadrian’s Wall corridor, the College Valley and the Otterburn training area has exposed the complexity of the relict landscapes of these upland areas, placing previously known sites within a dense landscape of other features (Gates 1997; 1999; 2000; 2004).

In the Early Iron Age some unenclosed settlements are known, such as the timber houses on the summit of Wether Hill (Topping 2004) and the settlement at Linhope Burn (Topping 1993). There appears to have been a later phase of small, enclosed settlements. In the south of the area enclosures were mainly rectangular, whereas north of the Coquet there are more curvilinear enclosures or simple scooped settlements. In some cases, however, more than one phase of enclosure is known, such as at Fawdon Dean, where an earlier ‘egg-shaped’ enclosure was replaced by one more rectilinear in form (Frodsham and Waddington 2004, 184-187). This shift may have occurred in the early Roman period. It is likely that there was similar broad continuity elsewhere, and later prehistoric sites have been found beneath Romano-British settlements at both Hetha Burn and Kennel Hall Knowe (Burgess 1984, 168; Jobey 1978).

As well as these smaller farmsteads, the Northumberland uplands are notable for the survival of a significant number of hillforts. Recent work by the Northumberland National Park’s important Discovering Our Hillfort Heritage project has increased our knowledge of these monuments (Ainsworth et al 2002; Frodsham et al forthcoming; Oswald et al 2000; Oswald and McOmish 2002a; 2002b). Although there is a considerable local variation in the shape, situation and layout of the hillforts, there is enough consistency to suggest they are all drawing on the same broad tradition (with the exception of Yeavering Bell). In some areas the distribution of sites seem relatively dense, such as along the valleys of the Cheviots; there are ten hillforts in both the Breamish and College valleys.

The chronological development of hillforts is complex. Some sites, such as High Knowes and West Hill, Kirknewton, appear to have been preceded by a palisade (Jobey and Tait 1966; Oswald 2004b). In some cases, as at Harden Quarry, Biddlestone, the site did not develop further (Frodsham 2004, 40). At others, palisades were succeeded by stone ramparts. Piggot’s ‘Hownam sequence’ has been a very influential model in describing the development of hillfort activity (Piggot 1948), though few sites have detailed and well-understood chronologies; indeed, the only hillfort in the region with radiocarbon dates is Brough Law (Jobey 1971).

One hillfort which stands out due to its sheer size compared with the others is Yeavering Bell. At over 5ha in area, it contains about 130 house platforms. This site has been the subject of a recent survey (Pearson 1998), while earlier work placed it in its wider landscape context (RCHME 1986). Excavations took place on the hillfort in the 1950s and the pottery was reassessed in 1990 (Ferrell 1990).

Once again, the aerial photographic work of Tim Gates and the various surveys related to the Discovering Our Hillforts Heritage have been particularly useful in helping to understand the contexts of hillforts. For example, West Hill can be seen to stand within a system of fields and linear features (Oswald 2004b, 206, fig 13.8).

Trade, transport and communications

There is some limited evidence for long-distance trade and exchange in the later prehistoric North-East, although it does focus on the later part of the period.

There may have been localised trade in dolerite-tempered and calcite-tempered pottery (Evans 1995; Willis 1999). Roman imports, including Samian, Gallo-Belgic amphora and wares, were reaching Stanwick in significant quantities in the Pre-Roman Late Iron Age, although little of this material reaches its hinterland, beyond occasional imported ceramics at Catcote and Thorpe Thewles (Evans 1995).

Ceramic evidence has also indirectly provided evidence for another traded good: salt. Briquetage has been found at Stanwick and Kilton Thorpe amongst other sites (Willis 1999; forthcoming). Kilton Thorpe has also produced coarse pottery pillars related to the process of salt production. This suggests a local salt industry, probably close to the later salt industries around the mouth of the Tees, perhaps at Coatham. Despite their weight, there is evidence that querns might also have been traded, and important sites such as Stanwick have produced a range of quern stones from different sources (Gwilt and Heslop 1995; Haselgrove 2002, 67-68), though in other areas, such as Teesdale, analysis has shown that most beehive querns were derived from local sources of stone.

It is difficult to reconstruct Iron Age routeways. On the edge of the North York Moors, around Percy Rigg and Kilburnthorpe for instance, they may have acted as corridors between the moors and the coast. It is also possible that some Roman roads may have followed pre-existing late prehistoric alignments, though this is speculation.

Religion and ritual

Unlike earlier prehistory, the later Bronze Age and Iron Age are notable for their lack of monumental religious sites. The focus should perhaps be on ritual activity rather than ritual sites. Even burial sites are rare. An unusual square barrow burial was excavated at Alnham by George Jobey (Jobey and Tate 1966), while possible Iron Age burials have been found at Catcote (Teesside) (Long 1988, 18), and a cave burial from Bishop Middleham is probably also of Iron Age date (Raistrick 1933b). Datable evidence for mortuary behaviour is slight, however. Some inhumations in barrows may be of late Bronze Age or Iron Age date, though it is most likely that the majority of bodies were disposed off in an archaeologically invisible way, such as excarnation or unurned cremation. The main form of ritualised activity appears to have been the placing of hoards. The best-known examples of this hoarding tradition are Late Bronze Age, such as Heathery Burn (Co. Durham) and Gilmonby (Co. Durham) (Greenwell 1894; Coggins and Tylecote 1983). The context of the hoards varies; the Heathery Burn hoard was from a cave, but many were from more watery contexts. The hoards from Wallington, Whittingham and Corbridge (Northumberland) were all found in boggy land or during drainage works. The structure of these depositions could be complex, as was shown at High Throston (Teesside) where a range of bronze and jet objects were found with ash, burnt bone and a pot (Daniels 2003).

This practice of votive deposition continued into the Iron Age and on into the Roman period (Hunter 1997). For example, a sword was found in a probable riverine context at Sadberge (MacGregor 1976, 156). Other finds from a similar context are also known from the Tyne (Miket 1984b). Although the main form of deposited object seems to have been metalwork, other items have been recorded in a probable ritual context. For example, the Yorkshire Quern Survey notes the probable hoarding of querns from a number of places such as Hutton Rudby, though this practice seems more common to the south of the region in North Yorkshire (David Heslop pers comm). There is also evidence for the careful placing of objects in ditch terminals, pits and similar locations from Doubtstead, Coxhoe and Burradon (Jobey 1970, 1982; Haselgrove and Allon 1982), as well as for more subtle, structured, organising principles which may have possible ritual dimensions; excavations near Peg’s House, Bollihope Common, for example, have shown a range of possible special practices, including the structured laying of floors (Young and Webster in prep).

Material culture and technology

Pottery and ceramic evidence

Although pottery is not widespread, the North-East is not entirely aceramic and less than 10% of sites have no pottery at all (Willis 1999, 85-66). This is in contrast to areas west of the Pennines, where the absence of pottery seems more typical. Nevertheless, there are few substantial assemblages, and there has been relatively little synthetic work (though see Willis 1993; Evans 1995).

Dating is uncertain and is often based on assumptions about settlement morphology (Haselgrove 2002, 51). It is possible that excavation strategies, traditionally only examining within or immediately outside enclosures, may have influenced the size of assemblages. The recent trend towards large-scale, open-area excavation may well be rewarded with more substantial ceramic evidence.

The only site with significant Roman imports is Stanwick. While they do occasionally appear at a handful of nearby sites, such as Catcote and Thorpe Thewles, imports seem only rarely to have entered wider circulation (Evans 1995), although they do appear to have had a wider impact, stimulating local pottery manufacture and the diversification of forms (Steve Willis pers comm).

Flints and stone objects

Although a later prehistoric flint knapping tradition may have existed, by this date relatively few changes in the knapping process are chronologically diagnostic (Young and Humphrey 1999).

Stone querns, both saddle and rotary, are widely found in the region. Stone types included Millstone Grit, probably from the South Durham exposures, sandstone from the Coal Measures, and occasional glacial erratic and riverine boulders. Stone querns from the North Pennines could be traded up to 40km into the lowland areas. A survey of querns in Yorkshire, Teesside and South Durham is currently being undertaken by David Heslop.

Bronze objects

Late Bronze Age metalwork is not uncommon in the North-East, with several major hoards known as well as numerous single artefacts. Chronologically the pattern of distribution rises from the Wallington phase, reaching a peak in the Ewart Park phase. The ‘type site’ for both these phases lies within the region. The Wallington Hoard included fifteen axes, four spearheads, three swords and three armlets (Burgess 1968a), and was discovered at a poorly drained site close to the Middleton Burn. The Ewart Park finds comprised three swords discovered in the early 19th century (Colquhoun and Burgess 1988, 97).

Other major hoards from the region include the Eastgate Hoard (Cowen 1971), the Heathery Burn hoard (Greenwell 1894; Hawkes and Smith 1957) and the Gilmonby Hoard, which included over 27 bronze axes, 37 spearheads, 14 swords, tools, parts of a cauldron, ornaments, nine copper ingots and several pieces of iron (Coggins and Tylecote 1983). The Gilmonby find is just one of a distinct cluster of casual finds of prehistoric metalwork around Bowes (Pickin and Vyner 2001). An unusual hoard from High Throston, Hartlepool, contained ash, burnt bone, and a bronze spearhead on top of the ash, along with a number of bronze pins, fragments of a bronze vessel and a ring with a loop projecting from one edge; above this was a pot containing six wire rings, one tin-alloy bead, one circular spoked rouelle, four amber beads and two jet beads. Bronze rings, a large jet bracelet, strips of bronze and a rectangular jet spacer with two holes were also recovered at the same site (Daniels 2003). Research is taking place on both the High Throston and Gilmonby hoards by Brendan O’Connor. Several bronze swords have also been dredged from the Tyne around Newcastle (Cowen 1967, 444-445).

After the Late Bronze Age there was an apparent decline in the deposition of metal objects until the Late Iron Age, when there may have been a revival in the practice. Swords have been found at Sadberge (Co. Durham), Brough and Carham (Northumberland), and a hilt guard is recorded from Dunstanburgh (Northumberland) (Piggot 1950). MacGregor’s catalogue of Celtic art in North Britain includes items of late La Tène style, such as chapes, horse fittings and other items, such as a beaded torc from Benwell (MacGregor 1976, no. 198; Simpson and Richmond 1941, 23-25, pl. ii). Many of these items are, however, from Roman forts and must be post-conquest in date.

Evidence for metal production and working is slight. Iron smithing is known from West Brandon, Catcote, Thorpe Thewles, Foxrush Farm, the Newcastle Great Park sites and Pegswood. Two bowl furnaces were found at West Brandon (Jobey 1962). Fragments of metalworking crucibles were recovered at Thorpe Thewles (McDonell 1987). Parts of 40 Resource assessment Later Bronze Age and Iron Age 41 moulds for making bronze objects are known in Northumberland from the Kaims, Adderstone and Lucker, and from Wallington Demesne. An unfinished bronze axe was found at Felton in the late 19th century and still retains mould marks (Hodgson 1904, 375).

Scientific analysis has provided insight into early metal technology. The metalwork of the Wallington tradition has been shown to have had a different composition to contemporary styles in the south of England, with the alloys lacking lead (Tylecote 1968). By the Ewart Park phase, however, northern traditions were identical to those further south (Northover 1988). The alloys used in the Iron Age continued to parallel those used in the south of England, with brass replacing bronze in the early 1st century AD (Dungworth 1995; 1996).

Iron objects

Relatively few iron objects are known. This may be a genuine reflection of a low level of use, or may instead be related to preservation factors, or even be a function of high levels of recycling. A number of iron spearheads are known (e.g. Broomlee Lough, Forden Dean, Turf Knowe, Rochester), though it is possible that they may be of later date. An oven, possibly used for the carburisation process has been excavated at Catcote, but the few iron objects recovered were of Roman date (Long 1988, 21, 28; Vyner and Daniels 1989, 19).

Other materials

Apart from the objects mentioned above there is relatively little other material culture – most items from sites are 1st century AD or later. Few items of personal dress survive and due to the nature of these materials they are often fragmentary and difficult to date. Isolated glass beads have been found at Bishop Middleham, Prickly Knowe and Dod Law (Raistrick 1933b; Smith 1988-89), and a Late Iron Age or Romano-British ring pin was recovered with a burial at Alnham (Jobey and Tait 1966). A worked bone toggle comes from Thorpe Thewles (Swain 1987). There is also a small number of shale or jet objects from local sites, including Harehaugh, Kilton Thorpe and Thorpe Thewles (Swain and Heslop 1987). Textile production and working is indicated by loom weights and spindle whorls which have been found at Catcote, Thorpe Thewles and Forcegarth Pasture (Long 1988, 31; Vyner and Daniels 1989, 21; Swain and Heslop 1987; Fairless and Coggins 1986).

Museum holdings

Collections of Late Bronze Age and Iron Age material are held at a number of museums. Outside the region, the most important collection is that held by the British Museum, which contains the Heathery Burn hoard, the Iron Age swords from Sadberge (Co. Durham) and Carham (Northumberland), as well as a torc from Greenhill (Northumberland).

In the south of the region, the most important material can be found among the archaeological collections of Tees Archaeology, which includes items from Catcote and Thorpe Thewles, as well as the archives for a number of other sites, for example Eston Nab and Catcote. There are many querns amongst the collection of stone objects. The Dorman Museum also holds material from Eston Nab. In County Durham, the Bowes Museum holds the Gilmonby hoard, as well as finds related from PPG16-related archaeological sites in the region. This will include those from Ingleby Barwick and Faverdale. The Old Fulling Museum holds the finds from all PPG16-related archaeology within the City of Durham. Major collections include the Coxhoe archive and finds from the Durham Archaeological Survey. In Tyne and Wear, the Museum of Antiquities holds a major collection of Bronze Age finds, comprising over 150 weapons and tools, including the Ewart Park swords. The holdings of Iron Age material here are not as extensive, but include the finds from George Jobey’s excavations at West Brandon. Tyne and Wear Museums meanwhile stores material from PPG16-based excavations in the Tyne and Wear area, including that from South Shields, and is the intended repository for the material from the Newcastle Great Parks excavations. Finally, Alnwick Castle Museum holds a range of Bronze Age tools and other items, including shields from Inghoe and Aydon Castle, swords from Great Tosson and Whittingham and a bronze axe from Corbridge (Collingwood Bruce 1880).


The Roman Specialist Group consisted of Lindsay Allason-Jones (Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle), Mike Collins (English Heritage), Jim Crow (Dept of Archaeology, University of Newcastle), Paul Frodsham (Northumberland National Parks Authority), Richard Hingley (Dept of Archaeology, University of Durham), Nick Hodgson (Tyne and Wear Museums Service), and Steve Willis (Dept of Classical and Archaeological Studies, University of Kent).

History of research The advent of Roman control in the North-East of England had a profound qualitative and quantitative impact on the archaeological record. A suite of new site types appeared, particularly those related to the Roman military infrastructure, and in many areas there was a significant change in the availability of material culture. For the first time, written sources, both literary and epigraphic, become available so that from the 1st century AD there is evidence for the names of individuals, places and political and ethnic groups. This combination of written evidence and a significant body of highly diagnostic material culture (particularly ceramics and coins) allows the archaeology to be explored at a chronological resolution not practical for earlier periods.

The study of the remains of the Roman period has a long tradition in the region. Recent papers which explore the history of archaeological endeavour on Hadrian’s Wall and the North-East include work by David Breeze (2003) on the role of John Collingwood Bruce, and a consideration of the development of Roman military studies in Britain by Simon James (2003).

The first important account of the Hadrian’s Wall, and hence the Roman archaeology of the North-East, was by William Camden in his Britannia (Camden 1610). This remained the main antiquarian contribution on the Wall and associated antiquities until the early 18th century, when John Horsley’s Britannia Romana (1732) was published. These volumes were supplemented by a series of publications recording tours and observations of the monument in which a number of other archaeological sites were mentioned, among them the Roman forts at Binchester and Lanchester (Figure 24).

Epigraphy and observations of standing remains form the backbone of this research which, while it does not compare to modern, more scientific, scholarship, frequently describes details that have since disappeared.

The first significant archaeological excavations on the Wall were carried out by the Revd John Hodgson, who started work at Housesteads in 1822. Hodgson was also the first to date the Wall to Hadrian; previously the vallum was believed to be the earliest defence, supplemented by a wall built during the reign of Septimius Severus. Anthony Hedley and John Clayton carried out other excavations at the same time. Hedley worked at Vindolanda in the early 1830s but died in 1835, before a report on his work could be submitted to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle. Clayton bought up much land along the Wall and dug many sites including three milecastles, Chesters fort and bathhouse, and Coventina’s Well. An important local patron was the Duke of Northumberland who, in 1852, funded excavation at High Rochester and subsequently commissioned the first accurate survey of the Wall, carried out by Henry MacLauchlan between 1852 and 1854. This had been preceded by a similar survey of Dere Street (then known as Watling Street) by MacLauchlan in 1850-51, which included plans of several forts, such as Lanchester, together with records of finds and associated earthworks. As well as excavation and survey there was also an increased focus on the epigraphy of the Wall. The most notable early scholar in this field was John Collingwood Bruce, who produced the Lapidarium Septentrionale in 1870-75, an overview of all the inscriptions known at the time (Collingwood Bruce 1875; Breeze 2003). He also wrote the Roman Wall (1851), the third edition (1867) of which was the first widespread popularisation of Hodgson’s theory of a Hadrianic date for the Wall. In 1863 he published his Handbook of the Roman Wall, which continues to be updated (14th edition edited by David Breeze, forthcoming).

The major period of broadly scientific excavation began in the 1890s, including Robert Carr Bosanquet’s excavations at Housesteads (Bosanquet 1904). Work by John Pattinson Gibson on Turret 44b led to a series of collaborations between the major figures of Roman archaeology in the region, including F. Gerald Simpson, Robin Collingwood and Ian Richmond.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s another burst of activity saw the foundation of the North of England Excavation Committee, founded by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle in 1924 to encourage ‘under proper supervision the excavation of sites in the North’. Due to its Newcastle base it tended to focus on sites on the eastern half of the Wall. Also in the east, the improvement of the Military Road (B6318) resulted in a series of rescue excavations.

The importance of this work was recognised by Durham University who, in 1924, appointed F. G. Simpson as its director of excavation, a post he relinquished in 1931 to allow Eric Birley to be appointed as a lecturer. Birley was to stay at Durham for 40 years, directing his students to research on a wide range of aspects of the Wall and the Roman army (James 2003).

As this brief accounts demonstrates, the early phases of investigation into the Roman archaeology of the NorthEast were dominated by individuals, though in the later 19th and early 20th century the role of societies, particularly the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, became increasingly important. State intervention only began in the 1920s when parts of the Wall were taken into Guardianship. The work of the Ministry of Works, Department of Environment and latterly English Heritage, in the recording and conservation of the archaeological resource has carried state participation in the study of Roman archaeology in the area through to the present day. The presence of two departments of archaeology in the region, Durham and Newcastle, has also influenced scholarship, and scholars such as Eric Birley and Ian Richmond shaped their departments as centres for the study of this period. Major work has also been carried out by the Tyne and Wear Museums, particularly the excavation and curation of South Shields and Wallsend, as well as extensive exploration of the urban sections of the Wall. Work by independent scholars has also been significant; the longterm campaigns of excavation by the Birleys at Vindolanda have produced a number of internationally significant finds, such as the Vindolanda tablets.

Hadrian’s Wall is the iconic Roman site in the North-East; its national and international importance being reflected in its World Heritage Site status. Due to the Wall’s outstanding importance, the large-scale heritage management issues it raises, and the sheer quantity of material relating to it, as well as the fact that it crosses two regions (North-East and North-West), the North-East Regional Research Framework will not be tackling it in detail. The Wall is instead subject of its own separate research agenda, also funded by English Heritage.

From the 1960s there were a number of overviews of the Roman archaeology of the region. The first was Peter Salway’s The Frontier People of Roman Britain (Salway 1965), one of the first major attempts to consider the evidence for the civilian as well as military settlement. The major work on Durham was Brian Dobson’s paper published in 1970. The long history of research on the Wall has also been summarised in several publications, including the Handbook to the Roman Wall (Collingwood Bruce 1863; Breeze forthcoming), and for more recent research the guide for the latest Hadrian’s Wall pilgrimage (Bidwell 1999). More general historical accounts of the Wall include Breeze and Dobson’s Hadrian’s Wall (2000). For an overview of the earlier work on the Wall, Birley’s Research on Hadrian’s Wall (1961) remains a standard text. Works that address the rural population have been less in evidence (but see Hingley 2004).

Since the introduction of PPG16 and associated planning guidance in 1991 there has been an increase in small-scale interventions into the Roman archaeology of the region. These have helped expand our knowledge of much of the frontier in areas such as Newcastle, where there are few standing remains, and led to an increasing number of observations and excavations on sites away from the Wall.

This overview has focused primarily on the military archaeology of the region, but there has been some significant work on the civilian settlements, particularly north of the Wall, where the work of George Jobey has dominated the study of Roman and Iron Age native settlement (see Chapter 5). Upland survey work, such as on the Otterburn training area and by Denis Coggins in the North Pennines, has also revealed many settlements, though without excavation it has proved difficult to distinguish them from Iron Age sites.

Existing research frameworks

 A series of initiatives at both regional and national level provide research agendas from which to work. At a local level, an important on-going project is the Research Framework for Hadrian’s Wall. This will provide a research structure for the study of the Wall in both the North-West and the North-East. Also at a regional level are the papers covering the Roman period in the Past, Present and Future volume which arose out of a conference held in Durham in 1996 (e.g. Crow 2002). Various approaches were adopted here. Mike McCarthy breaks his suggestions for further research into macro- and micro-approaches. The macroapproach involves further study of the wider Roman landscape and environment; for example, the relationship between settlements and the natural environment. The micro- (or site-specific) approach embraces a more rigorous and analytical approach to data, including site formation processes and the study of cultural assemblages (McCarthy 2002). In another paper in the same volume, Lindsay AllasonJones called for further work on military equipment from the North-East, placing it in its national and international context. She also pointed out that little is known about funerary habits in the Roman North. Finally, she drew attention to the lack of excavation work carried out on vici, suggesting that a better understanding of these sites could help elucidate and broaden our understanding of their role and of the end of military occupation on the Wall (Allason-Jones 2002).

At the national level, the most influential recent contribution has been Britons and Romans: advancing an archaeological agenda (James and Millett 2001), a volume of collected papers which arose out of a session at the Roman Archaeology Conference sponsored by English Heritage (e.g. J. D. Hill 2001; James 2001; Allason-Jones 2001; Evans 2001). As well as highlighting particular research topics, there are suggestions here for structural initiatives, such as the training of finds specialists and improved publication of ‘grey literature’, issues that are also echoed in this document. Similar suggestions were made in Town and country in England: frameworks for archaeological research (Perring et al 2002) which laid out an agenda for work on urban archaeology. Although its Roman case study focused on Essex and Colchester, that volume presented a series of methodological recommendations that have relevance for the North-East. Finally, recommendations have been issued by the Study Group for Roman Pottery (SGRP), including a national research framework (Willis 2004) and a regional overview for the north of England (Evans and Willis 1997). The former highlighted a series of research themes, including trade, supply and distribution, chronology, continued work on Samian pottery, Roman/native interaction, pottery and the organisation of the Roman army, functional trends, site status, spatial patterning, social/cultural identity, ritual sites, Roman pottery production and the end of the Romano-British economy. The regional review highlighted similar themes and also identified a number of backlog sites as priorities for publication.

Environmental evidence

The environmental evidence from the Roman period is varied. Pollen evidence suggests patterns of clearance, though due to the uncertainty inherent in radiocarbon dating it is not easy to distinguish between pre- and post-conquest clearances at a high degree of resolution. Work carried out by Dumayne, however, has clarified changing patterns of vegetation along parts of Hadrian’s Wall during the Roman period (Dumayne 1992; 1993a; 1993b; 1994). Richard Tipping (1997) has suggested, however, that the increase in agriculture in the region dated to the Late Iron Age and was not related to the impact of Roman settlement, an opinion which is echoed by Mike McCarthy (1995; 1997). The pollen evidence for the area between the Tyne and the Tees has been explored by Chris Fenton-Thomas (1992) using the evidence from thirteen pollen core sites. It is clear that forest clearance pre-dated the Roman period and moved out from a south-east core-zone throughout the period, only reaching a peak at some locations in the 5th century AD. Cores from the areas closest to the forts of north-west Durham also show clearance beginning in the Late pre-Roman Iron Age, indicating that it was not related to the presence of the Roman military.

There is limited survival of insect remains, probably due to the lack of deep, well-preserved deposits, such as those in York and Carlisle. A single insect assemblage from a pit at the Roman fort at South Shields (South Tyneside) was reported by Osborne (1994). There is also an excellently preserved assemblage from a fill of a Romano-British ditch terminal at the Flodden Hill rectilinear enclosure (Kenward 2001), where the assemblage indicated temperatures similar to those of present day Kent.

Plant macro-fossil evidence from non-military sites is represented by assemblages from Dubby Sike, Upper Teesdale (Co. Durham), which produced no evidence for cereals, suggesting possible seasonal occupation (van der Veen 1986). Other sites include Thornbrough Scar (Northumberland), which produced evidence for possible rye cultivation, and Catcote (Teesside), which produced barley and wheat (van der Veen 1983). A significant assemblage has also come from the Quarry Farm Roman villa site (Ingleby Barwick, Teesside) (Jacqui Huntley pers comm).

Despite the number of Roman military sites, surprisingly few significant assemblages exist, of which the burnt deposits from a granary at South Shields are one example (van der Veen 1988b). The assemblage from the Roman fort at Newcastle produced wheat, heather, barley, oats and arable weed seeds, as well as more exotic material such as coriander and fig seeds (Huntley and Daniell 2002). Some waterlogged remains are known from Peel Gap, which implied the presence of fen meadows, grassland and heathland (Huntley 1989a). Further and better evidence for such communities comes from recent work on the exceedingly well-preserved layers at Vindolanda. Here identification of sedges enabled some distinction between different areas used for grazing or hay production (Huntley 2002). These assemblages are primarily from forts associated directly with Hadrian’s Wall, and there are no assemblages from military forts to the north or south of the frontier.

Military sites are better provided with faunal material, although the most important assemblages come from outside the region at sites such as Carlisle and Birdoswald (Cumbria). Significant amounts of bone have been recovered from Vindolanda, South Shields and Corbridge (Hodgson 1968; 1977; Stokes 1996; Younger 1994). It should be noted that the Vindolanda material has yet to be studied in detail, and although there are substantial amounts of material, there is some uncertainty about its stratigraphic context. The analysis of material from Corbridge failed to take into account stratigraphic and contextual information (Hodgson 1967, 68). Away from Hadrian’s Wall, bone assemblages are known from Chester-le-Street, Binchester (not yet analysed) and Piercebridge (unpublished archive report). There are virtually no assemblages from civilian sites beyond the villa at Holme House, Piercebridge (Co. Durham) on the very southern border of the region, although the material from the recently excavated sites at Quarry Farm, Ingleby Barwick (Teesside) and East Park, Sedgefield (Co. Durham) may redress this imbalance a little.

Field systems

Although Roman archaeology in the North-East has traditionally been site centred, there is increasing evidence for the wider Roman landscape. Aerial photography illustrates the sheer quantity of surviving networks of fields, cord rigg and settlements (Frodsham 2004, 57-59; Gates 1997; 1999; 2000). This evidence is particularly important for the area around Hadrian’s Wall, and has the potential to help unravel the effects of the creation of such a barrier on the pre-Wall landscape. English Heritage’s National Mapping Programme is producing stimulating results for the North-West, and similar enhancements are to be expected for the North-East. On a smaller scale, the move towards larger, open-area excavations has helped to place settlements in their wider landscape. Excavations at Pegswood (Northumberland) and Newcastle Great Park (Tyne and Wear) show how settlements sit in networks of fields and paddocks; a similar pattern has also been recognised further south at the villa of Ingleby Barwick. There are also traces of native field systems beneath the fort at Wallsend (Hodgson 2003).

Transport and communication


The basic road network of the region consists of major northsouth routes with occasional west-east routes forking off to cross the upland spine of the country and link with the North-West. Modern work has uncovered new sections of roadway, helped firm up speculative routes and discovered the possible alignments of subsidiary roads, but the basic layout of the Roman road network in the North-East remains that laid out in Margary’s Roman Roads in Britain (1973).

The only road which runs the entire length of the region from the Tees to the Scottish border is Dere Street. The first major work on Dere Street was undertaken by Henry MacLauchlan (calling it Watling Street) who carried out a survey of the road in 1850 and 1851 (MacLauchlan 1852). This ran north from York through Aldbrough (8a-b; all road numbers are those provided by Margary 1967) before 46 Resource assessment Roman entering County Durham at Piercebridge. It then ran north to Binchester (8c), Lanchester, and Ebchester (8d) until it reached the Tyne at Corbridge. It then headed roughly north-west through Redesdale passing by Risingham, High Rochester and up into the Cheviots. At Chew Green, at the head of Coquetdale, it drops down into Scotland heading towards Newstead and ultimately Lothian. It is notable that the main Roman road into Scotland takes this difficult route over the uplands rather than along the flatter coastal plain.

In County Durham, another road, often known as Cade’s Road, crossed the Tees around Middleton St George (80a-b). It then headed north to Durham and then Chester-le-Street, where it continued north to Newcastle. A spur road, known as the Wrekendyke, ran in a north-eastern direction from Wrekenton to South Shields (809).

One of the main west-east routes over the Pennines came off Dere Street at Scotch Corner and ran westerly through Greta Bridge, Bowes and over Stainmore through Rey Cross before reaching Brough-under-Stainmore and the Eden Valley (82). There was also a link road running from Bowes through Barnard Castle joining up with Dere Street around Bishop Auckland (820). Just north of Binchester at Willington a road ran eastwards linking up with Cade’s Street. A short stretch of Roman road is also known in the North Pennines running from Stanhope to Egglestone (821).

The Tyne-Solway gap was an obvious west-east communication route, and two Roman roads ran across it. The earliest was the Stanegate, starting at Corbridge and running west to Carlisle. The chronological relationship between the Stanegate forts and the road itself has recently been questioned (Poulter 1998), but even if the road itself was relatively late in the sequence, it is almost certain that the Roman used its basic course as a communications route. With the construction of Hadrian’s Wall a second west-east route, the Military Way, was built running to the south of, and parallel with, the Wall from Wallsend to Carlisle.

North of the Wall the Devil’s Causeway (87) forks out north-eastwards from Dere Street at Bewclay to Longframlington and Berwick-upon-Tweed. This route was surveyed by Henry MacLauchlan in the late 1850s (MacLauchlan 1864). The two roads are linked further north by a west-east route running from High Rochester to Whittingham (88).

Although the basic routes of all the main Roman roads are known, there are still stretches where the precise course remains conjectural. Most recent research on Roman roads has tended to be carried out by amateurs, searching for stretches of road in their locality. They have also often researched the course of the less well-understood local road networks. This work is usually a combination of ground observation and survey, aerial photography and a small amount of excavation.


The sites of a number of Roman bridges are known in the region, some well studied (Bidwell and Holbrook 1989; Fitzpatrick and Scott 1999; see also Moorwood and Hodgson 1992). This is due to the need for the main north-south communication routes to cross the region’s major west-east rivers. Traces of bridges are recorded at Greta Bridge, Corbridge, Chesters and Piercebridge. Excavation is currently taking place on the bridge at Corbridge. In addition to bridges it is likely that rivers were also often forded, for example, the Tees is fordable at Neasham and Barnard Castle.

Ports, harbours and maritime installations

Maritime transport was undoubtedly an important form of communication in the Roman period, and it is likely that most bulk cargo was carried by ship. In spite of this, there is relatively little evidence for port or harbour facilities, though considering South Shields role as a major supply base and the evidence from the Notitia Dignitatum for bargemen from what is today Iraq being stationed there, it seems likely that there was some form of port facility close by. Evidence for unsuccessful maritime voyages comes in the form of a few possible wreck sites. A number of Roman finds, including a patera from Herd Sand beach, South Shields may have originated from the wreck of a Roman ship (2nd century AD) (Bidwell 2001), and another possible wreck is known from Hartlepool Bay (Swain 1986). A collection of objects from the beach at Carr House Sands, Seaton Carew, is likely to be a domestic midden, although it could also be all that remains of a foundered Roman cargo ship (Swain 1986).

Signal stations

Systems of signal stations are known on the west coast of Cumbria and along the North Yorkshire coast but, surprisingly, there is no evidence for any such system in the North-East. This may be a real absence, or it may be related to the high degree of coastal erosion along the Durham coast. A very small amount of Roman pottery has been found on Holy Island, and it is possible that the island may have been the site of a signal station, though this remains speculation.

Systems of inland signal stations have also been suggested (Richmond 1951). A possible signal tower on the Stainmore Pass has been excavated (Annis 2001), though the extent to which any meaningful signals could have been passed is debateable, and the excavator prefers to call them simply ‘towers’. Like the East Yorkshire examples they are late 4th century (though unlike the Yorkshire towers, not Theodosian) and seemingly only had a short period of use.

Military infrastructure

The Roman frontier: the Stanegate

The origin and nature of the Stanegate and its associated structures are debateable. The traditional interpretation was that this was a defensive frontier created following the withdrawal by the Roman army to the Tyne-Solway isthmus in AD 105. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, this interpretation was questioned (e.g. Daniels 1970; Dobson 1986) and alternative suggestions were made, such as that it was a defended communication route rather than a limes. More recently, the argument for the role of the Stanegate system as a border has been restated (Poulter 1998; Hodgson 2000). Poulter has pointed out that the road itself appears to be one of the latest elements of the system, making it unlikely that the primary purpose of the forts was to defend the road.

The road itself ran from Corbridge to Carlisle, and a series of forts stand along its course, including Corbridge, Newbrough, Vindolanda, and Haltwhistle Burn (Stobbs 1997). It is possible that the small fort at Washingwells was also related to the Stanegate, though there is no road linking it to Corbridge and it has no firm dating evidence (Holbrook and Speak 1994). The earliest evidence for occupation at Corbridge (Corstopitum) is the Flavian fort at Red House (Hanson et al 1979), which contained timber structures and had a stone bathhouse. Two phases of building have been recognised. It was probably abandoned around AD 87/88 when the new fort was constructed to the east, where evidence for at least four superimposed forts has been found (Dore and Bishop 1988). The first large (5.3ha) fort was demolished and replaced around AD 103. The new fort was significantly smaller (2.8ha). Apart from the headquarters and defences this second fort was demolished and rebuilding took place, presumably when Hadrian’s Wall was built, replacing the Stanegate as the frontier. The subsequent abandonment of the Wall under Antoninus Pius led to a further rebuilding around AD 139/140. A final phase of alteration took place, probably coinciding with the withdrawal to the Wall as the frontier in about AD 160. Occupation on the site continued into the 4th century. Two compounds lay to the south of the Stanegate and seem to have been used as workshops and barracks; activity appears to have gone on until the late 4th century. Relatively little is known about the fort at Newbrough; a church now stands on the site, and some pottery and the traces of building have been discovered during the digging of graves (Wright 1958).

Vindolanda has been the site of a series of excavations, a number of antiquarian investigations, and, in the 20th century, work by Eric Birley (1930-36), Robin Birley (1949- 69) and by the Vindolanda Trust from 1970 (Bidwell 1985; Birley 1977; 1995; 2000; 2002). At least eight phases of fort construction have been recognised varying in size from around 1.4ha in Period I (c. AD 85-90) to greater than 2.8ha during Period IV (AD 104/105-c. 120). The initial phases had timber and turf ramparts, but a stone wall was built in Period IV. In the early 3rd century the fort went through an unusual phase when, following demolition, a series of at least 300 small stone roundhouses were built across the site. They were replaced after a short time by another fort, and subsequent phases of building and demolition followed. An apsidal building was built over the eastern side of the commandant’s house around AD 400; this may be a Christian church. There is some indication that the east wall was repaired in the early 5th century through the construction of an earth bank. Vindolanda was, of course, the site of the discovery of a series of internationally important well-preserved wooden writing tablets (Bowman and Thomas 1983; 1994; 1996).

Haltwhistle Burn is a small fortlet excavated in 1908, probably of Trajanic date. It appears to have been carefully demolished at some point, presumably when the Wall was constructed (Simpson 1974).

The Roman frontier: Hadrian’s Wall

General work on the Wall and its construction includes several important publications by Peter Hill (1991; 1997); overviews of other investigations on the Wall itself (rather than related structures) can be found in articles by James Crow (1991a; 1991b). Although the course of the Wall is known for most of its length, the situation has traditionally been less clear in some of the more built-up areas around its eastern end. Recent excavations, however, have transformed our knowledge about Hadrian’s Wall in urban Tyneside, including a true understanding of the course of the Wall for the first time and the location of a number of minor structures (e.g. McKelvey 2003) (Figure 25). Other significant excavations on the Wall itself have taken place at Denton (Tyne and Wear) (Bidwell and Watson 1996). Related research has also taken place on the vallum (Bidwell and Watson 1996; Bennett and Turner 1983; Bennett 1998; Wooliscroft 1999). Other advances include the recognition of defensive entanglements on the berm (M. Collins 2002), possibly an addition to the general anatomy of the Wall, and a well-preserved length of the Military Way at Pendower Hall, Benwell. There has also been some debate about the sequence of construction of stretches of the eastern end of the Wall (Hill 2001; Bidwell 2003).

There has been a degree of excavation or survey at most of the forts along the Wall, though some stand out as having been particularly extensively investigated. South Shields (Arbeia), although not technically part of the Wall itself, overlooked the mouth of the Tyne and overlies the site of a Late Iron Age farmstead. It was first excavated in 1875, leading to its preservation. Subsequent excavation took place in 1949-50 and again in 1966-67. A long campaign of work then commenced in 1975 and still continues; much of the fort has now been investigated and has been preserved as part of the museum on site (Allason-Jones and Miket 1984; Bidwell and Hodgson 1999; Bidwell and Speak 1994; Gillam and Dore 1979; Miket 1983; Snape 1994). There is evidence for a civilian settlement beneath the fort, possibly related to an earlier, as yet unlocated, fort. The known fort was probably built in the AD 160s, with an extension increasing its size in AD 205- 207, and then substantially remodelled and expanded with the construction of a supply base over the northern areas of the fort. This was probably related to the Severan campaigns in the early 3rd century. Further granaries were added and in AD 222 a new water supply constructed, probably at the same time as the erection of a new headquarters and barrack. The fort appears to have been largely destroyed by a fire in around AD 300, following which there was major rebuilding, with granaries being converted into barrack blocks. Further alterations were made to the site into the early 5th century and a small church may have stood on the site of the headquarters building in the late 4th or early 5th centuries (Bidwell and Speak 1994, 105-106).

Wallsend (Segedunum) was the site of excavations in the 1920s, when the west gate was found, and later work in the 1970s (Hodgson 2003). The Hadrianic timber buildings, including a hospital and some barracks, were rebuilt in stone in the Antonine period. A large forehall of the 2nd century was built to the north of the headquarters buildings and straddled the street. In the 3rd century the hospital was demolished and the barracks were reconstructed in a different form before the mid 3rd century. The new barracks were described as ‘chalets’ in the 1970s, but many would now see them as a new kind of barrack built as a response to military reorganisation in the first half of the 3rd century. A debate on the interpretation of late-Roman barracks in the region continues (Hodgson and Bidwell 2004). Coin and pottery evidence shows occupation at the site extending into the 4th century.

The fort at Newcastle (Pons Aelius) was probably built close to the bridge over the Tyne, though the location of the bridge is not known. Excavations took place on the site between 1976 and 1992 (Snape and Bidwell 2002), although its precise shape remains unclear, and it is possible that it may have been polygonal. Ceramic and coin assemblages suggest that the fort was not built until the late 2nd or early 3rd century.

Much of the fort at Benwell (Condercum) was built over in the 19th and 20th centuries, though the broad dimensions of the fort are known (Taylor 1997) (Figure 26). Despite the lack of stratigraphy the ceramic assemblage indicates continued use into the late 4th century. The basic plan of the central range of the fort is known, including the commander’s house and the headquarters as well as nearby granaries (Holbrook 1991). It is important to emphasise that considerable archaeological deposits will survive over much of the site, as they did over other sites once covered in post-medieval building, such as South Shields and Wallsend.

There have been two phases of investigation at Rudchester (Vindovala), in 1921 and 1972, as well as field survey (Bowden and Blood 1991; Newman et al 1973). The earliest excavation explored the gates and main buildings revealing the south and west gate as well as the commanding officer’s house. Further excavation in 1972 revealed ard marks beneath the fort. and also showed a number of phases of building. Two structures were destroyed by fire in the last third of the 2nd century and replaced by another in stone. This appears to have been succeeded by a timberframed structure in the late 4th century.

The fort at Halton Chesters (Onnum) has seen three major phases of excavation (1933-36, 1956-58 and 1960-61) as well as geophysical surveys in 1995 and 1999 (Simpson and Richmond 1935; Jarrett 1959; Berry and Taylor 1997; Taylor et al 2000). A large forehall was constructed in front of the headquarters building in the early 3rd century; a timber hospital may have been replaced in stone at the same time. This period also saw the expansion of the fort probably to accommodate the arrival of the ala Sabiniana, a cavalry unit. In the early 4th century part of the backing of the rampart was removed to open up building space. Although parts of the fort fell into disuse in the 4th century, the ala Sabiniana is recorded here in the Notitia Dignitatum, and there is evidence for the timber-framed buildings resting on stone sill-blocks of late-4th-century date. These excavations, however, still require full publication.

Most of the buildings currently to be seen at Chesters (Cilurnum) were exposed in the 19th century by John Clayton, whose family owned the land. Much of the subsequent work on this site has been related to the consolidation of the exposed structures. The fort was built later than the Wall. The foundations of the original course of the Wall have been found where it was straddled by the fort. Rebuilding took place in the AD 180s, including the construction of an aqueduct attested by epigraphy (Collingwood and Wright 1995, no. 1463). There is a further epigraphic record of rebuilding dating to AD 221 when the second Ala II Asturum restored a building ‘which had collapsed through old age’ (Collingwood and Wright 1995, no. 1465).

The site at Carrawburgh (Brocolitia) was one of the later forts to be built on the Wall and appears to have been constructed to fill the gap between Chesters and Housesteads. In addition to 19th-century exploration, excavation was carried out by Eric Birley in the 1930s and by David Breeze and Dorothy Charlesworth in the 1960s, focusing mainly on the defences and the headquarters building (Birley 1935a; 1961, 175-178; Breeze 1972; Charlesworth 1967). This work showed that the fort overlay an earlier work camp associated with the construction of the Wall. This was followed by the vallum which was filled in before the fort was built, though it caused subsidence to the headquarters building which overlay it. The headquarters went through several phases of modification and a hypocaust was inserted, probably in the 4th century. The south gate was probably blocked in the late 3rd or early 4th century. There is also epigraphic evidence for some construction work on the site in the early 3rd century (e.g. Collingwood and Wright 1965, no. 1553).

Housesteads (Vercovicium) has been the site of extensive excavation and is one of the best-preserved and understood forts in the Roman Empire. The initial work was carried out by Robert Carr Bosanquet, who was responsible for creating a good understanding of the layout of the fort (Bosanquet 1899; 1904). Further work took place at the site in 1930s (Birley 1937; Birley and Keeney 1935; Charlton and Birley 1934; Charlton et al 1933; Hedley et al 1933) and then long-term work took place from the 1960s (Charlesworth 1975; 1976; Crow 1989; 1988; Tait 1963; Wilkes 1960; Wilkes and Leach 1962). There was some pre-fort activity including the construction of a turret, which was subsequently demolished, and a cremation burial. Excavation inside the fort has revealed barracks and other structures. The peristyle commander’s house had a hypocaust added in the mid 4th century and the hospital building remained in use until at least AD 330. The later barracks at Housesteads were built to a radically different plan to the earlier ones, and this has led to several differing suggestions about the size and character of the lateRoman unit. Later in the 4th century a hall or storehouse was converted into a small bathhouse, and an apsidal building, possibly a church, was built in the north-west corner of the fort. Finally in the late 4th or early 5th century an earthen defensive bank was constructed over the collapsed wall.

Great Chesters (Aesica) is a small fort erected on the site of an earlier milecastle. The fort saw excavation in 1890s, which uncovered a significant part of the defences as well as barrack blocks and administrative buildings (Gibson 1903). The defences were re-examined in the 1920s (Hull 1927), with further work in the 1950s (Birley 1961, 191). The granary was seemingly rebuilt in AD 225, and the commanding officer’s house also saw much rebuilding. Many of the finds have been published, including the important Aesica hoard (AllasonJones 1996; Charlesworth 1973).

Carvoran (Magnis) is the most westerly fort on the Wall in the region. It stands at the point where the Stanegate and the Maiden Way join (Birley 1961, 144, 192). It is possible that an earlier fort stood here; aerial photographs appear to show the defences of an earlier, larger fort, and excavation beneath the museum has produced Trajanic pottery. Epigraphic evidence records that the fort was walled in stone in AD 136-138. There has recently been an extensive geophysical survey of the fort carried out for the Vindolanda Trust revealing extensive signs of Roman activity in areas previously regarded as sterile (Robin Birley pers comm). Work on the lesser defensive structures on the Wall (i.e. turrets and milecastles) has also been extensive, including both excavation and analysis of the wider system of defences (e.g. Bellhouse 1969; Brewis 1932; Charlesworth 1977; Crow 1991b; Dobson 1986; Hill and Dobson 1992; Hill 1997; 2001; Welfare 2000; Wilmott 1999).

Forts south of the Wall

The general distribution of forts in County Durham is, not surprisingly, closely linked to the road network. It is noticeable that there is no system of coastal signal stations equivalent to those on the Cumbrian coast and further, south in East Yorkshire. It is possible that this may partly be a factor of preservation, as the Durham coast has been subject to substantial erosion.

Although many of the county’s forts have seen archaeological excavation, there has been little significant work since the 1970s, and this has been carried out in a development-control context. Some geophysical survey has also been undertaken (e.g. Binchester, Lanchester), but while useful for giving an indication of the extent and type of surviving sub-surface features, this technique does not provide any chronological information, and it is not easy to unpick multi-phase activity.

From the Flavian period to at least the Severan, marching camps were being built in the region. Although some are known from County Durham, particularly those on the Stainmore pass at Rey Cross, which are probably Flavian in date, they are far more common in Northumberland. Where modern excavation has taken place it has tended to be in a rescue rather than a research context, as at Rey Cross (Co. Durham) (Vyner 2001).

Heading south from Corbridge, a series of forts is situated along Dere Street. The fort at Ebchester (Vindomora) has mainly been built on, though some areas of the ramparts are visible. Excavation has indicated several phases of fort structure, including four in timber and three in stone (Harper et al 1964; Reed and Maxfield 1975). It probably had a Flavian origin. The fort at Lanchester (Longovicium) is better preserved, with well-preserved ramparts. Small-scale work was carried out here by Kenneth Steer (Steer 1938; 1939; Swinbank 1953) and more recently there has been geophysical survey and excavation of a related cemetery (Casey et al 1993; Turner 1990). The results, when combined with the epigraphic evidence (Collingwood and Wright 1995, nos 1083, 1093, 1091-92), suggest an Antonine date for the first phase of the fort, with restoration of the headquarters and armamentarium and construction of a bath and basilica in the mid 3rd century.

Binchester (Vinovium), standing on the Wear, was of Flavian origin. The first significant excavations here took place in the 19th century (Hoopell 1879), then between the wars, and later between the 1950s and 1980s (Dobson and Jarrett 1958; Jarrett 1960; Ferris and Jones 1980). This work uncovered the remains of both an intra-mural and extramural bathhouse. As well as excavation, there have been several recent geophysical surveys carried out at the site, the latest (in August 2004) showing exceptionally good preservation of the fort and the vicus (Geoquest 2004).

The final fort, Piercebridge, commanded the crossing of the Tees (Fitzpatrick and Scott 1999). Published evidence suggests a mid-3rd-century date, though there is evidence for earlier military activity of some form. A civilian settlement lay along the main road to the east of the fort, extending along both sides of the Tees. Small-scale excavations took place on the fort and civilian settlement between 1934 and 1964 (Richardson 1934-36; Harper 1965- 68) and more extensive excavation was carried out from the early 1970s onwards by the late Peter R. Scott. Apart from work on the bridge, this has yet to be published. The University of Durham is also currently undertaking new work at the site. Substantial quantities of Roman finds, mainly coinage and metalwork, have been recovered from the river at Piercebridge, forming an assemblage of international importance (Philippa Walton pers comm), and serious consideration should be given to the full publication of all this material (Figure 27).

Unlike Dere Street, there are far fewer forts sited on Cade’s Road, the only example being Chester-le-Street (Concangis). Although currently under the modern town, there has been considerable archaeological work carried out here (Evans et al 1991; Bishop 1993). The first remains, a building with hypocaust, were reported in the mid 19th century (Featherstonehaugh 1855). Building work in the early 20th century increasingly revealed evidence of Roman occupation (Gillam and Tait 1968). Organised archaeological excavation commenced in 1958, with openarea excavation of the praetorium and parts of the vicus, though this has yet to be adequately published. Further excavations took place in the 1960s and 1970s around Park View School and Middle Chare, revealing a granary, parts of the fort wall, vicus buildings and a parade ground (Gillam and Tait 1968; Evans et al 1991). More open-area excavation took place in 1990-91 around the new Parish Centre, which revealed elements of the 2nd-century fort and 3rd/4th-century barrack blocks (Bishop 1991; 1993). This was followed by further excavation in Park View School (Turnbull 1994, 2; 2003, 2). These campaigns of excavation have more recently been supplemented by a series of watching briefs. Overall, the work has shown an initial timber fort of late-2nd- to 3rd-century date, probably built following the re-establishment of Hadrian’s Wall in around AD 165. A stone fort was probably constructed in the later 3rd century.

Apart from the two main north-south roads, the other major axis of communication is west across the Pennines into Westmoreland. The route used by the Romans ran over the Stainmore Pass, and roughly followed the route of the modern A66. As well as the military activity on Stainmore itself, there were two forts on this route at Greta Bridge and Bowes. The fort at Greta Bridge, as the name suggests, was situated at a crossing point on the River Greta.

Apart from a small, recent evaluation excavation in the northwest corner of the fort (NAA 1996), there has been little work on the fort itself, though excavation has taken place on its related vicus (Casey and Hoffman 1998). At Bowes (Lavatrae) a small 1.8ha Flavian fort was reoccupied again in the mid 2nd century AD, though only the western and southern ramparts are preserved (Wooler 1913). A section was cut through the rampart and a small amount of the interior investigated in the late 1960s (Anon 1968; 1971; Hartley 1967), and a small amount of evaluation work (including a geophysical survey) has occurred on the vicus.

Forts north of the Wall

As with the forts to the south of the Wall, the northern outpost forts are also closely related to the road system. The foundation for the study of these northern forts remains Ian Richmond’s article ‘The Romans in Redesdale’ (1940). Most of the major forts are located along Dere Street, the main route taken by Roman forces into Scotland. Again, as in County Durham, there is a notable lack of known forts in the east of the county. For example, there are no coastal forts between South Shields and Inveresk.

Heading north from Corbridge, the first fort after crossing the Wall was Risingham (Habitancum), which has only seen small-scale excavation in the 1930s (Richmond 1936), although geophysical survey has been carried out more recently across the floodplain in an attempt to locate the course of Dere Street, producing inconclusive results (Anderson et al 1992). Further north, High Rochester (Bremenium) has seen more extensive survey and geophysical work as well as limited excavation (Crow 2004). The earliest excavation, ordered by the Duke of Northumberland, took place in the mid 19th century clearing substantial parts of the fort’s interior and providing a plan of much of the fort’s internal layout. Small-scale excavation was carried out by Richmond in 1935 (Richmond 1936; 1940). More recent survey work carried out to inform a conservation plan revealed details of the western annexe that had partly been seen in the earlier excavations. Importantly, it was shown that this annexe was underlain by an earlier enclosure of Late Iron Age date (Crow 2004, 215-216, fig 14.4). The work also revealed the notable absence of any significant civilian settlement related to the fort.

Amongst the earlier forts, Blakehope has seen no significant archaeological work. At Chew Green, high on the Cheviots, the complex earthworks of a series of related camps and forts still survive in excellent condition. The remote location of these remains, however, means that little excavation has taken place at this site beyond a small amount of work in the 1930s (Keeney and Richmond 1937).

There are fewer forts related to the Devil’s Causeway. The only certain site is Learchild (Alauna), which may have a Flavian origin. Excavation by Richmond in the 1940s has been supplemented by more recent geophysical survey (Crawford and Richmond 1949; Anderson et al 1992) which suggests that the fort is significantly larger than Richmond originally estimated.

Another possible military site on this road has recently been located at Wooperton Quarry, where a series of pits containing a large quantity of early Roman pottery have been discovered, along with some possible structural remains (Carter 1998; 1999).

Further sites along this road may remain to be discovered. There are also a number of northern marching camps relating to a range of military campaigns, including Agricola’s northern campaign and the later campaigns by Severus (Welfare and Swan 1995). A number of Flavian marching camps has been recognised, including Bellshiel, Birdhope, Chew Green, Dargues and possibly Silloans (Welfare and Swan 1995). Many were along the path of Dere Street, such as Chew Green (Keeney and Richmond 1937), though some pre-Dere Street camps have been recognised on Otterburn. In general there has been relatively little excavation on Roman camps, and their dating is often uncertain.

Native settlement

Archaeological research across much of the North-East has been dominated by the military, civilian remains have not been studied in anything like the same detail (Hingley 2004) and significant variations in regional patterns are still to be accounted for.

South of the Wall

The Tees has traditionally been seen as the northern boundary of Roman villa landscapes, but there is increasing evidence for a thin scattering of villas in the Tees lowlands. For example, recent excavations at Ingleby Barwick, Stockton and Faverdale, Darlington, have found the remains of villa complexes (ASUD 2000c; PCA North forthcoming). Traces of other possible villa sites have been recorded at Old Durham and Holme House near Piercebridge, and Dalton-on-Tees (just outside the region in North Yorkshire) (Romans et al 1944; Harding 1984). Not only do these villa sites have lower levels of material culture than those found further south, they also have more ephemeral foundations, which may explain their lack of visibility on aerial photographs. Their slight archaeological fingerprint may mean that there are more examples yet to be discovered in the region.

Apart from these few villa sites, very few significant civilian settlements have been excavated between the Tees and the Tyne. One exception is Thorpe Thewles (Heslop 1987). This site showed continuity from the Iron Age into the 1st century AD, and saw an initial enclosure around a central house being filled in as the settlement expanded. At Catcote (Teesside) the Roman site also had an Iron Age predecessor. Excavations on the site revealed a rectangular stone building, possibly a grain store. Other similar sites include Dixon’s Bank and Bonny Grove Farm, Middlesbrough (Cleveland), and Newton Bewley (Teesside), although these excavations have yet to be fully published (Annis 1996). It has been noted that there is a distinct lack of settlement in the South Tees Basin on the major alluvium deposits, possibly because these were marshy in the Roman period.

Currently there is little certain evidence for civilian settlement between the Wear and the Tyne, though there are cropmarks for sites of probable Late Iron Age or Roman date. There has also been a problem in recognising Romano-British sites; the settlement at Apperley Dene on Dere Street was originally interpreted as a Roman fortlet, before a re-examination of the evidence suggested that it was more likely to be a native settlement (Green 1978). The only Romano-British settlement to be excavated in the immediate vicinity of the frontier is still Milking Gap (Kilbride-Jones 1938), which contained late-1st to 2ndcentury Roman pottery. This site is located between the Wall and the vallum and may have gone out of use when the latter was constructed. Other similar sites in the area, such as Fold Hill, near Sewingshields, and Green Brae, Crindledykes (both discovered during the aerial photographic survey of the Hadrian’s Wall corridor) may well be of the same date (Gates 2004, 238-239).

Equally, the upland areas of the North Pennines appear to be devoid of recognisable Roman occupation beyond the occasional small settlement, such as Forcegarth Pastures and Dubby Sike, high in Teesdale (Fairless and Coggins 1980; 1986; Gidney and Coggins 1988). The lack of recognised settlements may well reflect the lack of sustained research into the later prehistory and Roman period of this upland area.

North of the Wall

The apparent lack of native settlement south of the Wall is in stark contrast to the quantity of surviving evidence to the north of the frontier, where the majority of sites have been identified in upland areas (Figure 28). This may well reflect the particular research interests and fieldwork of one scholar, George Jobey, who was responsible for identifying and defining these enclosures (e.g. Jobey 1960; 1978). In recent years this work has been supplemented by aerial photography (Gates 1997; 1999; 2000; 2004), which has revealed extensive landscapes, but much of the dating of the newly discovered sites has been based on assumptions about settlement morphology and will need confirmation by excavation. There are also morphological variations within the region. Settlements close to the Hadrian’s Wall, particularly in North Tynedale and Redesdale, tend to be rectilinear in shape, in contrast to the more irregular settlements found to the north. Some sites also show clear evidence for settlement expansion from the Iron Age into the Roman period. This can be seen at Hetha Burn, where a settlement with two round houses expanded into a village with around ten houses (Burgess 1984). Aerial photographic surveys along with large-scale landscape projects are also beginning to help archaeologists place Romano-British settlement in its wider context. There is increasing evidence for the relationship between settlements and cord rigg, which has also found in recent large-scale landscape projects, such as the Breamish Valley project (Frodsham and Waddington 2004).

 Within the wider pattern of settlement there is still a notable lack of datable sites to the north of the Coquet and along the coastal plain. One gap which is starting to be filled in, however, is south-east Northumberland, where until recently very few sites were known, the notable exception being Huckhoe (Jobey 1959), which had rectangular buildings and a pottery assemblage that appears to continue into the 5th century AD. Since the advent of PPG16 a number of significant development projects have led to the large-scale excavation of several Iron Age and Romano-British occupation sites. At Pegswood (Northumberland), settlement there shows continuity from the Iron Age into the Roman period, when there was a significant phase of settlement replanning (Proctor 2002). Excavation of a number of Late Iron Age sites at the Great Park, Newcastle, has revealed a little evidence for continuity into the Roman period. A small amount of Roman amphorae and tile have been found at East Brunton; the amphora is Pelichet 47 and is likely to have arrived in the 1st century, early in the Roman period. Both Great Parks sites appear to have been abandoned before any other Roman material could reach them.

As well as simple native settlements there is also evidence for some occupation on hillfort sites, including Yeavering Bell and West Hill (Frodsham 1999; Hope-Taylor 1977, 267; Oswald 2004b, 208-211). Interestingly, in these cases it appears that although the sites were re-used there is no indication of re-use or re-fortification of the defences. It is important to note, though, that there are cases where hillforts appear to have been slighted or abandoned in the early Roman period, such as Dod Law (Smith 1988-89).

Towns and vici

Unlike the south of Britain, the north never developed a civil urban landscape, although vici developed around most forts, including Vindolanda, South Shields, Binchester, Bowes, Greta Bridge, Wallsend, Lanchester, and Housesteads. Many, such as Bowes, have only seen small-scale evaluation work, whereas significant excavation has been undertaken at Binchester, Piercebridge and Corbridge (Dore and Bishop 1989; Ferris and Jones 1980). Some sites have also had geophysical surveys (e.g. Cousins 1993) which show that vici are larger than previously anticipated. The survey at Halton Chesters showed not only the presence of buildings outside the fort, but also between the Wall and the vallum (Taylor et al 2000). Unfortunately, this expanding information base is not complemented by any quantity of recent excavation or field survey.

A few sites stand out from the rest of the vici on the basis of their size and their relationship to military sites. For example, the settlement at Piercebridge may precede the known Roman fort there, and may therefore have more in common with the smaller towns of North Yorkshire, such as Catterick and Aldbrough. Corbridge was larger than many of the other settlements, and it may have been the centre for a tribal group, although it obviously had a major military input. Further work on vici may allow more distinctions to be drawn. The substantial number of coins found in the fort at Newcastle (dating from 270s to 364- 375), for example, suggests that this may have been a market site. Clearly not all commercial activity need be confined to the vici, forts could also be a centre for exchange, though not all vici may have been in existence by this late date (Brickstock 2002).

Recent excavation and survey at East Park, Sedgefield, has revealed a large and complex site. A number of roads and a complex of enclosures are spread along a shallow valley to the west of the current town of Sedgefield (Figure 29 and see front cover). Excavation has revealed evidence for industrial production, including pottery manufacture. Although yet to be fully analysed, the ceramic assemblage indicates activity at the site into the second half of the 4th century AD. This substantial site is one of the largest Roman sites in the region, but unlike other proto-urban sites from the North-East, such as Piercebridge and Corbridge, there is no evidence for any military presence in the area.

The precise chronological trajectory of the vici is poorly understood due to the lack of extensive excavation, though it does appear that many contracted or were abandoned altogether by the 4th century, in contrast to small towns elsewhere in Britain.

Work is also required to assess the nature of the system of forts, roads and towns, and the relationship of these ‘Roman’ elements of the landscape to the native populations who continued, on the whole, to live in a variety of traditional settlement types.


There is widespread evidence for a range of Roman production, operating on different scales from domestic to industrial. Not surprisingly the biggest agent for production was the army. The environmental conditions from Vindolanda have led to excellent preservation of leather, giving a clear indication of the sheer scale and bulk of leather working required by a military installation, including both shoes, horsegear and fittings (van Driel-Murray 1989; 2001).

A number of Roman military sites have produced evidence for non-ferrous metalworking, including the forts at Corbridge, Housesteads, Vindolanda, Carrawburgh, South Shields, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Piercebridge, as well as at milecastles, such as Sewingshields, and even turrets (26a, 18B) (Allason-Jones and Dungworth 1997). Native sites, such as Huckhoe (Jobey 1959), undertook similar industrial activities.

Evidence for Roman metal extraction is, however, minimal. It is possible that there was some lead production in the North Pennines, but no direct evidence for lead mining has been discovered, though the location of the Roman fort at Whitley Castle, just north of Alston (Cumbria), is suggestive of an installation placed to oversee lead production, in the heart of what would later become a significant centre for mining. Lead sealings are also known from just outside the area at Brough-under-Stainmore (Cumbria). There may have been some ironstone mining at Skelly Braes, Birtley (Richmond 1955, 159), and iron smelting may have taken place at the native settlement at Tower Knowe (Jobey 1973b), though there are difficulties in distinguishing between smithing and smelting slags (Hedley 2004, 310). Coal mining, either using bell pits or open-cast methods, must have taken place as coal is known from a number of Roman sties, such as Housesteads, where it was used in iron smithing and working copper alloy (Starley 1996).

There is also significant evidence for quarrying. Most obvious are the Roman quarries associated with the construction of Hadrian’s Wall. The discovery of a Roman coin hoard at Thorngrafton, near Barcombe Down quarry near Vindolanda, may indicate a Roman date for the commencement of quarrying at that site (Birley 1963), as does the discovery of a quarryman’s inscription on a quarry face there (Wilson 2003). Epigraphic evidence from Haltwhistle Burn and Fallowfield Fell is also indicative of quarrying during the Roman period (Collingwood and Wright 1965, nos 1442, 1680). Without additional indicators of date like these it is difficult to evaluate the chronology of simple quarries, however, and much has probably been destroyed by later workings. Some limestone was clearly burnt for use in cement, and lime pits have been discovered at South Shields. A Roman limekiln was also found at the Knag Burn, near Housesteads (Simpson 1976, 152-156).

Stone was not only quarried for constructional purposes; its other major use was the manufacture of querns. Major survey work on the distribution of querns in the south of the region (the former county of Cleveland and the Durham districts of Darlington, Sedgefield and Teesdale) is being carried out by David Heslop on behalf of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society (Prehistoric Section). Significant numbers have been found at Quarry Farm, Ingleby Barwick and just outside the region at Stanwick (ASUD 2000c; Haselgrove 2002).

Pottery production is limited; military ceramics appear to have been mainly imported from outside the area, although there is some evidence for small-scale pottery production in a civilian context. Kilns producing grey coarsewares have been excavated at East Park, Sedgefield (Gallagher 2004), and unpublished kilns have also been recorded at Piercebridge (Swan 1984, 87), while tile kilns were also probably located at South Shields and Binchester (Gillam and Dore 1979, 29-32, figs 9-10).

Salt was also produced in the region, and is certainly documented around Coatham (Teesside). Briquetage fragments from Binchester of Flavianic and Trajanic date are indicators of some level of trade in salt.

There is a little evidence for Roman glass production in the North-East. Glass bangles may have been produced in the region or in adjacent areas to north and south. In general, evidence for production is limited to re-cycling of glass cullet (Price 2002), while evidence for secondary glass production (i.e. working pre-made glass into objects) in the North-East comes only from Binchester, where twelve fragments of glassworking waste were recovered, one with indications that it had been blown using an iron blowpipe. Although found in late and post-Roman contexts it is more likely that these fragments belong to the late 3rd or 4th century (Price 2002, 90).

Recent analytical work at Newcastle University has shown that there was industrial activity at South Shields working black rocks, including jet imported from Yorkshire, shales from Midlothian and Derbyshire, and cannel coals from the Northumberland Coal Measures north of Hadrian’s Wall (Allason-Jones and Jones 1994; Allason-Jones 2003). There is also evidence for armlet manufacture at Halton Chesters exploiting the Coal Measures available there (Allason-Jones 2002b, 116).

The sites of two watermills close to Hadrian’s Wall were identified by F .G. Simpson at Haltwhistle Burn Head and possibly Willowsford Head (Simpson 1976, 32-43, 49-50).


Religious sites on the Wall

Despite the extensive surviving corpus of Roman altars surviving from the North-East, ritual and religion have been less studied. Existing work has tended to focus on epigraphic evidence, and almost exclusively on military religion (e.g. Zoll 1995; Irby-Massie 1999).

A number of temples are recorded from the line of the Wall itself, one of them to Antenociticus at Benwell (Tyne and Wear). At Vindolanda the remains of a pre-Hadrianic temple have been excavated; this is the only example of a ‘Romano-Celtic’ temple (concentric cella and ambulatory) from the North-East. It was out of use by the mid 2nd century, and after demolition the site became a focus for burial instead.

At Carrawburgh a shrine to the water goddess Coventina included a possible stone structure or precinct and a masonry-lined well. This was the focus for extensive ritual deposition from the mid 2nd to the late 4th centuries. The votive deposits included over 13,000 coins, bronzes, stone altars, pottery, glass, leatherwork, jet and shale (AllasonJones and Mackay 1985). Nearby, there was a shrine to the Nymphs and Genius Loci (Smith 1962).

 Later Roman mystery cults are represented on the Wall, both epigraphically and architecturally. There is relatively extensive evidence for Mithraism. Mithraea are known from Housesteads (Daniels 1962), Rudchester and Carrawburgh (Northumberland) (Gillam and MacIvor 1954; Richmond et al 1951). All three sites have also produced related epigraphic and sculptural evidence, as has Lanchester (Collingwood and Wright 1995, no. 1082). Their distribution reflects the military nature of the cult. Although Christianity is traditionally not believed to have been strong in the army, there are a number of indications of its role in late Roman military life. Possible churches have been recognised at Vindolanda, Housesteads, and South Shields. Their exact date is not clear however, and they could potentially be post-Roman (Bidwell and Speak 1994, 44-46, 103-104; Crow 1989; Birley et al 1999, 22). Chi-rho symbols are also present on several of the silver vessels recovered from the Tyne (Petts 2003, 122).

Away from Roman forts a number of other smaller religious sites are known, though probably still military in nature. Two altars to Vinotonus have been recovered from a site on Scargill Moor (Co. Durham), together with the remains of two structures, presumably simple temples (Wright and Richmond 1948). North of the Wall a small carving of a naked horned god, probably Cocidius, has been found carved onto living rock at Yardhope, with some evidence for a simple associated structure (Charlton and Mitcheson 1983). A similar carving has also recently been discovered near Chesters fort.

There is a substantial surviving epigraphic record of religious activity. Roman Inscriptions in Britain lists 57 altars from County Durham, 189 from Northumberland, and 26 from Tyne and Wear (to which can be added more recent discoveries) (Collingwood and Wright 1995). With a few exceptions, most are from military sites, and this mode of religious expression does not appear to have been adopted by the native British. A range of gods is recorded on these altars and other sculptural fragments, including the imperial cult, traditional Roman gods (e.g. Jupiter, Mercury), eastern gods (e.g. sculpture relating to Jupiter Dolichenus from Corbridge, and altars to the same god at Chesters), ‘Celtic’ gods (such as Cocidius and Antenociticus), and gods of uncertain origin, such as Veteris.

As well as specific religious sites, there is also evidence for wider ritual activity. As the evidence from Coventina’s Well suggests, ritual or votive deposition could be an important element of Roman religious activity. This reflects a wider Roman and indeed Iron Age practice found in Britain and northern Europe, often associated with watery contexts. A number of Roman metal objects has been recovered from the River Tees at Piercebridge (Co. Durham), in quantities large enough to suggest that they are not mere accidental losses (Casey 1989). The discovery of a series of Roman silver plate objects from the Tyne around Corbridge and Bywell, including the famous Corbridge lanx and several other silver cups and vessels, suggests that at least one silver plate hoard may have been placed in the river (Nicholson 1995; Petts 2003). Fraser Hunter has drawn attention to wider north-eastern context of the practice of ritual hoarding, including the deposition of patera (e.g. Capheaton) (Hunter 1997).

Death and burial

As with so many other aspects of Roman-period archaeology the best evidence for burial is from military sites. Roman Inscriptions in Britain lists 6 tombstones from County Durham, 59 from Northumberland and 8 for Tyne and Wear (there are also more recent additions to this total) (Collingwood and Wright 1995). These are exclusively from military forts or vici, though some do record the burial of civilians.

A mixture of inhumations and cremations has been found at Lanchester, dating from the mid 2nd to the late 3rd century. The excavators interpreted these as civilian rather than military burials (Turner 1990). A similar mix of cremations and inhumations has also been excavated at South Shields (Snape 1994) to which can be added a number of 5th-century burials from a small cemetery outside the south-west gate of the fort, and from inside, two individuals who had been executed and subsequently buried in the ruins of the late-Roman commanding officer’s house (Bidwell and Speak 1994, 45-46, 143-144; Hodgson 1999, 82). Other cases of Roman burials re-using structures are known. Three skeletons were found placed in the apse of the Temple of Antenociticus when it was excavated in 1862 (Simpson and Richmond 1941, 38), and 33 human skeletons were found in the bathhouse at Chesters (MacDonald 1931).

North of the Wall a group of about sixteen burials in small barrows has been explored at Petty Knowes, High Rochester (Mitcheson and Charlton 1984). New light on Roman cist burial has also been shed by a recent reevaluation of a stone-lined grave from a milecastle at Sewingshields (Crow and Jackson 1997) and a number of other cist burials is known from the Wall, all probably of Roman, rather than early medieval date (e.g. Turret 39a at Peel Crag, and Milecastle 9 at Chapel House; Simpson 1976, 100, 102-103, fig 22; Birley 1930, 154, Pl 48). One additional site from a military context that deserves to be mentioned is the massive mausoleum at Shorden Brae (Gillam and Daniels 1961). This monument was built at some point in the second quarter of the 2nd century AD and demolished in the later 4th century. It clearly belonged to an unknown high ranking officer.

There is far less evidence for civilian burial. Unlike the southern areas of England there appears to have been no widespread practice of the deposition of unaccompanied or accompanied cremations except at military sites (Philpott 1991, 221). A pair of burials is known from Hartlepool (Daniels et al 1987) and more graves are known at Newton Bewley (Robin Daniels pers comm) and Ingleby Barwick (Richard Annis pers comm). In the north of the region, there is an unusual group burial from Beadnell (Tait and Jobey 1971). Tait and Jobey also list nearly 20 cist burials from southern Scotland and Northern England of Iron Age or Roman date; while not enough examples have been found to indicate that this was ever a majority rite, it certainly indicates that this was part of the wider regional native burial tradition (Tait and Jobey 1971, 61, 66-69).

The lack of Roman human bone assemblages is perhaps more surprising considering the excellent cemeteries excavated elsewhere in the province, such as York. The cemeteries at South Shields, Petty Knowes, and Lanchester have all produced only cremated bone, despite the presence of inhumation burials, presumably due to acid subsoils.

Material culture


The great number of military sites in the North-East has, unsurprisingly, produced large amounts of Roman pottery. The quality of publication of these assemblages is, however, variable. Whereas more recent publications are strong, many of the older site reports are of limited use. A statement on the research priorities for Romano-British pottery studies in the north has been prepared by the Study Group for Roman Pottery, who also produced a research framework document for the national study of Roman pottery in Britain (Evans and Willis 1997; Willis 2004).

There is no doubt that the area was importing pottery from all over Roman Britain and beyond. The variation in the size and nature of assemblages is, however, immense. The vici consumed a wider range of pottery types than the forts. This may reflect the ability of civilians to obtain a wider range of ceramics than the army, who may have been limited by contracts and military bureaucracy. Military assemblages remain significant, and important assemblages have also come from the Tyneside forts, including South Shields, Wallsend and Newcastle, where there has been extensive modern excavation (see above ‘The Roman frontier’). Other important assemblages include those from Vindolanda (Bidwell and Speak 1994), though there is still scope for further synthetic work on all these major groups of ceramics. Their distinct chronological horizons and often limited periods of occupation mean that forts can help provide important chronological information about Roman pottery, both within Britain and beyond. Outside military and vici sites there is less Roman pottery. Some smaller sites from Cleveland and Durham contain pottery from the Nene Valley, East Yorkshire, and Vale of Pickering pottery industries. In the later 1st and earlier 2nd century there was considerable local pottery production by the military and its contractors.

Roman pottery is also known from a growing number of native sites beyond the Wall, although not in large quantities. In general, there is very little evidence for native pottery production in this region. There appears to have been some continuity of native pottery-making traditions, for example the so-called Local Traditional Ware at Newcastle, which has also been found at Corbridge, South Shields, and Wallsend (Bidwell and Croom 2002, 169-70). One fabric group (LTW Group 1) may have been produced on the Northumbrian coastal plain between the Aln and the Wear; the other (LTW Group 2) probably came from near South Shields or just to the north of the Tyne.

Pottery may also facilitate the recognition of possible external ethnic groups; it has been suggested that ‘Housesteads Ware’ may have been made by Frisian units stationed on the Wall, and Vivien Swan has suggested that it may be possible to recognise African troops on the basis of locally made ceramics with North African affinities (Swan 1992; 1999).


with Jenny Price

Glass vessels (generally tablewares and containers) and objects (generally bangles, beads and counters or gaming pieces have come from virtually all Romano-British sites in the region, and very large groups were found in excavations at Binchester, Piercebridge and just over the border at Catterick, though currently only the Catterick has been published (Cool, Price and Cottam 2002). The majority of the vessels were produced in the north-west provinces or in Britain itself, but it is clear that more exotic pieces were also present in the region, such as the mould-blown cup with a Greek inscription from Binchester (RIB II2, no2419.38) and two polychrome mosaic plates from Piercebridge (Price, J. 2002) and Quarry Farm, Ingleby Barwick (unpublished), both of which may have come from Egypt.

Glass bangles have been found on a wide number of Roman and native sites. They appear to be made from recycled glass. Originally thought to have been Scottish items traded south, work by Jennifer Price on examples found in East Yorkshire shows that their distribution is wider than previously thought, and their place of manufacture is not certain (Price 1988). They appear to date primarily to the 1st and early 2nd century.

Small finds

The Roman forts and vici have produced large quantities of small finds (Allason-Jones and Miket 1984; Allason-Jones 1988; Allason-Jones and Bishop 1988; Allason-Jones and Mackay 1985; Birley et al 1993; van Driel-Murray et al 1993; Croom and Snape 1996; Snape 1993; Snape and Bidwell 2002). In addition to the published material, there are a number of completed reports awaiting publication (e.g. Halton Chesters, Wallsend, Housesteads, Piercebridge and Binchester). The substantial nature of this resource makes it a significant research area, the level of cataloguing allowing more complex, synthetic work to be carried out (Allason-Jones 1995; 2001a; 2001b; 2002a; 2004; Birley 2002). It is increasingly possible to recognise distinct distributions of artefact types, particularly with respect to buildings within forts. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of some of the more prosaic items is also starting to produce information which is having an impact on finds study throughout the Empire (Allason-Jones 1985; AllasonJones and Dungworth 1997).

Only small assemblages of objects have been recovered from rural sites, with a clear distinction between sites south of the Wall (such as Thorpe Thewles; Heslop 1987) and north of the Wall (Allason-Jones 1991). The southern sites seem to contain slightly larger assemblages, while the inhabitants of northern sites appear to have utilised little material culture, although they may have been producing artefacts for the Roman military market.

Groups of silver vessels have been found in the region, although not as many as in other regions of Roman Britain. They include a group found in Capheaton in the 18th century, probably dating to the 2nd century AD, the Backworth hoard including a silver patera (found early 19th century), and Corbridge (including the Corbridge lanx) (Craster 1909; Haverfield 1914a). There are a large number of bronze vessel hoards, with examples known from Bishop Middleham, Rookhope (Co. Durham), Ingoe, Whitfield Moor and Prestwick Carr (Northumberland) (Egglestone 1917; Hodgkin 1891; Wright 1969).

Jewellery formed an important element of the Backworth hoard, while the jewellery hoard from Great Chesters included the gilt bronze Aesica brooch considered to be a masterpiece of Celtic design, and several intaglios (Charlesworth 1973). Intaglios found in the region prior to 1978 have all been published by Martin Henig (1978). It is likely that many of these deposits were related to the wider practice of ritual deposition, found in North-East England and elsewhere (see above; Hunter 1997).

A high percentage of the small finds in the region is made from copper alloy, some imported, some manufactured locally. Iron objects are less prevalent, although the catalogue produced by Manning remains an important reference work (Manning 1976). Lead artefacts tend to consist of building and plumbing fragments, although the lead shrine found during excavations at Wallsend is a remarkable survival and shows a more decorative use of lead for religious purposes (Allason-Jones 1984). It is interesting to note that at the recent excavations at Ingleby Barwick there were more stratified lead objects than iron ones (ASUD 2000c).

Bone and antler artefacts are more commonly found on military sites on the Wall itself rather than on the native sites or the forts north and south of the Wall, although this may be a consequence of the acid soils in the area. Organic material, such as leather, is rare, though particularly fine assemblages are found at Vindolanda (van Driel-Murray et al 1993).

Major museum collections

The long history of archaeological endeavour on Roman sites in the region, and the generally high level of material culture from military sites of this period mean that there are substantial museum collections. Significantly, most of the important material has remained in the region; the only really important collection of finds not currently curated in the North-East is the archive of Vindolanda tablets which have been transferred to the British Museum by agreement with the Vindolanda Trust.

The two most important collections are those held by the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle, and the English Heritage Hadrian’s Wall Collections. The Museum of Antiquities holds finds from sites in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, with Roman objects comprising around 40% of the total museum collection. The epigraphic collection includes 200 altars, 65 tombstones, 200 other inscriptions, and 133 other sculptural items. Major items from the museum include the Aesica hoard of jewellery, the bear cameo from South Shields, Mithraic sculpture from Housesteads, Carrawburgh and Rudchester, and material from the Temple of Antenociticus at Benwell. It also holds domestic artefacts and one of the largest collections of Roman jewellery in the country. As well as objects the museum is also home to a major aerial photographic library and the Hadrian’s Wall Photographic Archive, in addition to other extensive archives and the Cowen Library.

The English Heritage Hadrian’s Wall Museum’s Collection comprises three separate collections: the Clayton Collection, the Housesteads Collection and the collection from Corbridge. The Clayton collection, on display at Chesters, was formed by John Clayton between around 1840 and 1890. It incorporates a small amount of material acquired by his family at an earlier date, but also includes material acquired after John Clayton’s death, mainly as a result of F. G. Simpson’s excavations at Haltwhistle Burn and Housesteads (Wallis Budge 1903). This material all comes from the central sector of the Hadrian’s Wall corridor (Halton Chesters to Carvoran) and was acquired either through Clayton’s excavations, through his ownership of the land, inheritance or deliberate purchase. The greatest number of items is from Chesters fort itself, but the other main sites represented include Nether Denton, Carvoran, Great Chesters, Vindolanda, Housesteads and Carrawbrugh. There are around 1,900 artefacts on display (almost all Roman). The 372 items of stone sculpture and inscriptions are of national importance and many items relate directly to the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, while others are of importance for the history of the Wall, its units and religious cults. The wide range of small finds includes the Carvoran modius and the objects from Coventina’s Well, as well as iron tools and weapons from Chesters. The remaining reserve collection is stored and includes 4,000 catalogued items and around 800-2,000 uncatalogued objects. It consists mainly of small finds and pottery. There are few coarsewares, but there are larger quantities of Samian and mortaria, one of the more interesting collections being the fragments of painted wall-plaster from the commanding officer’s house.

The Housesteads Collection includes objects from the excavations in the 1930s on the vicus and the work by Charles Daniels in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as over 500 fragments of architectural stone. The Corbridge Roman Site Museum holds material from the 1906 excavations onwards comprising work done 1906-14 and from 1933 to c. 1972 and again in 1980. This all comes from the Corbridge Roman site or its immediate environs, the latter including the Shorden Brae mausoleum, the supply base at Beaufront Red House and the A69 bypass excavations.

The museum display includes material from Red House and other important assemblages, such as the Corbridge Hoard. The exhibited material comprises just 5% of the total collections, the rest being stored on site or at the Hadrian’s Wall Museum stone store. About 30,000 items are catalogued (including around 6,500 coins) while an estimated 15-20,000 objects remain to be catalogued; the most important collection in this group is the Samian ware. Most items or groups of items are inventoried and accessible.

Two major collections relating to North and South Tyneside are held by Tyne and Wear Museums. For South Tyneside the majority of the collection consists of material and archives from excavations at Arbeia Roman Fort and its surroundings. Much of this comes from Victorian excavations at the site from 1875 onwards, excavations in 1949-53, and from the excavations carried out by Tyne and Wear Museums since 1977. This last constitutes the largest collection of securely stratified material from any site in the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. The collection also includes the Bruce Library of antiquarian books, archival material and ephemera relating to Hadrian’s Wall, and watercolours by Ronald Embleton. Material from archaeological fieldwork in the district also forms part of the collection. South Shields Museum and Art Gallery also has a small collection, dating back to the 19th century, of archaeological artefacts from a range of locations and periods. The bulk of the North Tyneside material is made up of material and archives from the excavations at Segedunum Roman Fort and its surroundings (Wallsend) from 1975-84 and 1988-2001. Material from archaeological fieldwork from the district is also kept at Segedunum. The Vindolanda Trust owns a substantial and unique collection of site-specific artefacts excavated from Vindolanda during the last 34 years. The collection increases annually as a result of the on-going excavation programmes. The following gives an indication of the extent of the Vindolanda Trust’s collection at the present time. It must, however, be noted that individual acquisition numbers, for leather, pottery and bone may refer to composite assemblages rather than a single object. Vindolanda’s collections of textiles, leather, and wooden objects represent the largest single site collection anywhere from the Roman world. Each of these collections contains individual pieces of rare and outstanding quality. There are over 9,800 ‘small finds’, 1,300 coins and 159 stone inscriptions and sculptural fragments, 5,870 leather fragments, 632 textile fragments, 1,580 wooden objects, two tons of bone and six tons of pottery.

Among the smaller museum collections in the region, Alnwick Castle Museum contains mainly objects from the Duke of Northumberland’s lands (Collingwood Bruce 1880). The Roman collection is relatively small, but includes some pottery, a collection of small finds from High Rochester and a number of miscellaneous items, including bronze vessels from Newham Bog and a fragment of a military standard from Halton Chesters.

In County Durham the Bowes Museum acts as the principal collecting body for the county (except Durham City) and holds the finds from a number of excavations, including Binchester, Chester-le-Street sites, Ebchester, Greta Bridge and Piercebridge, as well as the Scargill shrine altars and the paterae from Bishop Middleham. The Old Fulling Mill Museum in Durham acts as the collecting body for Durham City, but also has significant collections relating to the work of Eric Birley when he was lecturer of archaeology in Durham, as well as the Oswald-Plique Samian collection, which is of international importance.

Early medieval

The Early Medieval Specialist Group consisted of Gail Foreman (independent consultant), Paul Gething (Bamburgh Research Project), Colm O’Brien (School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of Sunderland), David Petts (Durham County Council), Steve Sherlock (independent consultant), Laura Sole (Bede’s World), and Sam Turner (Dept of Archaeology, University of Newcastle).

History of research

The literary output of Bede and the production of works of art, such as the Lindisfarne Gospel and the Codex Amiatinus, have ensured that the Golden Age of Northumbria has a high public profile. However, there is much more to the early medieval archaeology and history of the region than this short-lived flowering of ecclesiastical high culture. The surviving resource includes nationally important sites, such as Bamburgh, Lindisfarne, Yeavering, Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, in addition to a fine corpus of stone sculpture and a number of surviving Anglo-Saxon churches of 8th to 11th century date (Figure 31).

The best studied of these remains are undoubtedly the widely distributed and highly visible fragments of carved stone sculpture, associated almost exclusively with ecclesiastical sites. Many of these were discovered during 19th-century church restoration, built into later medieval fabric. In addition, the latter half of the 19th century also saw the beginning of more synthetic discussions of Northumbrian sculptural traditions. The earliest were the works of G. Baldwin Brown, who was followed in the early 20th century by W. G. Collingwood. From the 1960s this field of study has been dominated by the work of Rosemary Cramp, who was responsible for the first volume of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture, a project which comprehensively covered all the early medieval sculpture from the north-east region (Cramp 1984) and has since been rolled out nationally.

The rate of archaeological excavation on early medieval sites has increased since the 1980s. This has partly been due to some research excavations, such as the University of Leicester’s work on Green Shiel at Lindisfarne (O’Sullivan and Young 1991), Anthony Harding’s excavations at Milfield Henge (which produced several unexpected Anglo-Saxon burials) (Tinniswood and Harding 1991), and Colm O’Brien and Tim Gates’ excavations at New Bewick (Gates and O’Brien 1988). From the 1990s there has also been an increase in the discovery of sites due to excavation carried out in a planning (PPG16) context: a further cemetery has been discovered in Norton recently, while excavations in the centre of Darlington have revealed Late Anglo-Saxon burials. Despite the rise of such developer-funded work, research work often continues as part of community projects, among them the campaign of excavations at Bamburgh and the Hartlepool Headland project.

Existing research frameworks

A number of research agendas and recommendations have, at one time or another, been created for the early medieval period. The earliest was Martin Carver’s list for pre-conquest Durham, which included an early demand for what amounted to deposit modelling, as well as the full publication of the late-18th-century excavations on the Chapter House (Carver 1980). Local issues were also addressed in the papers published in Past, present and future: the archaeology of northern Britain (Brooks et al 2002) which included an overview of the period of Roman to Anglo-Saxon transition by Chris Loveluck (2002). Research priorities highlighted there included the investigation of upland land-use through pollen cores, increased sampling of faunal remains, publication of Brian Hope-Taylor’s excavations, and a wider awareness of the role of burial for the understanding of early medieval religion and social identity. The later part of the AngloSaxon period (c. 700-1100) was addressed by Rachel Newman (2002). Limiting herself to evidence for Christianity, she pointed to the need for more work on minsters, the economic power of the church, and the role of the church in early urbanism, emphasising the need to and integrate evidence from the north-west and northeast of England as well as southern Scotland.

While the evidence for early medieval urbanism in the region is slight, it is important to be aware of a series of overviews of urban archaeology published recently (e.g. Addyman 2003). The framework for urban/rural interaction based on the Urban Hinterland Project (Perring et al 2002) made a series of methodological recommendations which should be implemented when exploring the early medieval origins of north-eastern towns, such as Newcastle, Berwick, Durham, and Hartlepool. The notion of ‘recovery levels’ and better dissemination of existing archives seem especially relevant.

A series of agendas and recommendations have tackled the issue of rural settlement and landscape change. The policy on the research, survey and excavation of medieval rural settlements compiled by the Medieval Settlement Research Group (MSRG 1996) highlighted the need to understand regional distinctiveness and the process of settlement nucleation. It also recommended further interdisciplinary research which combines environmental, documentary and archaeological skills. A number of managerial issues were also put forward, including the need for research to feed into planning decisions, both as advice to development control archaeologists and as a strategic influence in District Local Plans, etc. Steve Rippon also echoed this need for academic input into development control in his personal comments on the future of medieval settlement (Rippon 2002). He made it clear that future landscape work should ignore traditional chronological divisions, and highlighted the need for more long-term, large-scale excavation and survey work.

Landscape and environment

Patterns of long-term landscape change, particularly the impact of the transition from the Roman to the early medieval period, are best addressed through palynological evidence. At Hallowell Moss (Co. Durham) clearance appears to continue throughout the Roman period until the later 6th century, and Fellend Moss (Northumberland) showed stability in its landscape until the 7th century AD (Davies and Turner 1979, 789). Further north, pollen from Broad Moss (Northumberland), close to Yeavering, indicated landscape continuity and arable farming (Davies and Turner 1979, 796). Stability in open heathland, rather than arable landscapes, is indicated at Drowning Flow and Bloody Moss (Northumberland) (Moores 1998, 244). At Fozy Moss, however, there is clear evidence for the regeneration of woodland following the Roman withdrawal (Dumayne and Barber 1994). A similar pattern of regeneration (but commencing c. AD 500) was also found at Sells Burn and Steng Moss, where agriculture apparently only commenced in the later 9th century AD (Davies and Turner 1979, 794; Moores 1998, 245). The evidence from samples taken close to the mid-8thcentury settlement at Simy Folds in Upper Teesdale shows the presence of cereal pollen at even this relatively remote site (Coggins et al 1983). Pollen studies on the Lough at Lindisfarne meanwhile have suggested that it may have been significantly altered or even created in the 7th century AD (O’Sullivan and Young 1995; Brown et al 1998).

Insufficient excavation on early medieval sites means that there is meagre environmental evidence from archaeological contexts. The quantity of surviving invertebrate remains is correspondingly small, with nothing to match the 10th/11th century and 11th/12th century deposits from 61-63 Saddler Street, Durham (Kenward 1979). This was one of the first urban deposits from the north to be explored for insect remains. There are also limited quantities of plant macrofossils, mostly from the ecclesiastical sites at Hartlepool, together with a small quantity of pollen evidence recovered at Monkwearmouth (Huntley 1987a; 1990; Huntley and Stallibrass 1995, 62-63).

A number of bone assemblages also survive. Despite the potentially poor burial environment, some animal bone was recovered from the palace site at Yeavering (HopeTaylor 1977, 325-327; Higgs and Jarman 1977); an assemblage dominated by head bones from young adult cattle. Some bone, all calcined, was also recovered from the henge monument there (Tinniswood and Harding 1991). Assemblages from ecclesiastical sites include those from Jarrow, Monkwearmouth and Hartlepool (Noddle 1987; 1992; Rackham 1988a) and fish bones were also recovered from excavations in Holy Island village (O’Sullivan 1985; Allison et al 1985). There are no major urban assemblages from Newcastle (except a small group from Blackgate), though there is an important collection from 61-63 Saddler Street, Durham, which contains bird (including capercaillie) and fish bones (Rackham 1979).

Apart from the environmental evidence, information on Anglo-Saxon agriculture is hard to come by. Although there are many relict field systems in most of the upland areas of the region, these are difficult to date, and where they have been, they mainly show either a prehistoric or medieval origin. An important question is when the medieval shieling system developed, and it is unclear whether upland sites, such as Simy Folds, were shepherd’s bothys or permanent farmsteads (Coggins et al 1983). There is some evidence for crop processing, the most important being the horizontal watermill excavated at Corbridge (Snape 2003). There is also information about crop processing on a household level; a fragment of a quern being found at Simy Folds (Coggins et al 1983).


The evidence for early medieval settlement in the NorthEast is extremely variable. Some areas, particularly the Milfield Basin (Northumberland), have important surviving sites, but elsewhere, particularly in County Durham, very little has been found.

Better known for its important prehistoric landscapes, the Milfield Basin has evidence for early medieval occupation in a number of locations. The most significant site is the nationally important centre at Yeavering, which has been the subject of extensive excavation (Hope-Taylor 1977). Although some of the excavator’s conclusions have been questioned (Scull 1991), this remains an important and unusual site. Conventionally associated with Bede’s Ad Gefrin (Ecclesiastical History II.15), it includes a complex of halls and an unusual palisaded enclosure and amphitheatre-like structure (known as the cuneus). More recent excavation on a neighbouring prehistoric henge monument also revealed evidence for early medieval metalworking (Tinniswood and Harding 1991). The site is now undergoing a major campaign of geophysical survey which aims to place the structures identified by HopeTaylor and others into a wider landscape context.

Nearby, at Milfield, is another probable palace site, associated with Bede’s Maelmin (Ecclesiastical History II.15). Aerial photography and geophysical surveys have shown a complex of halls, enclosures and grübenhauser; a small amount of excavation has taken place on a timber post-hole structure (Gates and O’Brien 1988, 3). Crop marks have shown another similar site at Sprouston (Scotland), close to the Tweed (Loveluck 1990).

To the south-east of Maelmin is a further, smaller, settlement site, again identified through cropmaks, at Thirlings (O’Brien and Miket 1991). Structures here have a range of constructional techniques and, like the other excavated sites in the area, an insignificant quantity of material culture. Around 15km to the south-east of Thirlings a further site, New Bewick, was identified from cropmarks and later subjected to small-scale excavation (Gates and O’Brien 1988).

It is important to question how far this cluster of sites in North Northumberland is a real phenomenon reflecting intense early medieval activity in the region, or is simply due to the intense amount of aerial photography and academic research in the Milfield Basin by scholars of all periods. The area is also particularly conducive to the formation of cropmarks, in stark contrast to other parts of the region, such as Teesside, where even Roman villas are invisible from the air.

A second cluster of sites comprises Bamburgh and Lindisfarne (Northumberland). Unpublished excavations by Brian Hope-Taylor and current excavations by the Bamburgh Research Project have shown that Bamburgh is of exceptional importance, although until Hope-Taylor’s work has been fully analysed and published it is difficult to get a real understanding of the site. On nearby Lindisfarne excavation has taken place at Green Shiel, possibly a farmstead dependant on the monastery there. A series of stone structures were uncovered there, together with coins, bone comb fragments and iron knives (O’Sullivan and Young 1991). Recent excavations, also on the island, at the Winery site on Lewin’s Lane found a ditch containing a 9th-century bone comb and two possible cess pits (Williams 2000).

One unusual site is Huckhoe in the Wansbeck Valley. Though it began life as a Romano-British farmstead, excavations by Jobey suggested that the rectangular buildings which replaced the circular houses continued in use into the 5th or even 6th century AD (Jobey 1959, 247-250). The site also produced pottery identified as a post-Roman import from Ireland (Thomas 1959). Although early reports suggested that there might have been some Anglo-Saxon occupation at West Whelpington, subsequent excavation failed to produce structural or artefactual evidence to confirm this (Evans et al 1988). It was clearly a village, however, before the end of the 12th century.

Another important feature in the early medieval NorthEast is the frequent re-use of Roman military sites (Wilmott and Wilson 2000). There is on-going debate about the afterlife of forts along the Wall (Casey 1993; Dark 1992; Dark and Dark 1996; Wilmott 2000). Just outside the region, Birdoswald shows significant levels of early medieval activity, with late Roman granaries being converted into post-Roman hall houses (Wilmott 1997, 203-222). A number of sites in the region also show some level of post-Roman use, such as South Shields, which had a ditch cut across the outside of its south-west gate sometime in the early 5th century. This ditch was later filled in and the gate returned to use (Bidwell and Speak 1994, 48). At Binchester the evidence from excavations on the commandant’s house suggests continued activity into the 5th century. Midden deposits here were overlain by a flagstone floor associated with fragments of sawn antler (Ferris and Jones 2000). Further probable 5th-century refortifications include the addition of earthen banks to support pre-existing walls at Housesteads and Chesterholm (Crow 1989; Bidwell 1985, 46). There are also both Anglo-Saxon and sub-Roman burials associated with forts (see below).

Of possible interest in this context is The Castles, Bedburn (Co. Durham), which is, unusually, quadrangular in form with stone ramparts. Although the subject of several investigations, the date of this site has never been ascertained, though it may be an early medieval attempt to imitate a Roman fort (Birley 1954; R. Collins 2002).

Very little evidence for occupation comes from the lowlands south of the Tyne. The partial remains of a single structure at Ferryhill Police Station were dated to the 10th century by an associated bone mount (Batey 1990). Traces of a possible late Anglo-Saxon structure were also recorded during a watching brief at Seaton Holme, Easington (Daniels et al nd).

There is some evidence for occupation in the uplands. A radiocarbon date from charcoal found during excavations on a group of rectangular buildings at Simy Folds in Upper Teesdale placed them in the mid 8th century AD (Coggins et al 1983). The buildings, paired at right angles and placed around a small yard, were sited within an extensive field system of possible early medieval date. The small finds assemblage comprised a spindle whorl, an iron ring and a fragment of rotary quern. This site shows parallels with other upland farms elsewhere in the Pennines, such as Gauber High Pasture (King 2004). It is difficult to date, however, purely on the basis of morphology; rectangular buildings from the same area have been found to have a later medieval chronology (Coggins 1992).

There are also hints at some kind of activity or re-use on Northumbrian hillforts. Radiocarbon dates from Wether Hill suggest some kind of activity here in the 6th century AD, though its nature is unclear (Frodsham 2004, 65). Another hint of early medieval hillfort occupation comes from Brough Law, where an early medieval iron knife was found in the 19th century (Tate 1863a). It has also been suggested that there may have been some form of early medieval activity at the Iron Age enclosure at Ingram (Hogg 1942; 1956; Jobey 1971; Frodsham 2004, 73).

The origin of urbanism in the North-East is poorly understood, although Hartlepool, Newcastle, Durham, and Darlington all have pre-conquest origins. Notably, all are associated with ecclesiastical sites. At Durham, much of the earliest occupation is probably beneath the castle and cathedral, though the excavations at Saddler Street revealed much about the Saxo-Norman city (Carver 1979). Excavations further south, in the Market Place at Darlington, revealed a probable Late Anglo-Saxon cemetery, presumably associated with a minster church (ASUD 1994), and it is possible that the large ditch known to have lain near North Lodge Park may have been an Anglo-Saxon defensive structure, though elsewhere the evidence is more speculative. It has also been suggested that the large bank and ditch on Spade’s Mire at Berwickupon-Tweed may be of early medieval date (White 1962; Williams 2001). Excavations in Hartlepool have centred around the Headland and the monastery, while in Newcastle the early town of ‘Monkchester’ probably grew up around the castle. Although a 7th-century cemetery is known, it is not clear where the population lived. A few fragments of Anglo-Saxon pottery have also been found on the opposite bank of the Tyne at Bottle Bank, Gateshead (OAN 2003).

Trade, transport and communications

Coinage never appears to have been as widespread as elsewhere in the country. The Early Medieval Corpus of Coin Finds (EMCF 2005) lists 129 individual coin finds from the region; most are Northumbrian stycas and pennies. The vast majority come from Bamburgh (70), but also 64 Resource assessment Early Medieval from Jarrow, Lindisfarne and Monkwearmouth. The most important scholarship on the coinage of the region is that of the late Elizabeth Pirie (e.g. Pirie 2000).

Of the four known hoards, those from Gainford and Satley date to c. 875, but the Hexham group is earlier, dating to the 840s-50s (Pagan 1966; 1974; Sugden and Warhurst 1979). The Bamburgh hoard was found in the village, rather than in the castle area, and consists of about 400 stycas, a fragment of a coin balance and some nondescript iron work (Pirie 2004).

Although the presence of Tating Ware at Jarrow, Stamford Ware at Durham, and walrus ivory from Bamburgh is all indicative of widespread trading, evidence for substantial long-distance trading links in the region is elusive. There is nothing to compare with the range of imported ceramics found at York, and the northernmost distribution of Ipswich Ware is North Yorkshire (Paul Blinkhorn pers comm). No settlements appear to be equivalent to the emporia of Mercia, Wessex, and York. The large amount of coinage and the presence of the walrus ivory at Bamburgh do suggest, however, some kind of regional importance as a trading entrepôt, and here further analysis of HopeTaylor’s pottery assemblages will doubtless prove important. Perhaps at Bamburgh a landing place lay just to the north of the palace amongst the present day sanddunes; this would be accessible to the main site via ‘Oswald’s Gate’. The presence of important monastic sites at major river mouths (e.g. Monkwearmouth, Jarrow, Hartlepool) must surely be indicative of the significance of maritime trade elsewhere (Stocker 2000), though coastal erosion may have destroyed potential beach markets.

Religion and burial

Anglo-Saxon burial

To the south of the region, in Teesside and south County Durham, several 6th-century cemeteries are known, including Andrew’s Hill, Easington (Hamerow and Pickin 1995), Norton (Sherlock and Welch 1992a), Green Bank, Darlington (Miket and Pocock 1976) and Saltburn (Gallagher 1987). These date to the 6th century, though the artefactual assemblage from Green Bank suggests that this site started and finished slightly later than the other two. Other probable cemeteries can be identified at Ferryhill and Denton (Co. Durham), where recent metal detector finds suggest cemeteries of 6th-century date (Philippa Walton pers comm). It is also possible that there was a cemetery at or near the Roman villa site at Ingleby Barwick, where excavation has revealed a fragment of a square-headed brooch and fragments of cremation urns (ASUD 2000c).

Examples of isolated burials can also be found. A single cist grave containing the remains of a child and a single bead was recovered in the early 20th century at Blackhall Rocks (Co. Durham). A number of finds, including a pair of unusual bow brooches possibly of north-west German origin (found at Maltby) are likely to have come from a female inhumation, though excavation at the site found no sign of any other burials (Sherlock and Welch 1992b). A spearhead found in Thornaby may also come originally from a burial (Sherlock 1988). Perhaps the earliest Anglo-Saxon burial from this area comes from Castle Eden (Co. Durham), where in the late 18th century an inhumation accompanied by a unique late- 5th-century Frankish green-blue claw beaker was discovered (Bruce-Mitford 1950).

Most burials in these cemeteries were inhumations, though from the south of the region a few cremations are known. Other than that from Ingleby Barwick mentioned above, over 20 were recorded at Saltburn and three from Norton (Gallagher 1987; Sherlock and Welch 1992a). A number of early Anglian burials has also been recorded from Roman forts. At Binchester a crouched burial was found in Phase 10, accompanied by a reverse S-shaped brooch, glass and amber beads, ceramic vessels and two antler objects. This burial probably dates to the mid 6th century. Two other Anglian objects are known from residual contexts in the fort: a small-long brooch and an iron francisca, though the latter may be a late Roman axe (Ferris and Jones 1996, 10).

The evidence for burial from other sites is limited to chance finds of Anglo-Saxon metalwork. Two brooches of the late 5th century at Corbridge were accompanied by a string of beads and two fragments of a small urn (Knowles and Forster 1908, 342, 406-408). Two small, long brooches of uncertain provenance may also have been found nearby, though they may have come from Yorkshire (Miket 1985a). A small long brooch was also found in Hylton (Tyne and Wear) (Miket 1982).

A 7th-century annular brooch was found at Chesters and another, of 6th-century date, is known from Chesterholm (Miket 1978). A square-headed brooch, a cruciform brooch and a glass vessel (not fully recovered) were found to the east of the fort at Benwell (Jobey and Maxwell 1957). Whereas the Chesters and Chesterholm brooches could be simple losses, the assemblages from Corbridge and Benwell suggest an origin in a burial context. Squareheaded brooches have also been recovered from the Tees at Piercebridge and the banks of the Tyne at Whitehill (Cramp and Miket 1982, 10).

A notable group of apparent sub-Roman burials has been found at South Shields; burials from a courtyard house within the fort and some from its approach have provided 5th-century radiocarbon dates (Bidwell and Speak 1994, 45-6, 265).

North of the Wall the evidence for early Anglo-Saxon burial is less extensive, and noticeably lacking between the Coquet and the Tyne, apart from the individual barrow burial at Barrasford, which included a shield-boss with six silver studs, a sword and a knife (Meaney 1964, 198). Even to the north of the Coquet there are no extensive cemeteries to compare with Norton or Easington. Instead burial sites tend to contain only a few graves and are distinguished by their relative lack of material culture. Known burial sites include the poorly recorded site at Gayle, near Thirlings (O’Brien and Miket 1991), which has a broad 6th-7th century date, as does a group of fifteen burials from Howick Heugh (Cramp and Miket 1982, 5-6). The cluster of graves associated with a 65 Resource assessment Early Medieval prehistoric henge at Milfield North probably belongs to the later 6th or early 7th century (Tinniswood and Harding 1991).

As well as burials which are clearly culturally Anglo-Saxon, there are others which show different affinities, and contain few, if any, grave-goods. The largest group of these are from Yeavering, where two cemeteries were discovered (Hope-Taylor 1977, 67-78, 244-267). In total several hundred graves were excavated, though the final report gives them only limited space. Only four burials contained grave-goods: two from the western cemetery had knives, whereas in the eastern cemetery Grave AX contained a knife and an iron object identified as a groma, and Grave BZ56 iron belt fittings, a purse mount and a knife. Although an Anglo-Saxon rather than a British context for the settlement at Yeavering has been asserted (Scull 1991), it is clear that these burials have closer affinities with the traditions of the early medieval British. Another cemetery with similar attributes is that recently rediscovered and excavated at Bowl Hole, Bamburgh. Only one of the burials excavated there so far have any gravegoods (no. 130, with a knife and buckle).

There are also a number of barrow burials, though these have no firm dating evidence. Secondary inhumations with iron spears are known from Sweethope Farm, Bavington and Turf Knowe, Ingram (Northumberland) (Hodgson 1897, 408). Secondary inhumation burials without any datable grave-goods are known from Hollinghill and Copt Hill. It is possible that these are 7th century or later, when the use of grave-goods became less common; alternatively they could belong to the 5th or 6th century and represent a form of the native British findless burial rite.

From the 7th century onwards the process of conversion to Christianity by Anglo-Saxon kingdoms began, with influences coming from both the Roman church via Augustine and Canterbury, and the Scottish church via Aidan and Lindisfarne. Many of the changes in Anglo-Saxon burial rites in this period seem to be related to shifts in religious belief. So-called ‘final-phase’ burials are believed to represent the last accompanied burials before the shift toward churchyard burial. They are characterised by a decline in the number of artefacts placed with the dead. Hepple, just to the south of the River Coquet had finds including beads, pendants, rings and a comb; a typical 7th-century ‘final phase’ assemblage (Cramp and Miket 1982, 4-5; Miket 1974). The more substantial Milfield South cemetery may have contained up to 100 graves, although only 41 were excavated. Just two graves here contained finds, which included iron knives, an iron buckle, a tag or strap end, and an unidentified perforated iron object (Scull and Harding 1990).

There are also some isolated burials from the 7th and 8th centuries. A barrow burial, probably inserted as a secondary burial into an earlier cairn, from Capheaton (Northumberland) was accompanied by a hanging bowl, a ring, and a few copper fragments; a bronze buckle with garnets was found in a rock-cut grave at East Boldon (Miket and Cramp 1982, 9-10).

The development of churchyard burial is poorly understood in the region. In some cases a ‘final-phase’ site may have developed into a church; a small gold and garnet pendant was found in the churchyard in Stainton and there are reports of Anglo-Saxon metalwork being found near the churchyard at Seaham. Subsequent excavation at Seaham has revealed an extensive cemetery, which was dated by radiocarbon dating and coffin fittings to the 7th and 8th centuries AD (NAA 1999; Macdonald 2000).

By the 9th century churchyard burial was probably widespread. There may have been an early church at Binchester, where burials radiocarbon-dated to the late 8th to 10th century were found at Binchester Hall within the Roman fort (Connell and Roberts 1996; ASUD 2005). Likewise, burials found during excavations at the Market Place in Darlington are probably related to the foundation of St Cuthbert’s church (ASUD 1994), which still retains some Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture. The cemetery at the castle at Newcastle also probably began in the 8th century AD and was presumably related to an ecclesiastical establishment.

The early medieval period is notable for the number of well-preserved skeletal assemblages. The early AngloSaxon cemetery at Norton (Teesside), dating to c. AD 520- 620, produced bone from 126 individuals (Birkett 1992; Marlow 1992). Recent excavation nearby at Bishopsmill School has produced a second, later, Anglo-Saxon cemetery (7th to 9th century?), again with substantial amounts of well-preserved bone skeletal material (Higgins 2004) (Figure 32). Large quantities of skeletal material of early medieval and later date have also been recovered from Monkwearmouth and Jarrow (Tyne and Wear) (Cramp 2005). Early Anglo-Saxon burials with bone are also known from Binchester (Co. Durham), Blackgate (Newcastle) and Bowl Hole, Bamburgh (Northumberland) (Norton and Boylston 1997). This skeletal material has been used in a number of doctoral theses, such as Sarah Groves’ on-going examination of activity-related stress and social status (which also uses material from Norton and Bowl Hole), Tina Jakob’s consideration of the prevalence and patterns of disease in early medieval Britain (using material from Norton) and Pam Macpherson’s work on Anglo-Saxon childhood diet (using material from Blackgate, Newcastle) (Jakob 2004). The assemblage from Bowl Hole is also being explored through isotope analysis (Budd et al 2004). This combination of good assemblages and wide ranging analysis means that skeletal material from this period is amongst the best studied and understood in the region.

Pagan religious activity

As for the rest of the country, evidence for pagan religious practice is sparse. Certain buildings at Thirlings (Building C) and Yeavering (Building D2) may have had a sacred function (O’Brien 2000), something which has also been suggested for Hurworth in Upper Teesdale (Coggins and Fairless 1997). This poorly understood site, which also produced Mesolithic occupation and a Late Iron Age burial, was surrounded by an enclosure with a radiocarbon date of mid-5th to mid-8th century AD which the excavators suggested may have had a ritual function. The evidence is tenuous.

British Christianity

There is also historical and archaeological evidence for Christianity amongst the native British elements of society. Possible churches of late Roman or sub-Roman date have been identified at Chesterholm, South Shields and Housesteads (Birley et al 1999, 20-21; Bidwell and Speak 1994, 102-103; Crow 1995, 95-96). It is uncertain, however, how long these structures were in use. They may merely have been regimental chapels for a final phase of Roman military use or they could have had continued importance throughout the early medieval period.

Chesterholm also produced an unusual portable stone altar of probable early medieval date, a rare find with few parallels, to which must be added a 5th- or 6th-century inscribed memorial stone to an individual named Brigomaglos. Haverfield’s attempts to link this with St Briog are unconvincing (Haverfield 1914b; Jackson 1982), though the stone is clearly part of an early medieval epigraphic tradition which is more common in Wales and southwestern England, but also stretches into Northumberland and Lowland Scotland (Thomas 1992). Other stones in this tradition were clearly carved within a Christian cultural milieu and it is likely that the Brigomaglos stone is an indicator of Christianity.

Churches and ecclesiastical sites

The North-East is home to a series of major Anglo-Saxon monasteries, several of which have been investigated. The best known are undoubtedly those at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, which have been the focus of extensive excavation by Rosemary Cramp (Cramp 1969; 1970; 1994; 2005; Mills and Webster 1991). Founded in the 7th century by Benedict Biscop, the twin monastery was for nearly a century an internationally important centre for learning. Home to Bede (AD 673-735), whose writings on history, time, science and scripture were key texts, it was also a major production centre for books and produced the Codex Amitianus, the oldest surviving single-volume bible in the world.

Lindisfarne, on the other hand, has been relatively little explored, with excavations only within the precinct of the medieval priory and on selected sites in the village. Just a few traces of early medieval activity have been found here, though a possible proto-grange has been excavated elsewhere on the island at Green Shiel (O’Sullivan and Young 1991). In Hexham excavation has concentrated on the church itself and little is known about the wider monastic enclosure of what was undoubtedly an important monastic site (Cambridge and Williams 1995; Harbottle 1978). There is also a lack of work on early medieval Tynemouth. Excavation by George Jobey revealed Iron Age or Roman round houses and a post-Conquest cemetery here, but no traces of the early medieval monastery were identified, although the site has produced Anglo-Saxon carved stone and an Urness-style mount (Jobey 1967; Miket and Cramp 1982, 10, catalogue no. 14). The same is true of Chester-le-Street, where the foundations of modern housing over the site of the monastery may have destroyed any surviving Anglo-Saxon stratigraphy, though the deeper layers relating to the Roman fort still survive. In Durham the Romanesque cathedral and its precinct probably lies over the site of the Anglo-Saxon monastery of which little has been recorded beyond some Late Anglo-Saxon burials on the site of the Chapter House (Carver 1980). Hartlepool, the site of the double foundation by Hild, has been the focus of extensive excavations, including the remains of structures and evidence for metalworking and other craft and industry (Daniels 1988; Daniels et al 1987; Daniels et al 1998).

In addition to its archaeology, the region possesses a range of standing Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical architecture. The major overview of Anglo-Saxon church architecture in Britain is Taylor and Taylor’s magisterial Anglo-Saxon Architecture (1965-78). They recognised pre-conquest fabric at several churches in the region: Aycliffe, Billingham, Bywell, Corbridge, Escomb, Hart, Hexham, Ingram, Jarrow, Monkwearmouth, Norton, Ovingham, Sockburn, Staindrop, Warden, Whittingham, and Woodhorn. Work by Peter Ryder on the churches of Durham over the last 20 years has amended this list, suggesting that the early fabric at Staindrop is more likely to be Norman, as is that at Hart, Pittington and St Mary, Seaham and possibly Norton. On the other hand, the evidence from Chester-le-Street is more convincing than previously thought and Anglo-Saxon fabric has also been recognised at St Brandon in Brancepeth, St Nicholas in West Boldon, Hamsterley, Gainford and possibly Church Kelloe (Ryder 1988; 1996; 2004a). An argument has also been made for Anglo-Saxon fabric at St Michael in Heighington (Clack 1986; though Ryder remains unconvinced), while Eric Cambridge has suggested that the Anglo-Saxon tower at Billingham is, in fact, 12th century, though this remains contentious (Cambridge 1994). The best preserved crypt in the region is at Hexham; Anglo-Saxon crypts may be preserved at Bamburgh and Jarrow, but this has yet to be confirmed by fieldwork.

Carved stone

The major overview of the Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture is Rosemary Cramp’s Durham and Northumberland volumes of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture in England published in 1984. Those areas to the south of the region (i.e. Durham south of the Tees) not covered by this volume are treated in James Lang’s volume in the same series, dedicated to North Yorkshire (Lang 2001). Cramp’s volume has records for nearly 400 individual stones, fragments or groups of architectural stonework (e.g. balusters). A modest number of additional fragments have since come to light (e.g. Richardson 1994), although this has not significantly changed the overall distribution of early medieval sculpture in the region.

Anglian material consists mainly of objects from Hartlepool, Hexham, Jarrow, Lindisfarne and Monkwearmouth, though finds are also known from Escomb, Norham and Rothbury. Crosses dominate the assemblage at Hexham and Norham, whereas grave markers are more common at Monkwearmouth and Hartlepool (Figure 33). Both Lindisfarne and Jarrow have significant groups of both types. This distribution appears to reflect that of the major Northumbrian monastic establishments, though sculpture was also found at important minster sites. By the late 8th century there is an increased Mercian influence on the region’s sculpture, which can be seen on fragments from Rothbury, Auckland St Andrew and Norham (Cramp 1984, 3).

The initial Viking raids of the late 8th and early 9th century appear to have had little impact on the output of the stonecarving workshops of Northumbria. The establishment of the Viking kingdom of York in the mid 9th century, however, was more significant. In the early 10th century, the great estates of the monasteries were being alienated by the Viking kings and redistributed to both Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian lords. The concentration of hogbacks along the Tees valley, on land formerly held by the community of St Cuthbert, probably reflects the establishment of new churches by these new lords. The style of these monuments shows an increasing Scandinavian sense of identity. It is noticeable that hogbacks are almost entirely absent from Northumberland, where a rump kingdom of Northumbria survived into the early 10th century.

Evidence for the use of runic epigraphy in the North-East is very rare. A runic inscription in Old English is carved on a house-shaped memorial at Hawkhope, Falstone (Northumberland), and, intriguingly also carries the same Old English inscription in insular majuscule. Inscriptions using runes and Anglo-Saxon capitals are also known from Chester-le-Street and Alnmouth (Cramp 1984, 54, 161). Three runes have also been found carved onto living rock adjacent to prehistoric cup-and-ring marks at Lemmington Wood, Northumberland (Beckensall 1983, 51, 186).

Of the Late Anglo-Saxon sundials from the region, the best known is that built into the south wall of the nave at Escomb, which, if it is contemporary with the construction of the church, dates to the 8th century. Other pre-conquest sundials are known at Pittington, Staindrop, Middleton St George, Dalton-le-Dale, Darlington and Hart. Unlike examples elsewhere in England, none carry inscriptions.

Material culture


The best source for early Anglo-Saxon ceramic assemblages is the small group of cemeteries from the south of the region. Twelve pots were recovered from inhumations at Greenbank, Darlington, which have broad parallels with vessels from Sancton (East Yorkshire) (Miket and Pocock 1976). Three urned cremations were also recovered from Norton (Teesside) (Sherlock and Welch 1992), while an isolated urn came from the south bank of the Tees near Yarm (Myres 1977, fig 332.150). Several urns were also revealed during work on the mixed-rite cemetery at Hob Hill, Saltburn (Hornsby 1912; Myres 1977, figs 193.152, 273, 153, 344, 151; Gallagher 1987). Tiny fragments of pot have come from other burial sites, such as Andrew’s Hill, Easington (Durham) (Hamerow and Pickin 1995, 44).

Pottery from non-burial contexts is rather less common, particularly towards the beginning of the early medieval period. Settlement sites have produced little; only five fragments of Anglo-British pottery were recovered from Thirlings (O’Brien and Miket 1991, 87) despite extensive excavations, and New Bewick produced even fewer (Gates and O’Brien 1988). More substantial quantities have come from Bamburgh, but these have yet to be assessed (Paul Gething pers comm). Surprisingly little has been found at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, though it does include some rare northern examples of Tating Ware. There is little pottery from urban sites, such as Newcastle and Hartlepool (Wrathmell 1990, 383); the only substantial collection are the very late Saxo-Norman assemblages from Saddler Street, Durham (Carver 1979), which include a Stamford Ware lamp (Clack 1980).

Alan Vince is currently working on a survey of Anglo-Saxon pottery from the Northumbrian kingdom, in order to generate a database and a series of ICPS (InductivelyCoupled Plasma Spectrometry) analyses and thin-sections which will be disseminated on-line via the Archaeological Data Service. The project involves examining as many collections of 5th-11th-century pottery as can be identified (Alan Vince pers comm).

Rough ceramic loom weights and spindlewhorls are also known, including chance finds from Wooler and excavated examples from Thirlings (Miket 1980, 295; O’Brien and Miket 1991, 87).


Glass vessels are rare in the North-East. Perhaps the bestpreserved is the Frankish claw beaker (late 5th century) from the barrow burial at Castle Eden. Some fragments of claw beaker were also recovered at Thirlings (O’Brien and Miket 1991, 87).

Window glass has been found in ecclesiastical contexts at Monkwearmouth, Jarrow and Escomb (Cramp 1976; Pocock and Wheeler 1971), but also, unusually, in a secular context at Bamburgh (Paul Gething pers comm).

Glass beads are known from a range of sites, including from burials at Norton (Teesside), Hepple and Howick Heugh (Northumberland), and Blackhall Rocks (Co. Durham) (Sherlock and Welch 1992a, 45; Cramp and Miket 1982, 4-5), and as chance finds, such as those from Ilderton and Dilston (Northumberland) (Anon 1951; Smith 1966).

Metal objects

Little is known about metalwork from sub-Roman contexts. Margaret Snape has identified a possible early-5th-century sub-variant of a Type D penannular brooch (Snape 1992), though a brooch of this type has been found in a secure late Roman context at Piercebridge (Fitzpatrick and Scott 1999, 114-115). The increasing evidence for sub-Roman continuity on Roman sites means there is a need for the late finds assemblages from such sites to be re-assessed.

The main source for early Anglo-Saxon metal objects in this region is burials. However, although there are a number of important Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in the south of the region, the wider Bernician burial rite is relatively low in material culture (Cramp 1988). The metalwork from the southern cemeteries is typical of the assemblages found further south in Deiran contexts. For example, Norton, Easington and Greenbanks, Darlington, have all produced a range of personal items including cruciform brooches, small-long brooches, annular brooches, buckles and wrist clasps (Miket and Pocock 1976; Sherlock and Welch 1992a; Hamerow and Pickin 1995).

Industrial features of Anglo-Saxon date were associated with a Neolithic henge at Yeavering, and included a number of crucible fragments, which produced evidence for copper and tin, implying bronze working at the site (Tinniswood and Harding 1991). Clay metalworking moulds have also been found at Hartlepool, including moulds for high-status objects such as a plaque showing a calf with a trumpet (presumably a symbol of an evangelist), and a small cross, either a mount or a pendant (Cramp and Daniels 1987; Daniels 1988, 187-190). The same site produced crucibles and slags which demonstrated copperalloy and silver working (Daniels 1988, 184-187). The presence of several pins made from the same mould at Bamburgh is also suggestive of metal production on the site (Paul Gething pers comm). Iron smelting and smithing also took place at Simy Folds (Coggins et al 1983) and while there is no evidence for primary extraction, on the north side of Bollihope Burn, Stanhope (Co. Durham), charcoal from earthworks has produced a radiocarbon date of AD 880-1050 (90% probability). Analysis of associated slag shows it to have a high lead content, suggesting it was either at an intermediate stage in processing or it was being refined for silver (Manchester 2001; Paynter 2001). Excavations at the same site have also revealed a probable early medieval iron-working furnace (Rob Young pers comm).

In general, the quality of middle and later Anglo-Saxon metalwork is low compared with other parts of AngloSaxon Britain. The end of the tradition of depositing gravegoods and the lack of excavated settlement sites means that most metalwork of this date are chance finds. Hanging-bowls are known from a burial at Capheaton (Northumberland) and a possible votive deposit at Newham Bog (Northumberland) (Collingwood Bruce 1880, 184; Cramp and Miket 1982, 10, no. 12), while a gilded 8thcentury disc-headed pin was found on the monastic site at Hartlepool (Daniels et al 1998). The Portable Antiquities Scheme has recently recorded a gilded mount from the Bishop Auckland area (Philippa Walton pers comm), and a gold mount has been recovered at Bamburgh (Wood 2004). Among finds of rings are a late-8th-century silver ring with runic decorations from Whitley Hill and a pair of Saxo-Norman gold rings from Corbridge (Craster 1914, 103- 104). Important pendants include the small gold example from Daisy Hill, Sacriston, dating to the 7th century AD, and a recently discovered gold and garnet pendant from the churchyard at Stainton, Middlesbrough (Figures 34-35). Strap-ends are known from Wooperton and Frosterley (Bailey 1993), and from the Green Shiel settlement on Holy Island (O’Sullivan and Young 1991). David Wilson suggests that an unusual strap-distributor in the British Museum, which has parallels with examples from Meols and the Viking burials at Cronk Moar and Ballateare on the Isle of Man, may have come from Goswick (Bersu and Wilson 1966, 55n). Ecclesiastical metalwork includes the pectoral cross from the shrine of St Cuthbert in Durham, and an Anglo-Saxon chalice from Hexham. A final important discovery is the hoard of Viking silver objects from Old Spital, Bowes, which included nineteen silver bars, a broken bracelet and a rough waste object (Edwards 1985).

Weapons occur as excavated and chance finds. Spears and shields were found at the cemetery at Greenbank, Darlington (Miket and Pocock 1976, 72), a spear fragment from a grave at Easington (Hamerow and Pickin 1995, 40), and twelve spears and spear fragments, shield bosses and a seax from Norton (Sherlock and Welch 1992a, 32-34). HopeTaylor’s excavations at Bamburgh recovered two swords and several spears (Paul Gething pers comm). Chance finds include a probable seax from Lowick (Northumberland), and a decorated spear of probable 9th-century date from Burradon (Spain 1923). Two swords and an axe, part of the Viking ‘Hurbuck’ hoard discovered at Lanchester, are now in the British Museum (Shetelig 1940, 74).

Fragmentary iron objects are known from cemeteries, including knives from Easington and a key from Greenbanks, Darlington. Iron objects were also found at Yeavering, among them a curious ‘standard’ (Hope-Taylor 1977, 200-203). Iron tools, including four scythes and a pickaxe, were part of the ‘Hurbuck’ hoard (Shetelig 1940). Knives have also been found at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth.

Bone objects

The acid soils of the north mean that bone objects are under-represented. Combs are known in grave contexts from a burial at Hepple (7th century) (Cramp and Miket 1982, 4-5) and the Viking burial from Bedlington (Shetelig 1954, 77) as well as from occupation sites at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth, Green Shiel and The Winery in Holy Island, Saddler Street in Durham and Church Street in Hartlepool (O’Sullivan and Young 1991; Carver 1979; Daniels 1988, 195). A 10th-century decorative bone strip, probably some form of mount, was found during an excavation at Ferryhill (Batey 1990). Intriguingly, recent work at Bamburgh has also produced a fragment of walrus ivory with saw marks, suggesting both trade with northern Scandinavia and probably craft working on the site (Paul Gething pers comm). The wider context of bone combs in the north of Britain is currently being explored in his PhD thesis by Steven Ashby at the Department of Archaeology, University of York.

Other objects

Worked stone objects are relatively rare, though recently three stone bowls of early medieval date have been identified from sites in Sunderland, Dalden and Durham, one with an Anglo-Saxon inscription. Their function is uncertain, though it is possible they may have had a liturgical purpose (Hart and Okasha 2003). A range of limestone containers were also recovered from the monastic site at Hartlepool (Daniels 1988, 190).

Durham Cathedral has an important selection of wellpreserved organic objects from the shrine of St Cuthbert. These include the unique carved wooden coffin, a portable altar (wooden encased in metal) and embroidered silk stoles. The shrine also contained his gold, cloisonné pectoral cross (Emery 2004).


In Teesside the Dorman Museum holds the finds from the cemeteries at Saltburn and Norton; the main early medieval collection held by Tees Archaeology being the 120 skeletons from the recent excavations on the cemetery at Norton. In County Durham, Bowes Museum holds the archives and finds from Denis Coggins’ excavations at Simy Folds, and the cemeteries at Seaham, Binchester and Andrew’s Hill, Easington. The Old Fulling Museum in the City of Durham holds little Anglo-Saxon material beyond some fragments of late sculpture. More significant collections of Anglo-Saxon sculpture are held at Durham Cathedral in the Monk’s Dormitory. The Cathedral, of course, also holds the material from St Cuthbert’s shrine. There is also a small collection of sculpture held in the Anker’s House Museum in Chester-le-Street.

On Tyne and Wear the Museum of Antiquities holds a good collection of sculpture (32 objects or fragments), but fewer items of pottery or metal. Major items include the Capheaton hanging bowl and cross fragments from Rothbury and Nunnykirk. A full catalogue of early medieval items (from both within and outside the region) was published in 1982 (Cramp and Miket 1982). The material excavated by Rosemary Cramp at St Paul’s, Jarrow, can be found in Bede’s World; here are also the objects relating to the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries at Milfield North (on loan from the Museum of Antiquities), Andrew’s Hill, Easington, and Norton on Tees (on loan from the Bowes Museum). In Northumberland, a small collection of material is held in the Alnwick Castle Museum, including an annular brooch from Coquet Island and the objects from the barrow at Barrasford (Collingwood Bruce 1880). Outside the region, the British Museum holds a small number of early medieval objects from the North-East, of which the Viking Hurbuck hoard is the most significant.

Later Medieval

The Later Medieval Specialist Group consisted of Robin Daniels (Tees Archaeology), Norman Emery (Durham Cathedral Dean and Chapter), Pam Graves (Dept of Archaeology, University of Durham), Peter Ryder (independent consultant), and Myra Tolan-Smith (English Heritage).

History of research

Later medieval studies in the North-East boast a long tradition of antiquarian and architectural recording, local topographical history (Austin 1990, 141), and research into aspects of the social and economic context of the Middle Ages (Page 1905). With one or two notable exceptions, however, it was not until the post-war period that significant campaigns of archaeological fieldwork were carried out, among them Honeyman’s excavations at Mitford Castle (Honeyman 1955; Figure 36). Only in the late 1950s and 1960s were excavations undertaken at settlement sites in the Tees Valley, including the villages of West Hartburn (Still and Pallister 1964; 1967) and Swainston (Anon 1958), at the moated site at Belasis (Still and Southeran 1966), and the Prior of Durham’s manor house at Low Grange (Still 1965). Investigations also took place further north on medieval villages in Northumberland, most notably in the long-running campaign of national importance at West Whelpington (Jarrett 1962). Mutual academic advantage, it might be stressed, was gained by a renewed emphasis on historical geography at this time which underlined several new themes being proposed by archaeologists, such as settlement origins and planning (Thorpe 1949; Conzen 1960). This was an early signal of a collaborative approach to later medieval studies which has characterised the best of so much research into this period and which unites the interests of archaeologists, architectural historians, historians, geographers and others.

From the 1960s the urgency was to record sites before they were destroyed entirely by development (e.g. at Durham, Hartlepool, Newcastle Quayside, Thrislington). Much of this work, which spawned major projects, took place before the implementation of PPG16 in the early 1990s which in turn led to a considerable rise in the number of excavations recovering features and artefacts of later medieval date. Many of these recent investigations have been small in scale and, inevitably, their focus has been on the larger towns, such as Newcastle and Hartlepool.

Existing research frameworks

The most important agendas have been those promoted by the Society for Medieval Archaeology and the Medieval Settlement Research Group (Hinton 1987; MSRG 1996; see also Rippon 2002), though the former is now considered by many practitioners to be a dated assessment. Also of relevance are the recommendations made by the English Heritage-funded review of medieval ceramics (Mellor 1994) and others on urban archaeology (e.g. Addyman 2003; Perring et al 2002; Graves 2002). Environmental specialists have produced a series of research priorities for the period, focusing on human bone (Mays 1998) and plant remains (Hall and Huntley 2002).

Agriculture and environment

Together with the wealth of later medieval documents for the region, whose potential is not assessed in detail here, environmental evidence is clearly important for an understanding of later medieval agriculture and the wider landscape. Unfortunately, in common with many areas nationally, peat-cutting severely restricts palynological potential for this period, though evidence from Stainmore attests to the presence of rye in the 12th-13th centuries (Innes 2001). Plant macrofossils from Thrislington (Co. Durham) and Claxton Quarry (Teesside) also highlight the declining importance of spelt, though it was still present at Sadberge (Co. Durham) (Donaldson 1976; Huntley 1993; Huntley and Stokes 1994). Assemblages from urban sites such as Newcastle and Berwick (Huntley and Stallibrass 1995, 70-71; Donaldson 1977a; 1977b) show an increasingly diverse suite of remains, including figs, grapes, sloe/plum and hemp from Hartlepool (Huntley 1987a; 1987b; 1987c; 1988a; 1988b). Non-food crops in the form of flax have also been found in Durham, Newcastle, and Darlington (Donaldson 1979; Huntley and Stallibrass 1995, 71; Huntley 1994a).

The most important urban medieval faunal assemblages are from Newcastle (Castle Ditch; Blackgate; Town Wall and Ditch; Cloth Market; Quayside), though these have yet to be placed in the context of the wider development of the city (Allison 1987; 1988; Davis 1991; Dobney and Jaques 1993; Gidney 1987; 1989a; 1989b; 1989c; 1994; Nicholson 1988; 1989; Rackham 1980; 1988a; 1988b; Rackham and Allison 1981a; 1981b). Fish remains, for example, provide new evidence for a major medieval deep-sea fishing industry. In addition, there are important recent assemblages from the core of medieval Hartlepool (Allison 1990; Gidney 1991a; Locker 1990; Locker and Rackham 1987; Rackham 1990b), as well as from Durham, Darlington, Chester-le-Street, Yarm and Berwick-uponTweed (Gidney 1991b; 1995; Rackham 1980c; 1985).

This list excludes the faunal assemblages from the ecclesiastical sites at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth (Noddle 1987; 1992; Huntley and Stallibrass 1995, 179-182), and from castles and elite occupation sites, including the Fellow’s Garden of Durham Castle, Barnard Castle, the Prior’s residence at Beaurepaire, and Prudhoe Castle (Davis 1987; Donaldson et al 1980; Gidney 1995; Mulville 1993; Nicholson 1993). The collection of bones from the castle at Barnard Castle is especially significant for the region and indicates high-status exploitation of a range of wild resources, particularly deer, hare, plover, partridge and grouse (Jones et al 1985). Sadly, the assemblage from the large-scale excavations at the deserted medieval village at Thrislington (Co. Durham) was not well-preserved due to leaching in the soil (Rackham 1989) but the midden deposit from Jenny Bell’s Well, Lindisfarne, does give an Resource assessment Later Medieval important insight into the medieval and post-medieval exploitation of maritime resources, including both fish and seabirds (Rackham 1985b).

The agriculture of the medieval North-East can be divided into two broad areas: the uplands in the north and west (in the North Pennines and Northumberland) where agriculture was dominated by cattle and sheep rearing with extensive common pasturing and the use of shielings (Winchester 2000), and the lowland areas which were dominated by an arable regime. The division between an arable lowland and pastoral upland is not a strict one, however. Crops were cultivated even in the uplands, and these have often left relict terraces, such as those to be seen around Ingram. Environmental evidence has demonstrated that barley and even rye were cultivated in these areas (Frodsham and Waddington 2004, 188). Equally, the rearing of sheep and cattle would have been intrinsic to lowland arable farming systems. Large-scale upland surveys, such as the Otterburn Survey (Charlton and Day 1979) and the work of Denis Coggins in Teesdale (Coggins 1986), have identified many shieling sites in addition to those listed in Ramm’s corpus (Ramm et al 1970). Coggins published a critique of the typology presented by Ramm and indicated some of the many difficulties with dating sites on morphological grounds alone (Coggins 1992). Weardale has been the focus of several surveys, including the work of Peter Bowes (1990) on the Bishop’s deer park, and a detailed survey by local volunteers co-ordinated by Tom Gledhill and Roz Nicholl. Fewer surveys have been carried out on the agricultural landscapes of the lowlands, though there are existing studies into the South Tyne area, Castle Eden and around Kilton (Teesside) (Tolan-Smith 1997c; Austin and O’Mahoney 1987; Daniels 1990a). Ridge and furrow is widely spread across east Durham, Cleveland and east Northumberland, although there has been no wider regional survey. It has, though, been mapped in Cleveland, as part of a project that included profiling and environmental sampling. The major North-East England History Institute (NEEHI) research project Settlement and Waste in the Palatinate of Durham will help elucidate the distribution of waste, moorland, rough pasture and woodland in much of the region, integrating archaeological, cartographic and documentary evidence (Dunsford and Harris 2003; Britnell 2004; Roberts et al 2005). The final results from this project are expected to emerge as a series of thematic articles over the next few years. In general, however, there has been little study of ancient woodland in the region (though see M. Tolan-Smith 1997).

Numerous deer parks have been recorded in the area, among them those belonging to the Bishop of Durham and the Earl of Westmoreland. Relatively little research has been carried out into the archaeology of these parks beyond survey work and historical research for Stanhope deer park (Drury 1966; Bowes 1990; Nichol 2004). The sites of a number of probable hunting lodges are known, including Kilton, Cambokeels and the Old Lodge at Raby (Hildyard 1947). Only at the latter are there standing remains. On a related theme, foresters are attested on a cross-slab from Durham Cathedral, which bears a sword, bow, arrow and a possible hat, and similar stones are known from Blanchland and from Great Stainton (Co. Durham) where the grave marker carries a sword and a bow (Ryder 2000a, 55; 1985, 73, pl 17).


The settlement pattern of the later medieval North-East was overwhelmingly rural. Several rural settlements have been excavated, notably Thrislington (Co. Durham), Castle Eden (Co. Durham), West Hartburn (Teesside), and West Whelpington (Northumberland) (Austin 1989; Austin and O’Mahoney 1987; Evans and Jarrett 1987; Pallister and Wrathmell 1990). Other excavations have been undertaken recently in the Tees Valley, including those at Elston and Claxton (Teesside) and Swainston (Co. Durham) (Daniels 1985).

These individual studies have tended not to consider the wider landscape context of settlement, though the publication of the Atlas of Rural Settlement in England has done much to rectify that situation by placing the pattern of rural settlement into a national context (Roberts and Wrathmell 2000). Other work by the geographer Brian Roberts remains central to our understanding of village morphology in the North-East (e.g. Roberts 1977), while the Northumberland National Park’s Historic Village Atlas and a forthcoming survey of villages in Weardale for the Weardale Society should also provide further information about settlement development in these regions. In general the pattern of deserted medieval settlements is better known in Northumberland than it is for Durham or Cleveland; this being mainly due to two important PhD theses which examined the historical and archaeological evidence for the north and south of the county (Dixon 1984; Wrathmell 1975). As a result, far more possible sites are known north of the Tyne than in the south of the region (624 Northumberland; 110 Durham; 28 Tyne and Wear; 38 Cleveland). Many of these sites have left no visible trace though well-preserved earthworks do survive in County Durham and Teesside, among them Archdeacon Newton, Barforth, Sheraton (Figure 37) and Walworth (Co. Durham) and Kilton Thorpe, Low Throston, Marske and Stainsby (Teesside).

The stock of standing later medieval vernacular buildings, both domestic and agricultural, is very modest; the unsettled, political and social nature of the northern frontier was not conducive to the survival of much domestic architecture. A small number of medieval structures do remain, almost all of them in County Durham. A recent tree-ring survey produced late medieval dates for six agricultural structures on religious estates in Durham; fourteen other possible medieval agricultural or service buildings in the county have also been identified (Roberts et al 1999). Other rural medieval buildings include Rock Farm, Wheatley Hill (Durham), which contains the remains of a long house. Dendrochronology has shown that the ceiling beams and roof of the main house are contemporary and were constructed from trees felled in the spring of 1570 (Arnold et al 2004). Tree-ring dates have also been obtained from Hunwick Hall Farm, placing the construction of the east and north range there in the period 1501-26 (Arnold et al 2004). In County Durham good examples of mid-range houses can be seen at Archdeacon Newton, Easington, and Hall Farm, High Coniscliffe, Butler House, Haughton-le-Skerne, Tunstall Hall and Unthank, Stanhope. One unusual property, Whessoe Grange, was converted from a 12th-century chapel (Ryder 1986). These early structures are often associated with Durham Priory. It may also be possible to identify a distinctive northern type of roof with truncated principal trusses, which only rise to a collar, such as Crook Hall, Durham (Peter Ryder pers comm). Undoubtedly there are other similar surviving medieval structures which have not been recognised due to the problem of dating and a more detailed consideration is overdue.

There is also a distinct category of defended houses in the North-East. These have traditionally been divided into two categories: the tower of the northern frontier zone, and the moated site of the County Durham and Cleveland, with the implicit assumption that the former were built for defence and the latter as a marker of status (English Heritage Monument Class Descriptions categorise tower houses as ‘Defence’ and moated sites as ‘Domestic’) (Ryder 1990). In practice the distinction is rarely as clear-cut. For example, it is debateable whether Ogle Castle (Northumberland) should be classified as a moated site, castle or fortified tower house, and probable Durham tower houses, such as Evenwood, were also provided with moats (for more on Durham moats see Emery 1999).

The urban hierarchy of the region was dominated by Newcastle and Durham. Newcastle has seen extensive excavation, especially around the castle and along the quayside (O’Brien 1991; O’Brien et al 1988; Fraser et al 1994; 1995) (Figure 38). The city owed its importance to its role as Sa centre for North Sea trade and coastal sea-coal shipping. Durham, as seat of the Prince Bishops, was also a town of regional significance, and traded through Hartlepool. In the past significant excavation has taken place at a number of sites in the city (Carver 1979; Lowther et al 1993; Fraser et al 1995). Both Durham and Newcastle appear to have had an elite enceinte associated with the castle and, in Durham’s case, the cathedral, with the urban settlement growing up adjacent to it. Similar patterns have been recognised elsewhere, at Hexham and Darlington, for example (Daniels 2002). As the main port for Durham, Hartlepool also developed early, and capitalised on the opportunity to supply English armies during the Anglo-Scottish wars. There has been significant excavation on the medieval waterfront and urban core there (Daniels 1991; forthcoming).

Medieval structures are likely to survive in towns such as Darlington, Durham and Newcastle, though detailed recording has not yet been carried out. In Newcastle, the Rigging Loft, Trinity House, The Cooperage and other nearby buildings are probably of late medieval date. Tree-ring dates from Trinity House have a chronological span of 1397-1524 (Anon 2003). Likely medieval structures in Durham include the Parsonage House, St Mary the Less, and Elvet Manor as well as some properties on Silver Street and Allergate (Martin Roberts pers comm). Survey work on 114-116 High Street, Yarm (Tom Brown’s House) has revealed an earlier 16th-century property concealed behind an 18th-century street elevation (RCHME nd). Similar survivals also probably occur in the smaller towns, such as Barnard Castle, Darlington, Hartlepool and Morpeth.

As well as being foci for trade and production, towns, and especially the smaller boroughs and shire centres, were closely integrated with the agricultural productive economy (Daniels 2002). There have been important interventions at a number of smaller medieval towns, such as Darlington (ASUD 1994), Berwick (Griffiths 1999; Young 2001) and Yarm (Heslop and Evans 1985). The presence of a series of Extensive Urban Surveys for Northumberland and Tyne and Wear will help considerably with the understanding of many of these smaller urban areas.


An important development in the later medieval period was the expansion of deep-water fishing. Beach-launched cobles were employed and these did not require an extensive quayside infrastructure. Much of the activity may have been seasonal with temporary shielings being used by fishermen, evidence for which may survive only as place-names, for example South Shields. Sites like these are most likely to have been used in the winter months when some fish species, such as cod and haddock, came inshore from deeper waters. Assemblages of fish bones have been recovered in urban sites, such as Hartlepool and Newcastle (Nicholson 1988; 1989; Jones and Rackham 1979), as well as from smaller coastal sites, such as Lindisfarne (Allison et al 1985), and ecclesiastical sites, such as Jarrow. Here there seems to have been a change in consumption from freshwater fish, including salmon, to deep-water species, such as cod, haddock and ling (Barrett et al 2004). The fish bone assemblage from Church Close, Hartlepool, shows a similar shift from the early-medieval exploitation of mainly inshore fish resources to medieval deep-water ‘white fish’. There is also evidence for herring processing (smoking or salting) from the 14th century (Looker 1991) while Hartlepool has produced a number of possible net weights (Daniels 1991).

 Freshwater fish are likely to have been fished from the wild (the salmon fisheries of Berwick and the Tweed were particularly important), though there are also fish-ponds, such as those at Bradley Hall and Bishop Middleham (Co. Durham) (McCord 1971, 18-19). There has also been extensive work by the late Victor Watts on the place-name evidence for medieval riverine fishery sites (Watts 1982; 1983; 1986; 1988; 1997).

Archaeological evidence for ships themselves is elusive. Excavations at Southgate, Hartlepool, uncovered re-used strakes and ribs from ships and a fragment of two clinkerfastened planks (Young 1987). Similar fragments of reused boat are also known from Newcastle Quayside, including planking and two wooden mast crutches (O’Brien et al 1988, 105) and fragments of caulking material have also been recovered (Walton 1988). A gravestone from Hartlepool carries an image of a medieval sailing vessel (Ryder 1985, 95, fig 36).

Castle and defensible structures

The proximity of the Scottish border led to the construction of many fortified structures. Of the simple motte and bailey defences among the best preserved are those at Gunnerton, Harbottle, Styford (Northumberland) and at Bishopton (Durham), though elements of similar defences can be seen incorporated into later remains at Mitford, Morpeth (Northumberland) and elsewhere. Ringworks are also well preserved at Elsdon, Mote Hills, Sewingshields Castle (Northumberland), Green Castle, Akeld (Northumberland) and Castle Levington (Teesside). Elsdon is particularly notable for its substantial embanked bailey. Other baileys were surrounded by later masonry defences, including Alnwick and Warkworth (Northumberland).

There is little evidence for keeps in the region before the mid 12th century. The earliest is at Durham, probably dating to c. 1100-1128 (Leyland 1994). Simple hall keeps, with the chamber next to the hall, also survive at Bamburgh and Norham, whereas tower keeps, with the chamber above the hall, can be seen at Newcastle and at Prudhoe. Work of national significance has been carried out on the expansion of the early-12th-century donjon at Norham, which shows parallels with towers from the bishops’ palaces of the same period (Dixon and Marshall 1993). Shell-keeps are known broadly intact (though altered) at Harbottle and Mitford, and ruined at Wark-on-Tweed.

Norman gatehouses are known at Alnwick and Wark. The 14th century saw the strengthening of gatehouses, such as the provision of barbicans at Alnwick, Prudhoe and Tynemouth. Gatehouse keeps were also constructed. The best example is John of Gaunt’s structure at Dunstanburgh; others are known at Bothal, Bywell, Hylton and Morpeth. In the 13th and early 14th century more substantial curtain Resource assessment Later Medieval  wall defences with towers were built around several castles, such as Warkworth and Alnwick.

Another 14th-century development was the introduction of the quadrangular castle. Some, such as those at Ford and Chillingham (Northumberland), had their main suites in corner towers. Others placed their accommodation in the ranges linking the towers, as at Lumley (Co. Durham) and Cartington (Northumberland). These new schemes often included earlier elements, as at Etal, where the existing upper-floor hall house was incorporated as a north-west tower. These were the precursors of a series of quadrangular ‘palace-fortresses’, best illustrated perhaps by Lumley Castle, which were mainly constructed by major magnate families who were extremely powerful in the border region where the writ of the king was weak. The Neville family built palace-fortresses at Raby (1367-90) and Brancepeth (1360-80), while the Percys carried out major phases of reconstruction at Alnwick and Warkworth, including the rebuilding of the keep there as a tower house in the 1390s.

In County Durham, in addition to the major fortification in Durham itself, the two other significant sites are Barnard Castle and Raby Castle. The former dominates a crossing of the Tees and has an extremely large enclosure; it was excavated by David Austin in the late 1970s (Austin 1979; 1980). At Raby, the present castle is of one period, dating to the latter part of the 14th century, though Bulmer’s Tower is a 12th-century survival from an earlier fortified dwelling house. The castle has not been subject to archaeological investigation of any kind.

Another important sub-group of castles and high-status residences in this region are bishop’s palaces. That at Bishop Auckland is perhaps the most significant. Despite a 17th- and 18th-century veneer, many of the surviving structures there are medieval in date, including a particularly fine 12th-century hall which was converted into a chapel in the late 17th century. The sites of other ecclesiastical residences are known at Bishop Middleham, where geophysical survey has been undertaken, and the former Manor House in Darlington.

In addition to these substantial residences, there is a separate category of smaller hall and tower-houses. For example, there was an initial phase of an unfortified seigneurial house at Seaton Holme (Durham) (ASUD 2000b). Other simple hall-houses were only lightly fortified. At Aydon, a late-13th-century first-floor hall and cross wing were only later supplied with a curtain wall and two towers. Cross wings are also known at other sites, such as Archdeacon Newton (Durham). Solar towers, were, however, more common than cross-wings. The ground-floor halls at Featherstone, Halton, and Low Hall, Corbridge, were all provided with solar towers in the 14th or 15th century, and the towers at Blackbird Inn, Ponteland, and Shield Hall (Northumberland) may be additional examples. Solar towers often had corbelled bartizans rather than full corner towers.

Peter Ryder has distinguished between solar towers and hall towers (Ryder 1992b, 62-63). Unlike solar towers, which were part of an ensemble of structures, hall towers stood alone. They rarely had defended enclosures, though it is possible that some were provided with wooden pales. They mainly date to the 13th century and seem to have acted as distinctly northern, defensive, manor houses.

Accommodation was usually on the first or even second floor and they were often provided with substantial corner towers. Good examples of hall towers include Haughton, Tarset and Bellister. Within the region, tower houses had a definite northern distribution (over 160 in Northumberland), with far fewer in Durham (Emery 1996). Although primarily a response to insecurity, the tower house style appears to have entered the wider vocabulary of architectural forms, and it is noticeable that in the broadly peaceful later 14th century a large number of such houses were being built, at Belsay (c. 1370-80), Fenwick (1378) and Chipchase (1380), to name three examples. A final class of tower worth distinguishing is the small group of vicar’s peles of late-14thor early-15th-century date. Although broadly contemporary with solar towers, these appear to have functioned quite differently and provided secure accommodation for priests immediately adjacent to their churches. Good examples can be found at Alnham, Corbridge and Ponteland.

Defences were also created for a range of other buildings: churches (see below), monastic precincts (e.g. Lindisfarne, Tynemouth, Hulme) and buildings with administrative functions, such as the Moot Hall and prison at Hexham (Ryder 1994). The bridge over the river at Warkworth is one of the country’s few defended bridge structures. There are also several important town walls. Alnwick had a 15th-century defensive wall, though nothing of it survives except the main gate on Bondgate. Despite the construction of substantial later defences, parts of the medieval defensive circuit at Berwick can also still be seen, including the stretch between Meg’s Mount and the Border Bridge. Substantial sections of the Newcastle city wall, of 13th-century date, are also visible; in fact more survives there than in any other medieval city in England, except Chester, Chichester, Southampton and York (Nolan et al 1989). In Durham, what remains of the medieval wall is now mainly confined to cellar basements; there are no free-standing remains. In Hartlepool only the Sandwell Gate survives of the 14th-century walls built to defend the town against Scottish raids (Daniels 1986).

Excavation on castle sites includes work at Newcastle (e.g. Harbottle 1966; 1981; forthcoming), Barnard Castle (Austin 1979; 1980), Edlingham (Fairclough 1984), Hylton (Morley and Speak 2003), Kilton (unpublished excavations by Alan Aberg), Mitford (Honeyman 1955), and Stockton (Aberg and Smith 1988). Smaller excavations have taken place at other sites, such as Etal (Harbottle and Ellison 2001) and Morpeth (Ryder 1992a). Additional work at Etal includes a geophysical survey while building recording and analysis was undertaken during the restoration of the gatehouse at Morpeth (Ryder 1992a) and dendrochronological dating of timbers in the kitchen range at Aydon (Northumberland) (Hillam 1991).

There has also been increased interest in the social role of castle, attempting to move beyond simply analysing them as defensible structures (e.g. Fairclough 1992; Johnson 2002a). Several fortifications in the region have been cited Resource assessment Later Medieval in support of this argument. Norman castles in the north of England and their landscape context were the subject of a recent PhD thesis by Chris Constable (2003).

Trade, transport and communications

An important element in the archaeology of transport and trade in the region is the evidence for quayside development at both Newcastle and Hartlepool (Daniels 1991; Graves 2002, 180-181; O’Brien 1991; O’Brien et al 1988; G. A. B. Young 1987). They illustrate the growing role of the North Sea and coastal trade for the success of these two towns though less is known about the development of maritime infrastructure at smaller coastal sites (see above).

Our understanding of the road network is poor, even though a large number of local hollow-ways are associated with deserted medieval villages. The network of drove roads between Scotland and England are better understood; many of their routes have been mapped, and associated features, such as cross-dykes, planned (e.g. Charlton and Day 1979; Cowper 1970-71). Although the high point of long-distant droving was post-medieval, these routes are likely to have medieval, or even earlier, origins. New work on the post-Roman road system of the north of England is being carried out by postgraduate Gillian Keegan-Phipps in the Department of Archaeology, University of Durham. In contrast to the lack of archaeological research, the architectural record includes a substantial number of surviving medieval bridges, all of which are protected by Listing and many by Scheduling. A survey of historic bridges in Northumberland has been carried out by Peter Ryder and Robin Sermon (1993). For the rest of the region, however, there have been no major reviews since that of Jervoise in 1931.

Industrial production

Evidence for later medieval industrial production in the region is very limited. One recent national initiative is the Database of medieval pottery production centres in England (Gerrard and Marter 2003), which has provided the first major overview of kiln sites in the region: three are listed for County Durham (two at Bearpark/Aldin Grange, and one on Bowes Moor), one clamp kiln with potting waste and clay pits in Northumberland (Eshott) (Dixon and Crowdy 2001), and one at Dog Bank in Tyne and Wear (Newcastle), which is the earliest production in the region, being 12th-century in date. The most recent excavation has been on the Aldin Grange kiln, which produced evidence for white ware manufacture (NAA 1997). A kiln was also uncovered during works connected with the construction of the Gateshead flyover in 1968 (Manders 1973, 62) and appears to have produced Tyneside-type buff white ware. Some material from the site is in the reference collection at the Fulling Mill and at the store at the Department of Archaeology. Other material collected at the time has since gone missing. Other evidence for pottery production includes a small crucible discovered at Saddler Street, Durham (Carver 1979, 39) which seems to have been used in the preparation of lead glaze used on late-11th to mid-12th-century cooking pots found at the same site, suggesting these must have been produced relatively locally. There is also some suggestive place-name evidence, for example Potter’s Banks, Durham, where there are indents into the bottom of the bank which may be the signs of medieval clay digging (Norman Emery pers comm), and near Bowes where a ‘potter’ name is associated with an earthwork. Taken together, the evidence for pottery production is very modest, though contrasts can be made between rural and urban sites and between technologies and kiln types.

Evidence for a range of other medieval industries comes from several sites across the region. Excavations at Saddler Street, Durham, and in Hartlepool, for example, have produced evidence for shoe-making and bread ovens (Carver 1979, 16, 31-33; Daniels forthcoming). Cobbling waste has also been recorded in Newcastle (O’Brien et al 1989, 177-178) while stone mortars were shaped at Hartlepool (Daniels 1991, 366). There is also some indication of textile production, both in the form of the textiles themselves (e.g. Carver 1979, 36-39) and the presence of spindle whorls (Austin 1989). The presence of dye plants amongst the environmental evidence at the Crown Court site in Newcastle is indicative of textile processing (Huntley 1989c, 182).

Mineral extraction is less well understood. Apart from smallscale use in the Roman period (see Chapter 6) there is nothing to be said about the archaeology of coal mining until the 13th century. Although documentary evidence for medieval collieries does exist, there is little to be seen on the ground, most early workings presumably being destroyed by later mining. Nevertheless, a few possible early sites have been identified, such as at Moorhouses Woods and West Rainton (Co. Durham), where extensive documentary evidence for mining is reflected on the ground by surface earthworks (Guy and Cranstone 2001).

Lead working is also likely to have taken place in the North Pennines using simple ‘bole’ hill technology which comprised no more than a simple hearth of brushwood and crushed ore protected by a stone wall pierced by a wind tunnel which provided the necessary draught to elevate temperatures. Although a number of sites have been identified as medieval lead-working sites, among them sites near Rookhope and Stanhope in the 12th century and later shafts further up Weardale, there has been little archaeological investigation of them (Blanchard 1981, 80-81). Durham lead ‘boles’, however, are of greater than regional interest, it was here the miners experimented with new technologies in the 15th century allowing them to attain more efficient extraction which later spread to competitors in Derbyshire and Mendip. It is also likely that there was a medieval silver industry, linked to lead working, in the North Pennines, though there is, as yet, no archaeological evidence for this (Claughton 2003).

All medieval iron was produced in bloomeries and the NorthEast has a good range of evidence for metalworking of this kind. Possible medieval bellpits at Craghead (Co. Durham) appear to have been dug to recover ironstone rather than coal. They have also been seen at Whittonstall (Northumberland) during opencast mining. The most important site in County Durham, however, is the Resource assessment Later Medieval 79 ‘Byrkeknott’ bloomery at Harthope Mill. Here a combination of extensive documentary evidence (15th-century account roll) and archaeological work has shed light on the way in which a late medieval iron-working site might have functioned (Tylecote 1960). Unpublished work on a bloomery site at Glantlees (Northumberland) is important. Bog-iron was also worked at High Bishopley (Co. Durham) (Atkinson 1974, 282). As well as work on specific manufacturing sites, research has also been carried out on the wider context of production. The survey of charcoal pits in Upper Teesdale by Tom Gledhill (2002) has greatly enhanced our understanding of the industry in that area, identifying over 340 charcoal pits and 34 bloomeries.

Quarrying certainly took place, both for standard building stone, and high-status materials, such as Frosterley marble, although there are few quarrying remains of confirmed medieval date from the region (for Egglestone Marble, see Blacker and Mitchell 1999). An overview of the stones of Durham Cathedral has identified a number of possible quarry sites, including those near Prebend’s Bridge, St Margaret’s allotments and Kepier (Johnson and Dunham 1982) though later quarrying has destroyed much of what remained.

Salt extraction was widespread on the Cleveland coast, and substantial remains of salt mounds can still be seen around Coatham. There is also evidence for salt production at South Shields, which has produced evidence for the early use of sea coal (Thornborrow 1988).

Religion and belief

Church architecture

Some parts of the region had a relatively dense network of pre-conquest parishes, as indicated by the distribution of Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture along the Tees Valley. Other areas, particularly the upland areas of Northumberland and North Pennines, had an under-developed parochial network, and contained some of the largest parishes in England.

The Saxo-Norman transition was an important period for church architecture, with a number of survivals such as the lower stages of the tower at Heighington, as well as Jarrow, Norton, Billingham, Bywell and Ovingham. In general, the 11th century was a period of great tower building, a phenomenon which appears to have straddled the Norman Conquest. There is the potential for other survivals of transitional architecture to be identified, though these are often hard to date. For example, although they may lack diagnostic features there is clearly pre-12th-century work at a number of churches, such as Ingram and Seaton Delaval, though whether this is pre- or post-conquest is impossible to tell. Romanesque work is known most obviously from Durham Cathedral but the chancel arch at Lanchester (Co. Durham), the central tower at Jarrow (Tyne and Wear) and the north arcade at Pittington (Co. Durham) should not be omitted from any county list. In Northumberland the best examples include Lindisfarne Priory and Norham church while the rib-vaulted chancels at Heddon-on-the-Wall and Warkworth, and the chancel and sanctuary arches at Seaton Delaval are also impressive. There are only two carved tympana: at Croxdale (Co. Durham) and Houghton le Spring (Tyne and Wear).

The Gothic style arrived in the region in the late 12th century, perhaps under the influence of Hugh Le Puiset (Bishop of Durham, 1153-95), the earliest example possibly being the Collegiate church at Darlington (c. 1192). It was also adopted at other collegiate churches in the region, such as Lanchester, Hartlepool, Chester-leStreet, Ryton, Auckland St Andrew, and Staindrop. In Northumberland, Brinkburn and Hexham are good early examples of this style, though it was also used with effect at Finchale Priory (Co. Durham) and the Chapel of the Nine Altars in Durham Cathedral. Tynemouth also has late- 12th- and early-13th-century work. An important contribution to study in the region is Jane Cunningham’s PhD thesis on early Gothic architecture in the diocese of Durham (1995).

The Decorated style did not make a major impression, and no early- to mid-14th-century churches are known, though there was some remodelling, as at Wycliffe (Co. Durham). This is equally true of the Perpendicular; again few complete churches of this style are known, although Tynemouth Priory has an impressive chapel and Alnwick a late-15th-century church, both sites being strongly influenced by the patronage of the Percy family. The lack of later church elaboration from the 14th century is likely to be a reflection of the increased border conflict and unrest resulting from the Scottish wars, and it is no surprise that the one town which enjoyed economic success in this period, Newcastle, has an unusually high level of late Gothic architecture, at least in the context of the region.

An important sub-class of churches is the defensible church of the Anglo-Scottish border. A recent survey of the six historic border Marches found defensible features or elements at 96 churches or church sites (Brooke 2000). These show a high degree of local adaptation, with no evidence for broader campaigns of fortification and this probably reflects the lack of mainstream patronage in this unsettled area. Significant examples of defended churches include those at Bellingham, Elsdon and Kirk Newton. Defensive activity associated with churches also took place in County Durham, at Kirk Merrington for example, where a large defensive ditch was dug around it by William Cumyn c. 1143-44, although this is only attested in documentary evidence.

A number of hermitages are recorded in documents but only three survive today. The rock-cut hermitage at Warkworth dates to the later 14th century; carved into the living rock on the left bank of the River Coquet. Traces of a small rock-cut chapel also survive at Blackhall (Co. Durham). At Chester-le-Street, the Anker’s House, an anchorite’s cell, is built onto the north side of the church of St Mary and St Cuthbert (Drury 1987). It dates mainly to the 14th century (though there are 17th-century alterations), and is one of the best-preserved anchorite cells in the country. There is also a possible anchorite’s cell at Staindrop and there are documentary references to an anchorite at Durham Cathedral. Odd upper rooms are known at a number of churches, including Brancepeth, Corbridge, Gainford and Staindrop, and these may have had a similar function.

Church furniture

Little original stained-glass survives from the region, though important exceptions include the Jesse Window at St Mary’s in Morpeth (Northumberland), the 14thcentury glass at Ponteland and Bothal (Northumberland) and the 13th-century glass at Wycliffe (Co. Durham). Excavations at the Franciscan Priory in Hartlepool found evidence for the making of painted glass windows (Daniels 1986).

Preserved later-medieval wall paintings are also rare. In Northumberland traces of decorative schemes can be found at Bothal, Morpeth and Pittington. The decorative scheme in the Galilee Chapel in Durham Cathedral is the most important survival in that county and includes a king and a bishop (Oswald and Cuthbert?). It dates to around 1175-85; later 13th/14th-century scenes include a crucifixion and the martyrdoms of the apostles. Other paintings associated with the Cathedral include a scene in the Refectory and a 15th-century ‘Hymn to the Virgin’ in the prior’s chapel in the Deanery. A number of tiled floors also survive. When the original floor level in the Refectory at Durham Cathedral was discovered in 1961, a pavement of glazed tiles of the early 16th century was revealed. A 13th-century floor also survives in the Abbot’s Chapel at Newminster Abbey (Northumberland), and an important collection of a similar date can be found at Gisborough Priory (Teesside) (Knight and Keen 1977).

The North-East has a number of surviving medieval church furnishings. The painted wooden rood screen dated to the late 15th/early 16th century at Hexham Abbey originally displayed a 14th-century painted Dance of Death, panels of which are now mounted on the lectern next to a wooden reredos bearing painted images of bishops. An important stone reredos (the Neville Screen) also survives in Durham Cathedral. Built in Caen stone, it was consecrated in the late 14th century. Wooden chancel stalls, mainly at collegiate churches, include 15th-century examples from Staindrop, Lanchester, Auckland St Andrew (Co. Durham) and Hexham (Northumberland), as well as early-16th-century examples from Jarrow (Tyne and Wear) and Bishop Auckland (now in Durham Castle). A large medieval pulpit of late-15th-century date is preserved at Heighington (Co. Durham).

Medieval fonts are not uncommon, even if few carry extensive decoration, though the late-15th-century font from Hart (Teesside) is decorated with eight carved male heads on the foot, and the bowl carries a Resurrection scene, with angels on the underside. Figurative decoration of an earlier (13th-century) date can also be found on the font from Hepple (Northumberland). A series of similar black marble fonts of the 15th century survive in churches in Newcastle, including St Nicholas’, St John’s and All Saints’ (now in St Wilfred’s, Kirkharle). These may all have come from the same workshop. The Egglestone marble font at Barnard Castle (dated to 1485) is decorated with a number of unusual merchant marks. The discovery of a font buried beneath a stone pillar during excavations on the chapel at West Chevington (Northumberland) gives an intriguing insight into the cultural biography of some of these important liturgical items (Goodrick and Williams 1998).

Religious houses

Although a range of religious houses was established, it is the power and influence of the Benedictines which is most evident in the region. Other than the Cathedral Priory in Durham itself, the Benedictines adopted an Augustinian foundation at nearby Finchale (Co. Durham) (Jessop 1996) as a recreational retreat away from the strictures of monastic rule. Like several other monastic houses in the region, this priory derived a proportion of its earnings from local coal mining. They also re-colonised priories at Tynemouth (Jobey 1967), which was fortified against Scottish raids, and Lindisfarne (Northumberland) and more briefly at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth (Co. Durham). There are remains of smaller Northumberland cells on Coquet and Farne islands, though nothing survives of a third at Warkworth. Holystone, Lambley (Northumberland), Neasham and Newcastle all had houses of Benedictine nuns.

Other orders tended to establish houses outside the Palatinate. There is, for example, only one major Cistercian monastery, the partly excavated site at Newminster (Morpeth), a daughter house of Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire which was also responsible for a pele-tower at Nunnykirk and small bastles at Greenleighton and West Ritton (Bond 2004) and there was a Cistercian nunnery at Berwick where archaeological work has been undertaken including geophysical survey. The Augustinians had houses in Northumberland at Bamburgh, Brinkburn, Carham, Hexham and Ovingham, and further south at Baxterwood (Co. Durham) and Gisborough (Teesside) (Heslop 1995; Harrison and Heslop 1999). The Premonstratensians had abbeys at Alnwick (Hope 1936) and Blanchland and a small nunnery at Guyzance (Northumberland). Geophysical and topographical survey has been carried out at the Premonstratensian abbey at Eggleston, further south in County Durham (Figure 39). Some of the buildings of a Hospitaller preceptory (Knights of St John of Jerusalem) survive at Chibburn, including a chapel and a moat. This site is first mentioned in the 14th century, its future being threatened by coal mining until only recently.

Of the orders of friars, Knowles and Hadcock (1953) list Dominican houses at Bamburgh (slight remains), Hartlepool (masonry remains; Daniels 1986), Jarrow, Newcastle, and Yarm; Franciscans in Durham, Hartlepool and Newcastle (Daniels 1986b); Carmelites at Hulne and Newcastle. Austins at Barnard Castle and Newcastle (church survives) and, finally Trinitarians, also in Newcastle. Of these the extensive Carmelite remains at the rural site at Hulne (Reavell 1935) merit highlighting as do the excavated remains of the Dominican house in Newcastle (Harbottle 1968; 1987; Harbottle and Fraser 1987). In Northumberland the principal monastic buildings survive best at Lindisfarne and Tynemouth, the two best preserved monastic churches being at Hexham and Brinkburn, and there are fragmentary ruins elsewhere. There is nothing to be seen at Carham, Neasham, Newcastle (Benedictine nuns) or Warkworth. In County Durham, other than the cathedral buildings, there are legible monastic remains only at Eggleston and Finchale. The remains of a number of hospitals in the region also survive; the most extensive upstanding remains can still be seen at Kepier (Durham; Figure 40).

Excavation and investigation

Archaeological and building survey work by Norman Emery, the Cathedral Archaeologist, on Durham Cathedral is important and ensures that one of the region’s two World Heritage Sites is constantly monitored. A number of other small-scale archaeological investigations have taken place at the cathedral (e.g. Carne 1996). The importance of the cathedral ensures that it remains the continual focus of on-going academic investigation and re-assessment (e.g. Jackson 1993; Jarrett and Mason 1995; Bosworth 1999). Work at other important churches has been limited, though a number of small-scale investigations at Hexham Priory have been recently published and synthesised (Cambridge and Williams 1995).

Little recent research work has been undertaken on parish churches, although Peter Ryder’s archaeological investigations and surveys on behalf of Durham Diocesan Advisory Committee are extremely valuable. Excavation on church sites is limited by the fact that many are still in use as places of worship, although occasionally circumstances have intervened to allow a more detailed exploration, such as the recording work carried out by Peter Ryder following the severe fire at St Brandon’s in Brancepeth, or the dismantling of St Helen’s church in Eston before its move to Beamish. In both cases the extent of re-use of earlier stone was greater than expected.

Some archaeological work has also taken place on churches which have fallen into disuse. The chapel of ease at West Chevington was excavated in 1992, uncovering the burials in the churchyard (Goodrick and Williams 1998). The on-going Bondington Project in Berwick-upon-Tweed investigated the probable site of the church of St Mary’s, revealing a chancel, apse and substantial foundations (Cambridge et al 2001). Small-scale excavations have also taken place at the site of the chapel at Esp Green (Durham) (Clack 1979) and St Mary Magdalene in Warkworth (Pattinson 1981). The evidence for the lost church of St Nicholas in Durham Market Place has also been assembled, including evidence for its cemetery (Emery et al 1997).


 Evidence for burial comes in two main forms: burial monuments and excavation of graves. Peter Ryder has carried out an extensive survey of medieval cross-slabs, covering most areas of the region. This forms an important Figure 40 Kepier Hospital, Durham. © English Heritage Resource assessment Later Medieval 82 corpus, which should be used as a basis for further research (Ryder 1985; 1994; 2000a; 2002c; 2003a).

Around 60 effigies survive in Durham, mainly of 13th- and 14th-century date (Hunter Blair 1929). Most are carved in sandstone, though some are made from Frosterley marble, such as those at Pittington (Co. Durham). Alabaster was also used, and one of the best examples is the effigy of Ralph Neville (d. 1425) and his two wives at Staindrop church (Figure 41). Wooden effigies are known from South Church and Brancepeth (destroyed in the recent fire). In Northumberland an important group of effigies survive at Warkworth, Hexham (e.g. the effigy of Prior Leschman d. 1491) and most importantly at Chillingham, where the tomb chest carrying the effigies of Sir Ralph Gray (d. 1443) and his wife is particularly noteworthy for its sculpture (Heslop and Harbottle 1999; Hunter Blair 1930). In general, effigies are more common south of the Tyne than north, perhaps reflecting the greater relative wealth and stability in this region. A number of brasses also survive, again mostly south of the Tyne. In Newcastle, the brass to Roger Thornton (d. 1429) is important. Significant groups of brasses can also be found in Wycliffe and Sedgefield (Co. Durham).

Archaeological excavation of medieval burials is not uncommon. A number of relatively large cemeteries have been fairly extensively excavated, such as those at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow (Tyne and Wear), West Chevington (Northumberland) and The Castle, Newcastle (Cramp 2005; Boylston et al 1998; Goodrick and Williams 1998; Nolan and Harbottle forthcoming). The cemetery at the church of the Franciscans in Hartlepool has also been investigated (Daniels 1986). More typical are the smallerscale excavations in churchyards, often as a result of building work, such as at Bishop Middleham and Brancepeth (Co. Durham). In the 1930s a small cemetery was excavated at Mitford Castle, which may have been related to an early chapel (Honeyman 1955).

 As well as churches and cemeteries there are also aspects of more popular religion to be considered. Although some wayside crosses are probably post-Reformation in date, several medieval crosses do survive. Some, such as the St Helena cross at Kelloe, are architecturally elaborate (Lang 1977), but most are relatively simple in design. A regional overview of these monuments in County Durham has recently been published (Rimmington 1999).

Material culture and technology

The most common find on medieval sites is pottery, though the ceramic evidence from the region is relatively poorly understood. There is a lacuna in pottery studies in Northumberland, but the large assemblages from urban excavations from Durham, Hartlepool and Newcastle mean that these areas are better covered (e.g. Bown 1988; Cumberpatch 2001; Ellison 1983a; Fraser et al 1995; Jenner and Cooper 2001; Lowther et al 1993, 77-80; Carver 1979, 39-47; Wrathmell 1987; 1990). A major backlog project is underway to catalogue a large assemblage from the Castle; this is different in character from the Castle Ditch and contains large quantities of earlier material. However, even in areas where large amounts of ceramic material have been recovered there is a lack of synthetic overviews.

There are also assemblages of pottery from smaller towns, such as Yarm (Evans and Heslop 1985, 61-72) and Berwick (Moorhouse 1982; Jenner 1999). Material from the latter site emphasises the need to examine the pottery in a Scottish, as well as English, context (Hall et al 2000). Due to the general lack of excavation on rural sites, there are few ceramic assemblages from outside urban areas, though those from Thrislington and Castle Eden (Co. Durham), and West Whelpington (Northumberland) are significant. An important group from North Northumberland is that recovered from Holy Island, including material from excavations within the village, also recent work on the Palace site and excavation of a midden at Jenny Bell’s Well (Bown 1985; Hardie 2001). Small but interesting assemblages from Ingram in the Breamish Valley (600 frags), Alnwick (980), and Chevington (950) in Northumberland are all now progressing to publication, while another from West Hartford is at the assessment stage (Jenny Vaughan pers comm). There are also small, but crucial, ceramic assemblages from a number of medieval rural settlements in the Tees Valley (High Worsall, North Yorkshire; Elston, Stockton-on-Tees; Claxton, Hartlepool; Swainston, Co. Durham). Unfortunately, these remain unpublished (Robin Daniels pers comm). Assemblages from castle sites include those from Prudhoe and Barnard Castle (both forthcoming). A series of important analytical projects have been carried out by Alan Vince (e.g. Vince 1999; 2003).

Despite large-scale urban excavations in Hartlepool and Newcastle, the number of small finds has been relatively slight compared with assemblages from other major urban sites, such as London, Winchester, and York. Such assemblages have tended to be published with the relevant site reports and there has been no need for major synthetic finds publications such as those carried out elsewhere (e.g. Biddle, Goodall and Hinton 1990; Egan and Pritchard 1991; Ottaway, Rogers and Addyman 2002). There will be an overview of the small finds in the forthcoming synthesis of medieval Hartlepool (Daniels forthcoming).

Glass in the region has been covered by the work of Rachel Tyson (1996; 2000). The advent of the Portable Antiquities Scheme has meant an increase in the number of spot (66 since August 2003). Finds of this date are the most commonly reported, and although individually the objects are not significant, the project is extending significantly the range of certain object types known from the region, such as horse harnesses and seal matrices (Philippa Walton pers comm).

Museum and archive collections

Archival holdings

The archival holdings for the medieval period are, not surprisingly, substantial. The most important of these are those related to the Durham Palatinate and the Dean and Chapter estates. These are mainly lodged in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Durham library. The University also holds the Durham Castle Buildings Archive, including plans, drawings, photographs and documentary material. Significant archives of other pictorial records are also held here, including a range of late-19thand early-20th-century miscellaneous images in the NorthEast, many of medieval buildings.

The local records offices hold a range of useful material, both of medieval date and later. For purposes of landscape analysis, there is a wide range of tithe and enclosure maps, though those from Durham south of the Tees are mainly held at the North Yorkshire record office in Northallerton.

For churches, the main archives are those of the Diocese of Durham and Diocese of Ripon (for Durham south of the Tees). These include plans, quinquennial reports and documentation relating to faculties. This has now been supplemented by the on-line publication of significant quantities of material from the archives of the Incorporated Church Building Society, which in some cases includes the only known pre-restoration plans of churches.

Other important on-line archives include the British Museum publication of Samuel Grimm’s Northumberland sketchbook and Pictures in Print, a selection of early maps and topographical prints from the collections of Durham University Library, Durham County Council Arts, Libraries and Museums, and Durham Cathedral Library which are now viewable on the web at www.dur.ac.uk/Library/asc/pip/. Private archives, such as those belonging to Alnwick Castle and Raby Castle are undoubtedly important, but public access is less easily available.

Museum collections

There are a number of major collections of medieval objects in the region. The material from Alan Aberg’s excavations at Kilton Castle, Skelton, is held by Tees Archaeology, who also hold important material from a series of small excavations in Yarm and at Gisborough Priory; Tees Archaeology also holds pottery reference collections for Hartlepool and Yarm. Items from Gisborough Priory and Skelton Castle are held by the Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough (Teesside). In the south of the region, Hartlepool Museum Service curates material from the urban excavations in Hartlepool.

In Newcastle the Museum of Antiquities mainly holds medieval material from more recent investigations, including assemblages from the excavations at the Castle in 1960-61 (published in 1966), but it only officially started accepting medieval material from 1978. The medieval pottery there acts as a significant reference collection.

The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle holds finds and site archives for a number of excavations in County Durham, including Barnard Castle, Cambokeels, Darlington Market Place, Town Farm, Sadberge and Thrislington. The Old Fulling Mill Museum in Durham holds the finds and archives from Martin Carver’s excavations at Saddler Street, as well as finds from the Prior’s residence at Bearpark, and archives of medieval material from Claypath and Leazes Bowl.

There are also several collections of worked stone objects and architectural fragments, in addition to those at the major museums mentioned above; relevant material can be found at the Anker’s House Museum in Chester-le-Street, Woodhorn Museum in Ashington (Northumberland) and the lapidarium at Durham Cathedral.


The Post-Medieval Specialist Group consisted of Ian Ayris (Newcastle City Council), David Cranstone (Cranstone Consultants), John Gall (Beamish Museum), Fiona Green (independent historic gardens consultant), Iain Hedley (Northumberland National Parks Authority), Matthew Johnson (Dept of Archaeology, University of Southampton), John Nolan (Northern Counties Archaeological Services), and Jenny Vaughan (Northern Counties Archaeological Services).

History of research

The post-medieval (1540-1900) period in the North-East was one of radical and deep-rooted change, perhaps more so than any other period. It saw the transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial one; the shift from a primarily rural population to an urban one, the move from horsepower to, first, water, then steam, and finally internal combustion and the rise of consumerism; it encompasses both the Reformation and the rise of non-conformity.

Although the armature of today’s urban and rural landscapes was mainly laid out in this period, aspects of the postmedieval historic environment are now under threat. For example, the colliery landscapes that once dominated much of east Durham and south-east Northumberland have completely disappeared following the dismantling of the coal industry; the total removal of not just pithead buildings, but even spoil heaps, has fundamentally altered the cultural landscape of the region. The economic and social changes associated with later-20th-century de-industrialisation has also had an impact on less iconic elements of landscape of the North-East: farm buildings and non-conformist chapels are converted to holiday homes or business units, railways are uprooted and swathes of industrial workers’ housing have been cleared.

Four main constituencies within the heritage sector have been working on this period, each with differing interests and publication strategies. First are architectural historians; they have perhaps the longest tradition of researching this period. In the past much of their work has focused on higher-status, architect-designed structures, such as country houses and churches, though research has now widened to include vernacular and industrial buildings. Architectural amenity groups, such as the Georgian Group and the Victorian Society and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, have campaigned to protect historic buildings from destruction, with an increasing realisation that the most threatened structures are often the most recent. Another related group is the Garden History Society, founded in the early 1970s; although having an international interest it concentrates its efforts on England, Scotland and Wales.

The second main interest group comprises archaeologists. The Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology was founded in 1967, with the aim of promoting the archaeology of latemedieval to industrial society in Britain, Europe and those countries influenced by European colonialism. Initially focusing on the early modern period alone, the 19th and even 20th century has now fallen within its remit. Most archaeologists no longer regard post-medieval deposits as an inconvenient overburden to be removed before reaching the ‘more interesting’ medieval layers. The implementation of PPG16 in the early 1990s has had its contribution to make here. Indeed, the presumption of preservation in situ and the use of mitigation strategies should, in theory, mean that it is often only the postmedieval layers on sites which are excavated. While it is true that post-medieval and medieval layers are sometimes being machined off to fast-track investigation of earlier stratigraphy, significant levels of archaeological work are now being carried out in urban contexts, where post-medieval material often constitutes the majority of the assemblage (Figure 42).

A third group, industrial archaeologists, has traditionally dominated the study of the later post-medieval period (Figure 43). Work on the surviving remains of the industrial revolution goes back to the pre-war period, though it really developed in the 1950s (Hudson 1981b, 155-182). Sometimes criticised for an over-emphasis on industrial process and technology, there is an increased interest in many of the wider, social elements of industrialisation, and therefore a welcome convergence of interests with other archaeologists (Cranstone 2004).

Finally, the role of special interest groups, mainly run by amateurs working outside the formal heritage sector, is of great value. Groups investigate a wide range of topics, ranging from mills to war memorials, non-conformist chapels to 19th-century gun emplacements. There is also a number of history projects and societies studying the history and heritage of localities (parish or village). In many areas of the North-East these tend to focus on the recent industrial heritage, particularly where these industries have now disappeared. Though they have been responsible for creating and recording large amounts of important data, there is often some hesitancy on the part of special interest groups to engage with formal channels of scholarly communication.

Existing research frameworks

The creation of research agendas is one most practitioners would associate with the archaeological community; it is not found widely elsewhere in the heritage sector. This may be partly for institutional and professional reasons. The first English Heritage research framework was produced in the early 1990s and the project design specification provided by MAP2 (English Heritage 1991) recommended that reference be made to existing research frameworks and agendas. Since then most of the main period groups and several more specialist bodies have gone on to compose frameworks and priorities for further research. For this period the main agenda was set by the Research priorities for post-medieval archaeology (SPMA 1988); work being currently underway by the period society to update its content (Paul Belford pers comm). There have also been a number of individual suggestions for avenues of further research (e.g. Johnson 2002).

Specific aspects of this period, such as urbanism and agriculture, also have research agendas of their own, both formal (Perring et al 2002) and informal (Addyman 2003; Graves 2002; Newman 2005). A systematic agenda for church archaeology, for example, including the present period, has been published (Blair and Pyrah 1996), as have suggestions for approaches to burials (Harding 1998). Industrial archaeology also has a number of suggested programmes for research (e.g. Linsley 2002). The Historical Metallurgy Society has a formal research agenda (Blick et al 1991), currently being revised and extended (Ponting forthcoming); the Association of Industrial Archaeology has recently published a set of studies debating the current and future state of the discipline (Conlin-Cassella and Symonds 2005). The North-East Industrial Archaeology Panel has also produced a list of local priorities for research (Giles 1998).

Environmental background

In general, environmental archaeological work has tended to focus on earlier periods, and less so on the more recent past. The long tradition of using peat as a fuel across much of the region means that the upper layers of many peat deposits have been removed, truncating those layers which would retain post-medieval pollen.

There has also been relatively little investigation of postmedieval charred plant remains. Apart from a corn-drying kiln at Loaning Burn, Otterburn (Northumberland), which produced 80% oats and 20% barley, post-medieval assemblages are dominated by those from urban contexts (Donaldson 1982). These include material from the 17thcentury bastion ditch at Newcastle, which was thought to include night soil. Analysis showed conifer fragments (Donaldson 1983). An assemblage from Westgate Road (Cannon Cinema), Newcastle also produced a small quantity of carbonised cereal grain, including oats, 6-row barley and wheat, as well as a single grain of rye; the waterlogged remains of figs, grapes, blackberries, elderberries and strawberries were also recovered (Huntley 1994). Interestingly, the assemblage from Old Durham Gardens may represent the medicinal or garden use of a range of plants, including pinks (Dianthus), St John’s Wort (Hypericum), and woundwort (Stachys) (Allen and Roberts 1994).

Few suites of non-vertebrate remains have been analysed. There are two small groups of snails (17th-century) from Barnard Castle (Kenward forthcoming), and also from Queens Court 2, North Bailey, Durham, and the Cordwainer’s site, Blackfriars, Newcastle (Rackham 1980a; 1987a). In practical terms, this lack of evidence for invertebrate remains partly reflects the lack of analytical work undertaken. It is rare for environmental samples obtained as part of PPG16-led excavation to be analysed due to the prohibitive costs (Jacqui Huntley pers comm).

Again, there are few substantial animal bone assemblages. The significant post-medieval assemblages tend to come from the same sites as the main medieval assemblages: Newcastle and Durham, Jarrow and Monkwearmouth (e.g. Noddle 1987; 1992; Rackham 1987a). There are far fewer rural assemblages, and only one from an industrial site (Derwentcote, Co. Durham) (Gidney 1997).


The surviving post-medieval building stock is extensive and this overview can do no more than introduce some of the more important strands. The most distinctive early-modern architectural form in the region was the bastle house and its derivative forms (Dixon 1979; Ramm et al 1970; Ryder 1993b; 2004b). Essentially defensive farmhouses with a number of distinctive characteristics (e.g. a stone vaulted ground floor used as a byre with living space above), and broadly dating to the 16th and 17th centuries, their construction appears to have been triggered by the instability and violence associated with Border reiving. They are mainly distributed within 30km of the Scottish border, particularly around the upper reaches of the North Tyne, Rede and Coquet, though recent work by Peter Ryder has shown that bastles are also found south of the Wall in Allendale and even as far south as upper Weardale (Ryder 1993b). The majority of known bastles are protected by Listing, but there is a significant minority not protected by legislation, particularly those which were later transformed into 18th/19th-century farmhouses. A survey carried out by Peter Ryder on behalf of Northumberland County Council has revisited all known bastles and similar defensive structures in the county (Ryder 2004b), but there has been only limited archaeological work (e.g. Newman and Harbottle 1973). There are also a number of post-medieval tower houses in the region. Elsdon Tower, although it probably contains earlier elements, is essentially a late tower house of mid- or late- 16th-century date (Ryder 2004b, 262-263). There have been relatively few attempts to place bastles in their wider landscapes (though see Carlton and Rushworth 2004).

The advent of gunpowder warfare led to redundancy in the defensive function of castles. In some cases, leading families responded to this by allowing castles to fall out of use and building new houses instead. Many castles, however, continued to act as the core for later building. The ‘afterlife’ of castles was often of great significance. At Belsay (Northumberland) a range of 17th-century buildings was added to the existing 15th-century tower and Chillingham Castle (Northumberland) was remodelled in the early 17th century, opening up and elaborating the main entrances. In the mid 18th century Alnwick Castle (Northumberland) was heavily restored and subject to extensive Gothic alterations, this time under the supervision of Robert Adam and James Paine. In Durham, Raby Castle was heavily altered in the early 17th century and again in the 18th century, under the supervision of James Paine and John Carr, who were responsible for further Gothic remodelling. Walworth Castle was altered by its owner, Thomas Jennison, Auditor of Ireland, in the later 16th century, when a fine classical frontispiece was added.

Durham and Northumberland lack major 16th- and 17thcentury showcase houses. In Northumberland bastles continue to dominate into the early 17th century; indeed most dated examples cluster in the first decade of the 17th century (Ryder 2004b, 265). In the 18th and 19th centuries it was not uncommon for the front wall to be rebuilt providing a new façade, giving the external appearance of a more typical farmhouse (Ryder 2004b, 269). In the later 17th and 18th centuries bastles sometimes developed into typical linear farms as further structures were added. Examples include the bastles at Stokoe Crags in the North Tyne Valley, and Sinderhope Shield in Allendale (Ryder 2004b, 269; 1992b). Bastle-style architecture, however, continued to influence local architectural styles in the 18th century so that, in the Alston Moor area, ‘bastle-dervivative’ houses continued to be used, complete with the tradition of firstfloor living, whereas farmhouses such as Stobbs (Tarset) and Redheugh (Rochester), both of mid-18th-century date, included thick walls and boulder plinths (Ryder 2004b, 271). Among the fine examples of altered tower-houses is that at Chipchase Castle, where a Jacobean house was added to a 14th-century tower (Figure 44). In Durham and Cleveland the most representative forms of 17th-century buildings are the stone manor houses, usually rectangular with a crosspassage. Good examples include Gainford Hall, Washington Hall, and Crook Hall. This tradition of manor houses and yeoman farmhouses continued into the 18th century, though there was an increase in Georgian classical symmetry (Harrison and Hutton 1984). Similar trends in cross-passage houses are also to be found in the North Pennines (Brunskill 1975), and in both areas the classical exteriors could mask a more traditional internal spatial organisation (e.g. High Green, Mickleton). The issue of social change and its relation to architectural form in the North-East has recently been explored by Adrian Green (1998; 2000; 2003).

As elsewhere in the country, fashions in stately homes followed the broad path from Classicism to Gothic revival. Good examples of Classicism include St Helen’s Hall, Bishop Auckland (Co. Durham), Belsay Hall (Northumberland) and Wynyard Park (Teesside), while major Gothic houses include both Ewart Park (Northumberland) and Ravensworth Castle (Tyne and Wear; though little survives here). Wider works on the Gothic revival in the North-East include James Macaulay’s research on northern England and Scotland (Macaulay 1975), and the study of James Paine by Peter Leach (1988). The area is also home to some important late country houses, including Lord Armstrong’s house at Cragside in a setting described by Pevsner as ‘Wagnerian’ (Grundy et al 1992, 244). The house is particularly important for Armstrong’s innovative use of technology on the site, including hydroelectric power (Reed 2004).

Within the towns of the region, almost all the building stock is post-medieval. There is a number of important 16th- and early-17th-century houses, such as Bessie Surtees house, the Red Hill complex and Alderman Fenwicks’ House in Newcastle. These share many architectural elements in common, including the use of elaborate timber framing and extensive use of long ranges of windows on the street frontages (Graves 2003). They also share many internal decorative features, such as plaster ceiling motifs (Heslop and McCombie 1996, 153). There were many changes in the ‘townscape’ of postmedieval towns, so that although in the medieval period high-status merchant houses were distributed right across the town, these elaborate ‘glass-fronted’ timber-framed buildings appear to have been concentrated along the river front and the lower town (Graves 2003, 38-42).

There were wider changes in the settlement patterns of the region in the post-medieval period. Most apparent was the massive expansion of urbanism; Gateshead, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Stockton and Sunderland were among the major towns to expand due to a massive increase in industrial production and the associated demand for labour. Going hand-in-hand with urban expansion there is continued evidence for rural settlement shrinkage and desertion. At West Whelpington, for example, there was a major phase of settlement reduction in the late 17th century, which was followed by forced depopulation in 1720 (Wrathmell and Jarrett 1977). Settlement depopulation often resulted from the conversion of open field townships into a series of severalty farm holdings (Wrathmell 1980).

Despite the decline in size of some agricultural villages there was a rapid expansion in specialist industrial villages. In east Durham and south-east Northumberland these were mainly colliery villages, but there was also an expansion and creation of lead-mining villages in the North Pennines, such as Blanchland, Middleton-in-Teesdale and St John’s Chapel (Hunt 1970/84).

An important, and very early, specialist industrial village was Winlaton Mill, built around 1700 by the Crowley ironmasters as part of their massive ironworks complex. Although the old village was demolished for slum clearance in the 1930s, parts still survive as ruins and earthworks, and belowground survival of most of the settlement, together with the artefact assemblages of its residents, is likely to be good (Cranstone 1991b).


The post-medieval period saw significant changes in farming and agriculture in the North-East. In upland regions, such as the North Pennines and the Cheviots, the practice of seasonal transhumance came to an end. Many shielings ceased to be used, though in some cases temporary shielings were transformed into farms, and there was a move towards more permanent settlement in the uplands. Post-medieval shieling grounds are recorded in Wark, North Tynedale, Redesdale, Kidland and upper Coquetdale in Northumberland (Winchester 2000, 85). These were in the heart of raiding country, and it is possible that the practice survived there because it provided a means of utilising upland pastures in areas too turbulent to settle permanently. Both in Northumberland and North Pennines the practice seems to have finally fallen out of use by the late 1600s. Survey at Davyshiel on the Otterburn Ranges indicated, however, that here a medieval landscape of ridge-and-furrow arable was bounded upwards by a head-dyke, with hamlet-type settlement along it, which was replaced (presumably in the 16th-17th centuries) by at least one bastle, associated with enclosed pasture which overlay the former arable fields (LUAU/NUAP 1997, 38-39).

One major challenge is to distinguish between medieval and post-medieval shielings, and between post-medieval shielings and more permanent farmsteads. Many such sites have been investigated by excavation or survey (e.g. Charlton and Day 1979; Coggins 1986, sites nos 30, 39, 42, 76, 79; Harbottle and Newman 1973; 1977; Hillelson 1983; Jobey 1977; Ramm et al 1970). This work has produced a range of artefactual evidence, but it has not proved possible to date structures on morphological grounds alone. Survey work on Otterburn suggests that the only datable agricultural structures are the dressed stone linear farmhouses of 18th- and 19th-century date (Charlton and Day 1979, 220)

The 17th and 18th centuries also saw changes in land tenure in upland areas, with a move from customary tenure to leasehold tenure. This led to the formation of larger farms and the division of common land, first by private agreement and later by Inclosure Award. The gradual encroachment of farming into areas which had previously been rough, open pasture led to packets of reclaimed land beyond the head-dyke being added to the traditional ploughlands and meadows (Winchester 2000, 68-73). This could take place as a result of lordly or community initiatives or through individual encroachments. For example, in Teesdale Lady Jane Bowes enclosed 200 acres in around 1590. The process of ‘intaking’, even when applying to communal land, was often undertaken by individual farms. In turn, this may have stimulated land improvements, such as land drainage, liming and construction of stone walls. The Otterburn survey suggests that many of the stone walls and sodcast dykes on the south side of the estate are probably of 18th-century date or later (Charlton and Day 1979, 217).

 An important phenomenon on the Anglo-Scottish border was the practice of long-distance livestock (cattle and sheep) droving. The heyday for this was between the 17th and early 19th centuries. The courses of the major droving routes, such as Gammels Path, The Street, Clennel Street and the Carter Bar route are well known (Cowper 1970-71). Some archaeological evidence also survives in the form of a series of turf cross-dykes, which were probably used to confine stock to the path where it was unclear.

Less work has been carried out on lowland agricultural landscapes. As with most regions, the 16th and 17th centuries saw the progress of enclosure, with further Parliamentary enclosure in the mid 18th to mid 19th centuries (Hodgson 1979; Butlin 1964, 1967). The enclosure of former lowland wastes is responsible for the lowland ‘moor’ place-names. Little larger-scale landscape survey work has been undertaken, though retrogressive landscape analysis has been carried out in the South Tyne area and Sherburn and Shadforth (Tolan-Smith 1997c; Heppell and Clack 1991).

More work has been undertaken on the architecture of agricultural buildings. The North-East Vernacular Architectural Group has carried out an extensive survey of vernacular farmhouses and related structures. In much of the upland areas the typical form was the byre-house. In the North Pennines, these often retained elements of the older bastle tradition, particularly first-floor accommodation reached by external stairs above a ground floor byre, for example at Spartylee House (Co. Durham) (NEVAG 1997; see also Ryder 1993b). Other regional traditions include the use of heather thatch, particularly in the North Pennines, though few structures still retain the ‘black thatch’ (Emery 1986; Emery et al 1990). In general, more research has been carried out on the buildings of Weardale, Teesdale and the North Pennines than of Northumberland, but it would appear that in the 19th century the uplands also went through a period of ‘improvement’. Although not as intense as in the lowland, there were significant alterations to many upland farmsteads, covered stock yards and sheds were added and networks of external enclosures for stock control (Barnwell 2000). Despite the widespread distribution of other upland stock control and sheltering features, such as bields, carricks and folds, there has been little systematic survey.

 In lowland areas, particularly the Northumberland coastal plain and southern Durham, the pace of agricultural change was hastened by agriculturalists experimenting with new crops, animal breeding and other agricultural innovations. They were responsible for the construction of model farms (Wade-Martins 2002), a regional survey of which took place as part of the English Heritage MPP programme (WadeMartins et al 1997). Northumberland has a particularly extensive range of surviving examples which may reflect the large number of landowners of over 3,000 acres, as well as its role as a centre of agricultural improvement. Forty-three model farms are protected by Listing (all Grade II). Notable examples include Park Farm, Denwick, built by the Dukes of Northumberland with its fine classical façade; and the elaborate farm with covered yards at Ford Farm, Crookham Westfield. In County Durham only four model farms are listed (3 Grade II, 1 Grade II*), though there are notable early examples (c. 1750) on the Raby estate (Home Farm and Hill Farm). An important later example (not listed) is Ushaw Farm by Joseph Hansom (1850-51) built as part of Ushaw College, a Catholic seminary. A final phenomenon in farm design was the advent of machinery; both horse-driven gin-gangs and latterly steam-powered engines (Linsley 1985). This led to the construction of distinctive structures to accommodate the machinery. Photographic work by Stafford Linsley has recorded many such engine houses, a large number of which have subsequently disappeared.

Fishing also had an effect on the post-medieval landscape, both riverine and coastal. The use of fish traps must have been widespread, with late examples in the form of stone banks known at Budle Bay (Northumberland). The salmon fishing industry in the Tweed was important for the local economy and the sites of several fishing shielings are known. Fishing became increasingly important as a leisure activity with the rise in popularity of game fishing. An increased interest was taken in the welfare of fish in local rivers; for example, a fish-ladder was built at Netherton to allow fish to avoid the weir created as part of Lord Armstrong’s hydroelectric scheme at Cragside. Other fishladders are known at Bothal on the Wansbeck.

Designed landscape

with Fiona Green

There are no certain 16th-century formal gardens in the region, though it is possible that the earthworks of an ornamental garden with associated water features discovered at Hylton Castle, Sunderland, may date to this period (Morley and Speak 2003). There are a number of gardens in Durham City that date to after the Civil War, such as Bishop Cosin’s garden on the castle motte; John Heath’s Old Durham Gardens and Prebend’s Walk were all laid out in the years following the Restoration. Of a similar date is Robert Trollope’s garden at Capheaton dating to 1668, which is shown in a painting with an enclosed court to the south and side courts with fountains and formal planting (Harris 1979). A plan of 1698 also shows groups of trees planted in squares and circles at Croxdale Hall.

The 18th century was the prime period for gardens in the North-East. In the early 18th century the Millbank family landscaped the steep north-facing bank at Barningham with a series of curved terraces. These reflect the early- 18th-century preoccupation with viewing the landscape as a painting or theatre set. The Raby Castle estate was reworked a number of times during the 18th century with proposals for buildings from Daniel Garrett, James Paine, Sir Thomas Robinson, John Carr and landscape advice from Canon Joseph Spence. An ambitious garden landscape was also created by Sir Walter Blackett at Wallington between 1728 and 1777. This includes parkland to the south with the remains of a little-known formal access and West Wood, which has now been subsumed by later plantations. Armstrong’s 1769 map of Northumberland and Durham shows a number of estates which were recently completed by the time it was published. North of the Tyne, Woolsington Hall, Gosforth House, Heaton Hall, Benton Hall and Fenham Hall are shown. South of the Tyne, in proximity to Gibside and Ravensworth, Axwell Hall, Stella Hall and Dunston Hall were all built by coal owners. Gibside (Tyne and Wear) is a 150ha park laid out in the early/mid 18th century; it has a series of intersecting axial avenues and is provided with a series of scenic buildings, including a chapel and a banqueting room (Desmond 1994; Wills 1995). Now under the guardianship of the National Trust, it has been the focus of a conservation plan and English Heritage survey. Of commensurate importance is the broadly contemporary Hardwick Park (Durham); parts of the layout and buildings here were designed by James Paine. Although much of the original park survived, its condition was deteriorating badly, and since 1997 it has been the centre of a major restoration project, involving archaeological and architectural recording (Desmond nd; Friends of Hardwick Park nd). Important park landscapes designed by ‘Capability’ Brown, a native Northumbrian, include Kirkharle Hall (c. 1770) and Alnwick Castle; he also undoubtedly influenced the gardens at Wallington Hall (Wallis 1980).

Rokeby Park was built by the distinguished amateur architect, Sir Thomas Robinson, between 1725 and 1730. Its famed ‘picturesque’ qualities drew visitors during the 19th century. Similar qualities were found at Castle Eden Dene and Durham Riverbanks. The quarry gardens at Belsay Hall created in the early 19th century are thought to be one of the best examples of a ‘Picturesque’ garden. Recently, archaeological survey has taken place on the gardens at Alnwick Castle, revealing Victorian parterres and earlier, 18th-century features. Standing building recording also took place there on mid-19th-century hothouses (TaylorWilson 2001).

The region continued to prosper during the 19th century, and this is reflected by the numerous smaller estates which sprang up around Newcastle and Gateshead. Many included denes as part of pleasure grounds, where woodland gardens were developed. Examples are found at Whinney House in Gateshead and Allen Banks in Northumberland. Some of these denes were even renamed ‘glens’, at the Valley Gardens, Saltburn and Jesmond Dene. Jesmond Dene was the forerunner to Lord Armstrong’s monumental woodland garden at Cragside. An important, but unpublished, assessment of all designed landscapes in the old County of Northumberland was carried out by a group of volunteers from the Northumbria Gardens Trust, based on analysis of the first and second editions of the 6 inch Ordnance Survey sheets. It is hoped that this work will be fed into a national database being developed by the Association of Gardens Trust and others, and that the process of analysis can be extended to old County Durham in the future. It will provide a more comprehensive view of the development and extent of designed landscapes in the region.

 Before the turn of the 19th century most parishioners, conformist or otherwise, were buried in churchyard or chapel cemeteries. But with overcrowding and the health hazards that presented, larger privately owned sites now came into being as commercial ventures. An early example is the Westgate Hill Cemetery Company which was formed in 1829, only four years after the Liverpool Necropolis, and extended over 3 acres of unconsecrated ground. It was thought at the time to have been laid out in the style of Père-Lachaise, the widely admired Parisian cemetery laid out like a landscaped park with its avenues of tombs and eye-catching vistas. A prospectus for Newcastle General Cemetery was published in 1834, the design was by Dobson and influenced by the landscape gardener John Claudius Loudon. After the Burial Act of 1853 cemeteries were built in collaboration by local authorities and churches through the formation of burial boards. Cemeteries created at this time include All Saint’s Cemetery in 1855 (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Gateshead East Cemetery (1862) and Harton Cemetery, South Shields (1890).

The Forth was a square outside Newcastle city walls and was used communally. Celia Fiennes mentions the Forth in the journal of her travels between 1685-1712: ‘There is a very pleasant bowling green a little walke out of town with a large gravel walke round it with two rows of trees on each side making it very shady; there is a fine entertaining house which makes up the fourth side before which is a pretty paved walke under pyasoes [piazzas] of brick…’ (Morris 1995, 177). In the early 19th century the orchards and gardens were still there.

The North-East was slow to develop public parks in comparison with other parts of the country. The first public park was at Darlington, when Bellasis Park, later called South Park, was in operation by 1853. Mowbray Park in Sunderland was opened in the 1850s, but it was not until 1876 that Saltwell Park in Gateshead was laid out by Edward Kemp partly in the grounds of Slatwell Towers, a mansion built by stained-glass manufacturer William Wailes. In 1884 Lord Armstrong donated the Armstrong Park, which included Jesmond Dene, to Newcastle-uponTyne (Green 1995). Public parks also provided suitable contexts for an increased number of public monuments in the 19th century, particularly statues of local dignitaries and national heroes. A recent survey has been undertaken to record the public monuments of the North-East (Usherwood et al 2000).

In the post-medieval period parkland became more than a mere economic resource, and there was a greater emphasis on its symbolic and aesthetic dimensions. Although deer-parks survived into the 18th century, there was increased investment in their appearance, as reflected by the Gothic deer house built in 1760 in Auckland Park. Other deer parks which went through a process of landscaping include Raby Castle and Brancepeth Castle. Both Auckland Park and Brancepeth Park have been the subject of Durham County Council conservation plans.

An important and understudied aspect of landscapes of leisure is the material remains of the rural landscape that were developed for field sports. In upland areas, particularly the Cheviots and the North Pennines, monuments relating to grouse shooting, including shooting butts and other shooting stands and bothies, are common. Although some appear on the relevant Site and Monument Records there has been little coherent survey of these sites, though some were recorded as part of the Otterburn Survey (Charlton and Day 1979). The intentional planting of trees as coverts for pheasants and foxes was certainly carried out. Game cover was planted at Raby Castle, early in the 19th century by reinforcing old clumps with thorn, rowan, white-beam and lilac. Game shooting even led to the construction of the occasional architectural oddity. When Sir Frederick Mailbank moved his shoot from Wemmergill Moor to Barningham Moor he took with him a pink granite obelisk commemorating him shooting 190 grouse during a 20- minute drive in August 1872.

Tree and plant nurseries also became increasingly important in the 18th and 19th centuries. There was an 18th-century nursery at Cottingwood, Morpeth, for the Earl of Carlisle’s estate, and some elements of the nursery landscape survive.

Industry and technology

with David Cranstone

The post-medieval period saw a massive increase in industry, reflecting and causing technological changes, new patterns in social organisations and an increased demand for consumer goods, both within Britain and in its burgeoning empire. In an attempt to impose some structure on the vast array of data this review of industrial archaeology will be structured around the topic-based grouping of industry used by the English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme (Cranstone 1995).

Extractive industries: coal mining

By the end of the medieval period the coal industry was already important both to the region and nationally. From its initial centres around the lower Tyne and middle Wear, it had spread by the early 19th century to dominate most of lowland County Durham and south Northumberland. The development of technology both within the coal industry itself and in its associated infrastructure (most notably waggonways and railways) was fundamental to the industrial and social development of the North-East. The level of urbanisation and development in the former core areas of the coalfield, coupled with the recent focus on regeneration, and active political hostility to preservation or recording during the final phases of closure, has resulted however in the virtually complete destruction of the above-ground remains of the 19th- and 20th-century heyday of the industry. Even the once-dominant spoilheaps have been removed from the landscape. Consequently the surviving visible features of the industry are dominated by the earlier phases of our period, and by peripheral areas, at least in terms of the 19th/20thcentury peak of the industry.

Earthwork field remains include the important early mining landscapes at Mallygill Wood and Cockfield Fell (Co. Durham) (the former probably including late medieval elements), fragments of the Tyneside core area at Whickham and Lands Wood (Tyne and Wear), and the relatively late shaft-mound landscape at Alnwick Moor (Northumberland). The transition from this ‘extensive’ mining to the later nucleated colliery is illustrated by the early ‘coalmill’ (water-powered pumping station) at Ravensworth, the semi-nucleated Dewley Pits mining landscape (both Tyne and Wear), and the water-powered Bob Ginns Pit (Northumberland). Remains of the late-18th to 20th-century nucleated collieries survive more often as standing buildings; the early-19th-century pithead complex at Stublick Colliery is outstanding, and substantial remains can also be found at Scremerston and Ford collieries (Northumberland), Springwell Colliery and Philadelphia colliery workshops (Tyne and Wear), and New Copley Colliery (Durham). The Friar’s Goose engine house (Tyne and Wear) is important for its relatively early date, and its role as a centralised pumping station for much of the lower Tyne coalfield area. In addition to the collieries themselves, the region was important for its coke ovens. Several examples survive, of which East Hedleyhope is perhaps the most important. The major preserved sites of Woodhorn Colliery (Figure 45) and Washington F Pit are primarily 20th century.

Relatively little excavation has taken place on the remains of the industry, the most notable being Wallsend Colliery B Pit (Oram et al 1998) and Lambton D Pit (Ayris et al 1998). It is important to note that at Wallsend B the focus was on clearing the site for conservation of the remains; this meant that the work was mainly the removal of demolition debris. A basic structural sequence was nonetheless delineated. At Lambton, the excavation area focused on the waggonway system, but included part of the pithead complex, including the important remains of a boiler house and rail-head platform. The results from these two excavations emphasise the likely widespread nature, and potential importance, of below-ground remains throughout the former coalfield areas. Despite the prevalence of recent opencasting, it is likely that important underground colliery workings will also survive, most notably in the core late-medieval to early postmedieval centres of the coalfield.

A final resource, which is only now beginning to be exploited, is oral history. The relatively recent demise of the industry means that there are still many individuals with first-hand experience and memories of the industry. This rich seam is beginning to be worked by projects such as the Durham Miner Project, run by Durham County Council.

Extractive industries: lead mining

If the culture and economy of much of the lowland North-East in the 19th century was molded by the coal industry, then that of the North Pennines was heavily influenced by the rise of the lead mining industry. The peak of this industry was the late 18th and 19th centuries; rapid decline set in the 1880s, and the last major lead mine (Boltsburn, Co. Durham) closed in the 1930s. Unlike the coalfields, the lack of pressure on land in the uplands means that most of the lead-mining areas have returned to rough pasture. This has lead to the survival of significant number of field monuments and the landscapes related to the industry (Figure 46). It is possible to divide the archaeology of the lead industry into four related categories: mining, ore dressing, smelting and lead processing.

The remains of the mining are perhaps the most extensive. Many shafts and hushes are visible, though there has been little overall attempt to map these features. Whereas some of these sites are very obvious, it is not always easy to distinguish sinkholes from shafts and hushed streams from naturally eroded features. There is also a significant number of well-preserved complexes of mine buildings and associated structures, tending to be of later date than the earthwork and landscape remains. In general, early mining was dominated by closely spaced small shafts along the vein, with ore and water being wound by hand windlasses or horse gins. This mode of extraction was broadly succeeded in the 18th century by the use of long levels or adits (horizontal tunnels) for drainage and access, driven from valley sides to access the vein at depth. Drainage below adit level was typically by water-powered pumps, though hydraulic engines were also used, notably in the Allendale mines. From the end of the 18th century, large shaft mines drained by steam engines were also employed, though (unlike many orefields) they never came to dominate the North Pennine lead industry; adit mines remained common, and shaft mines were generally drained and pumped by water-power rather than steam.

Ore dressing (the process of concentrating run-of-mine ‘bouse’, holding only a few percent of lead, into a concentrate suitable for smelting) was normally performed at the mine. In principle, the process involved manual ‘picking’ to separate out clean ore and waste, then breaking to a uniform size, followed by gravity separation of the heavy lead ore from the lighter waste, either in the hotching tub/jigger (relying on vertical separation of gravel-size material, agitated in a sieve) or in the buddle (relying on the horizontal separation of sand-size material in a flow of water). From the 16th to the 18th centuries, breaking was normally by manual hammering or crushing, using ‘buckers’ beating ore on a stone base; separation was mainly in the hotching tub (a tub containing a manually shaken sieve). In the 19th century, processes were increasingly mechanised (largely using water- rather than steam-power), and became more sophisticated and complex (though ‘clean’ ore was still separated by manual means until late in the century, as witnessed by the 1870s complex at Killhope, where the bulk of production was from the unpowered dressing floor, with only the ‘middlings’ that did not separate cleanly being passed to the mechanised mill which dominates the site). Mechanised crushing was largely by the roller crusher, and by mid century the hotching was increasingly mechanised as the jigger. Buddling was increasingly used to reprocess fine-grained material that could not be processed in the jiggers, and buddles were in their turn mechanised to produce the ’round buddle’, a prominent feature of many later-19th-century sites. Other late developments included the jaw crusher, and the Brunton buddle (an endless-loop conveyor belt, used for processing very fine residues). Settling tanks also became increasingly extensive and were used to retain the finer-grained tailings from the dressing process (both for reprocessing and, by the end of the century, for pollution control).

As well as the technology, the field form of mining and ore-dressing remains reflects the social and economic structures within which the industry operated. Blackburn sees the mining landscapes of Weardale as reflecting four distinct technological, social, and economic phases from the 16th to the early 20th centuries (with a fifth phase, of closure and destruction, during the 20th century) (Blackburn 2004).

With the exception of hushes (Cranstone 1992), field evidence of 16th- to early-18th-century mining and oredressing has not yet been clearly characterised within the region, though it is likely to be extensive within the upland mining landscapes of the orefield. The Pikelaw mines, hushes, and dressing area form an extensive and impressive mining landscape in Teesdale, while Burntshieldhaugh hush and crushing mill (Northumberland) form a well-preserved example from the final phase of extensive mining. The Coldberry Gutter forms a particularly dramatic hush, in association with a later adit mine and dressing floors. The early phases of mechanisation are illustrated by the remains at Beldon and Shildon, Northumberland (both with Boulton and Watt engine houses, forming relatively unusual, and short-lived, examples of steam power in North Pennine lead mining), and also by elements of the Derwent Mines complex (an extensive and multi-phase mining landscape, including smelt-mills as well as mines and dressing floors). Well-preserved mid- to late-19th-century mines and dressing floors include those at Greenhurth, Greenlaws, Killhope, and Middlehope/Slitt (all Co. Durham), and Allenheads, Carrshields, Holmes Linn, and Mohopehead (Northumberland). The late phases of North Pennine mining are illustrated by Lady’s Rake (Co. Durham), and Langley Barony and Stonecroft (Northumberland). The only extensive excavation has been at Killhope (Cranstone 1989; see also Cranstone and Hedley 1994), where both the unmechanised dressing floor and the contemporaneous mechanised dressing mill (comprised of crusher, jigger house, and buddle house, all powered by a single large iron waterwheel) have been conserved and displayed.

It is presumed that the lead ore was still smelted in boles (‘bales’ in North Pennine dialect) in the 16th century. Sites are known from place-name evidence, but little surface field evidence is visible, and no excavation has been carried out. The slags from bales were probably crushed and re-smelted in slag hearths or ‘smeltings’, some at least probably water-powered, but again no investigation has yet been undertaken. The ore-hearth smelt-mill probably replaced the bale in the late 16th century (by analogy with Derbyshire; Kiernan 1989). This was a small open hearth blown by water-powered bellows, and fuelled initially with charcoal (though by the 18th century peat and poorquality coal were used). The slags were broken up (often by use of a stamping mill, the main use of this technology in the Pennine lead industry), and re-smelted in cokefuelled slag hearths, normally within the same smelt-mill. Earthwork remains of early ore-hearth smelt-mills survive at Rookhope and Stanhope (the former recently damaged, despite its Scheduled status). The coal-fuelled reverberatory smelting furnace was introduced in the early 18th century, and largely replaced the ore hearth within the region. By the 19th century, smelt-mills were large building complexes, with roasting, smelting, and cupellation furnaces, slag hearths, flue systems, and remote chimneys. Interesting examples within the region include Feldon, Gaunless (chimney), and Stanhope (flue system) mills in County Durham, and Allen, Dukesfield, and Langley smelt-mills in Northumberland.

North Pennine lead ores normally contained traces of silver. This passed into the lead on smelting, and was recovered (if in economic quantities) by cupellation (in which the lead metal was oxidised to litharge in a reverberatory furnace with additional air blast, leaving the molten silver behind). Developments in the 19th century included the Pattinson process (in which molten lead was crystallised in a series of pans, concentrating the silver into a single pan of ‘rich lead’ for cupellation), and the Parkes process (in which zinc was used to extract the silver from the lead). The house for the Pattinson pans survives at Allen smelt-mill.

The final element of the lead industry was the actual processing of the lead, which was sent from the smelt-mill in the form of pigs. The processing of this lead often left little archaeological evidence. Sheet lead was cast on a smooth bed of sand; the presence of sand found associated with the site of a lead smelt-mill at Woodland (Durham) might be an indicator of lead sheet manufacture. Other lead products include red lead (lead oxide) made by re-melting lead in a reverbatory furnace in an oxidising atmosphere. There is little distinctive about such furnaces, although they may be slightly smaller than smelt furnaces. There is the potential for recognising such sites through residue analysis. White lead (lead carbonate), used as a pigment in paint, was made by exposing thin lead sheets to vinegar fumes in a warm damp atmosphere; the sheets were suspended over vinegar in pots within brick ‘stacks’, and warmed by the decomposition of horse dung on the floor of the stack. The most distinctive lead-working process was the manufacture of shot, which was made by dropping molten lead from a great height into water. Although a tower survived at Elswick in Newcastle until the late 1960s, there are none now in the region. In some cases specially converted mineshafts were used; this was known at Cockfield Fell in County Durham where a coal shaft was used in this manner. Leadworks, often using all the above processes, tended to be located in urban areas rather than on the orefield. Excavation has been undertaken at the Ouseburn and Gallowgate works in Newcastle, and is commencing at the Elswick leadworks (Jennifer Morrison pers comm).

 Extractive industries: other vein minerals

In the 19th century there was diversification in the minerals being mined in the North Pennines; zinc was extracted from the early 19th century onwards, and mining of non-metallic minerals such as barytes, witherite, and fluorspar began later in the century, becoming the last surviving element of the North Pennine mining industry in the later 20th century. This was a reaction both to the declining value of lead as other European and American sources were opened up and to the increasing importance of the chemical industry, which demanded such substances as fluorspar, witherite and barytes. Much of the 19th-century production was as a by-product from what were primarily lead mines, the vein mineral production tending to replace lead in the 20th century. Field remains are therefore very much intermixed with those of lead production.

Zinc mining and smelting were centred in the Cumbrian side of the orefield, but within the North-East zinc was smelted in the early 19th century at Langley smelt-mill (where no above-ground remains can be distinguished from the lead smelting features, though below-ground survival is probable), and an early-20th-century zinc dressing floor survives at Willyhole mine (Co. Durham). Settlingstones and Fallowfield (both Northumberland) were the major world producers of witherite at the end of the 19th century, and Grove Rake (Co. Durham) remained active as a fluorspar producer until the 1990s.

Extractive industries: iron mining

Iron ores occur in the North Pennines (as replacements of bedded limestones alongside some lead veins), and as sedimentary deposits (often of nodules rather than continuous seams) in the Coal Measures of Durham and Northumberland, the Lower Carboniferous beds of Redesdale and North Tynedale, and in the Jurassic sequence of the North York Moors (about half of this orefield lying within the Cleveland boundary, and therefore within the region). North Pennine mines include Ore Pit Holes (probably medieval), West Rigg (19th century), and Groove Heads (late 19th century), together with very extensive ironstone quarries in the Rookhope Valley, combining with lead and fluorspar mining, and a branch of the Stanhope and Tyne Railway, to form a major mining landscape. The Redesdale quarries (notably Chesterhope Moor) also form an impressive landscape. Although iron mining on the coalfield is attested historically from the medieval period until the 19th century, few upstanding remains have been identified. Bellpit mining (in the correct usage of the term), however, has been recorded archaeologically at Craghead. The industrial landscape of Haltwistle Burn (Northumberland) should also be mentioned here; this includes ironstone quarries, collieries, ironworks sites, brickworks, and transport (mainly rail) links.

The Cleveland orefield was developed massively in the mid 19th century, when the development of smelting and transport technology made extraction of the very extensive, but low-grade and phosphoric, ores economic. Extraction was primarily by shaft mining, and the technology reflected that used in the Durham coalfield (including the extensive use of fan ventilation). Consequently the Cleveland iron mines contain much of the surviving evidence for 19th-century colliery-style ventilation, in addition to their importance as iron mines. The Skelton Park, Kilton Hill, and Loftus mines are particularly important survivals (Tuffs 1975; Daniels 1993).

Extractive industries: stone quarrying

The diverse geology of the region has meant that quarrying has taken a range of forms and shows chronological variation. Small quarries clearly utilised for building stone are found widely spread across the region, but are particularly common along the Whin Sill, the Cheviots, the North Pennines and the Magnesian limestone areas of County Durham. These all used simple technology, and it is difficult to date their use. Stone was not only used for building, but also a range of other products including millstones, creeing troughs, water troughs and mortars. Many millstone quarries are known, often only through map or documentary evidence, though at some sites, such as Beanley Moor and Harbottle Crags (Northumberland), a few semicompleted millstones are still visible. The industry was particularly common to the south-east of Newcastle around the outcrops of Newcastle Grindstone, such as Springwell, near Gateshead (Tyne and Wear). The stone was also used for grindstones, and there was a large export trade. Limestone was also often burnt for field lime, and it is common to find small quarries associated with limekilns (see below).

In the 19th century the expansion of towns led to a huge increase in demand for building and road stone. This was met primarily from quarries in the North Pennines, which produced whinstone, limestone and some millstone grit. Many of these quarries were large enterprises and were often linked to the railway system or had their own light railway, such as the Greengates quarry in Lunedale (Co. Durham). The Whin Sill was also extensively quarried along its outcrops in coastal Northumberland. Many of these quarries ceased to be worked in the later 19th century, and much of the infrastructure was removed. Nevertheless, they have been subject to relatively little detailed survey work.

Another minor, but interesting, quarrying industry was associated with the pencil mill at Cronkley, which produced shale, which was ground and then moulded into pencils for use on writing slates (Atkinson 1968; 1974). Frosterley marble also continued to be used throughout the postmedieval period, particularly for ecclesiastical fittings, though little work has been done on the quarry itself.

Peat was used both as a domestic fuel and for industrial purposes, particularly lead smelting. A peat house still stands at the smelt-mill at Allenheads. Field evidence for peat cutting is unclear; it is possible that many of the sites recorded as stack-stands in the North Pennines and Cheviots may have been used for drying peat. One such possible platform was surveyed during part of the A66 road-widening scheme (Vyner 2001, 133). Some peat cutting has also been recognised on aerial photographs around Kirknewton (Northumberland).

Lime, cement and plaster

Most early and small-scale limestone burning is likely to have taken place in small clamps, rather than specially constructed kilns; these will survive as earthworks and below-ground deposits, but have not been studied within the region. The structural remains of limekilns are probably mainly related to commercial manufacture of lime for agricultural and constructional purposes.

Limekilns are widely spread across areas with limestone outcrops, such as in the North Pennines and on the Magnesian limestone measures of County Durham. They vary in scale from small individual kilns, possibly worked seasonally, such as the small kilns in the West Allen valley at Black Cleugh and Smallburn, to large complexes of limekilns, often linked into the transport network. In the early 19th century the only practical way of moving bulk amounts of lime was by sea, and the banks of limekilns at Seahouses and Beadnell and on Holy Island are indicators of this trade. Later, with the advent of the railways, bulk transport became easier, and the kilns at Rennington, Humshaugh (Northumberland), Ferryhill and Stanhope (Co. Durham), amongst others, were linked into the railway system.

An extensive survey of limekilns was undertaken for Northumberland and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As a consequence limekilns are a well-protected class of monument. Around 60 sites in the region are protected by listing and a further nine are parts of Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Other areas with a density of limekilns, such as the Magnesian limestone measures still require further survey. Although there have been surveys of limekilns, these did not actively cover associated limestone quarrying. Recording work on a limekiln at Ouston, Allendale (Northumberland), also included landscape survey of its environs, indicating its proximity to a quarry, and its situation within a busy leadmining area (A. Williams 2001).

Extractive industries: salt

The post-medieval coastal salt industry, using direct boiling with coal fuel to extract salt from seawater, was centred on South Shields, Tynemouth, and the south Northumberland coast (as far north as Alnmouth). There are documentary descriptions of these industries, which were particularly significant in the 17th century and earlier 18th century, and at their height consumed over 250,000 tons of coal. There are records of a waggonway between the colliery at Cowpen and the saltworks at Blyth, though no remains can now be seen. One reason for the growth of the industry was the abundance of virtually free small coal (‘pan coal’), effectively a by-product of collieries and coal transport since it had no market in the coastwise export trade for housecoal. The coastal industry declined to extinction in the later 18th and 19th centuries, due largely to competition from the Cheshire rock-salt-based industry (though another factor was the loss of free pancoal, as steam engines and other industrial uses produced commercial markets for small coal). Some field evidence appears to be visible at Seaton Sluice and Amble, but no systematic survey has been undertaken, and no excavations are known to have taken place. ‘Pan’ placenames often indicate the locations of direct-boiling saltworks (e.g. Howden Pans, Panns Bank, Monkwearmouth; Saltpan How, Ancroft).

A separate salt industry developed on Teesside in the late 19th century, with the discovery of rock-salt beds at depth. These were exploited by brine wells, down which water was pumped to dissolve the rock-salt, the brine then being boiled to extract the salt. Some remains of brine wells, and of a saltworks at Haverton Hill, survive (Rowe 1999, 20-21; Tomlin 1982, 73-90)

Inorganic manufactures: iron and steel

One of the most significant manufacturing industries in the North-East was iron and steel working. The creation of iron from iron ore goes through two basic stages: preheating of non-oxide ores in a calcining kiln to create iron oxides, and the reduction of the oxides in a blast furnace, which uses carbon monoxide from burning charcoal or coke. Impurities are removed by the addition of a flux, usually limestone to create a slag. The pig (cast) iron produced could be used directly for producing castings (at the blast furnace or in a separate foundry), or converted into wrought iron by oxidising-out its carbon content in a forge to produce bar iron.

An excavated calcining kiln from around 1700 survives at Allensford Furnace, the only known pre-19th-century survival nationally (Linsley and Hetherington 1978), and 19th-century calcining kilns survive at Brinkburn, Hareshaw, and Ridsdale ironworks.

Water-powered bloomeries probably survived into the 16th or even 17th centuries, but have not been studied within the region. The earliest known blast furnace was at Wheelbirks (Northumberland), first discovered in the 1840s and partially excavated. At that time heaps of iron ore and slag, charcoal and limestone were evident around the furnace, and lumps of smelted iron were seen inside. The structure was re-examined in the 1980s and magnetic dating of the surrounding slag produced a date for the last firing of between 1550 and 1590. This date ties in with documentary references which first appear in 1566. The furnace probably only operated for a very short period, and may have been the earliest blast furnace north of the River Tees and is of great significance in the study of the spread of technology. A further early furnace may have existed west of Chester-le-Street, but has yet to be relocated (Riden 1993, 128). The Allensford furnace was in use between c. 1670 and 1730. The excavated remains include a square stone-built furnace and a calciner (Brown and Linsley 1979).

Coke smelting was developed in the early 18th century, though initially coke pig was only suitable for foundry (rather than forge) use. The Whitehill furnace near Chester-le-Street was part of this nationally important developmental phase, and a slightly later furnace, operating on both coke and charcoal, also existed at Bedlington (Riden 1993, 126-128 and 124-125 respectively). Major iron-smelting industries developed in the 19th century on the Durham coalfield and around Middlesbrough (Riden and Owen 1995, 152-178 contains a comprehensive list). Above-ground remains are very limited, but include slight remains of Tudhoe ironworks and a probable experimental ‘pilot plant’ at Blue Heaps (Consett) in County Durham, and appreciable remains of the Newport ironworks on Teesside. There are more substantial remains of the outlying ironworks at Stanhope in County Durham, and at Hareshaw (Bellingham), Ridsdale (West Woodburn) and Brinkburn in Northumberland; these form a substantial part of the national stock of surviving sites for their period. Recent survey work has recorded the dam and associated water management system associated with the Hareshaw Ironwork, which provided the water to drive the blowing engines for the blast furnace at the site (Annis 2001a).

The iron foundry, as a separate works to the blast furnace, did not become widespread until the early 18th century, when the Cookson family set up foundries in Newcastle and Gateshead using coke pig (initially from their furnace at Clifton in Cumbria, later from Whitehill). The sites have not been investigated, but are potentially important. Foundries often worked with both iron and brass, and by the 19th century were common in urban areas and in some rural towns, both as stand-alone foundries and as components of broader engineering works. The archaeology of the foundry trade has received little attention nationally, and virtually none within the region; most sites remain to be located in terms of modern topography.

The forge, for converting cast iron to wrought iron, went through three major technological phases during the period. The finery-chafery forge was universal until the early 18th century; it was not common in the region (reflecting the rarity of charcoal blast furnaces). Known sites include Allensford and Derwentcote. The 18th century saw a phase of experimentation and variability, as the finery was adapted to cope with coke pig, and attempts were made to develop a cheaper and largerscale alternative process. The most successful of these attempts was the stamping and potting process. There is documentary evidence that Derwentcote Forge participated in this process, and below-ground evidence is likely to survive. An enigmatic site at Lee Hall, near Bellingham, is claimed by a later-18th-century source to have been used for experimental ironmaking earlier in the century, perhaps involving attempts to smelt wrought-iron direct from the ore (Riden 1993, 125-126); if so, the site and its process residues are of considerable national importance. At the end of the century, however, the puddling and rolling process rapidly replaced all earlier technologies, remaining dominant (with some modifications) until the replacement of wrought iron by mild (Bessemer) steel in the later 19th century. Puddling forges have received little archaeological attention nationally, and no work is known within the region; in practice, many formed part of broader engineering works.

Until the end of the 17th century, the bar iron produced by the forge was normally worked-up into finished artefacts in smithies and domestic-scale workshops (of which nailmakers’ workshops are the best known). These smithies and workshops, of any period, have received very little attention, and most sites are probably not recorded on SMRs. In the 1680s Ambrose Crowley (a Midlands nailmaster turned naval contractor) set up a nailmaking works at Sunderland, rapidly replaced by major fabrication ironworks at Winlaton Mill, Swalwell, and (slightly later) Teams (all Tyne and Wear) (Flinn 1962). These works had their own finery/chafery forges, but used primarily imported bar iron, for mechanised rolling and slitting, cementation steelmaking, and artefact production (including anchor forging, and very extensive nailers’ workshops). Some fieldwork has been undertaken at Winlaton Mill, demonstrating good below-ground preservation (Cranstone 1991). These works, with their own housing, ‘laws’, and social security system, form a highly significant stage in the development of industrial society and economy nationally, with an influence on the development of British naval (and therefore colonial) power internationally. They can be seen as seminal stage in the development of the region’s industrial tradition of heavy industry, engineering, and military supplies.

A later, though, smaller scale, stage in the development of the fabrication ironworks was the Coquet Mill ironworks, Acklington (Northumberland), a rolling-mill and tinplate works operating from 1776 to 1793; one (heavily converted) ironworks building survives above ground, together with the important horizontal-arch dam designed by Smeaton.

The later development of the engineering works, often incorporating both forging and foundry elements, has received little archaeological study either regionally or nationally, though it was of prime importance to 19thcentury Tyneside. One site that has been recorded is Stephenson’s South Street locomotive-building works in Newcastle. Until the advent of the Bessemer process in the 1850s, steel (iron with a controlled carbon content of 0.7-1.5%) was an expensive specialist product. The process of cementation steelmaking, developed in the early 17th century, involved heating high-grade wrought iron with charcoal dust, in sealed stone chests built into a cementation furnace fuelled with coal. The process was introduced into the region at Blackhall Mill in 1687, and until around 1750 Newcastle and the Derwent valley were the centre of British steel production. The 1730s steel furnace at Derwentcote survives and has been excavated and conserved (Cranstone 1997), and below-ground remains are likely at Winlaton Mill. Most other sites remain to be precisely located and investigated. One reason for the development of the industry in the Derwent valley was the presence of the Hollow Blade Sword company at Shotley Bridge; the archaeology of the swordmakers’ workshops has not yet been investigated however.

Inorganic manufactures: ceramics

A number of important pottery industries existed in the North-East in the post-medieval period. Over one hundred firms are documented as having produced pottery in the Tyneside region alone between 1730 and the mid 20th century (Bell and Gill 1973). Amongst the best known are the substantial Maling pottery in Newcastle, and Canney Hill pottery near Coundon (Co. Durham) (Tyne and Wear Museum 1981). Pottery was also produced at other sites, such as Corbridge and Bardon Mill, and the short-lived Linthorpe pottery in Middlesbrough (Hart 1988).

The earliest known pottery in Wearside was established in about 1720 at Newbottle and was manufacturing brown wares (Baker 1984). Most fineware production, such as transfer-printed whiteware and lustreware, had ceased by about 1900; for example Scott’s Southwick pottery closed in 1897. The exception was the Sunderland Pottery Company (later the Wearside Pottery Company) which existed from 1913 to 1957. Initially it produced a range of brown wares from local clay, but later specialised in fireproof cooking ware, ornamental ware and mixing bowls.

Brown wares were made on Tyneside and Wearside: coarsewares from local brown clay included jugs, storage jars, bowls and baking dishes. Baking dishes often had trailed slip decoration, and bowls were usually white-slipped on the interior. The Tyne Pottery at South Shields (1830- before 1900) was the largest producer of this in the NorthEast apart from Harwoods at Stockton (Bell and Gill 1973). White clay for the refined cream and white earthenwares was imported from Devon and Cornwall, arriving as ballast on coal ships. A wide range of products were produced, including creamwares, transfer-printed wares, and painted wares. Pink/purple lustreware was usually transfer-printed with rhymes, mottos, as well as a range of other designs, the Wear Bridge being the most popular. Lustrewares were also made on Tyneside and Teesside.

The Linthorpe pottery was only in existence in 1879-89, but produced over 2,000 different object types. A large collection is held in the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough. Recent archaeological work by Archaeological Services Durham University, in Middlesbrough in and around the site, has discovered wasters and probable remains of the pottery site itself (Richard Annis pers comm). Maling Ware had a much longer production life; the factory was established in 1762 and continued until 1963. In the late 19th century it produced nearly 90% of all jam and marmalade pots in Britain, including those for Keiller and Frank Cooper. Some of the original buildings are now believed to be incorporated into farm buildings at the first site in North Hylton. The Maling Ford B workshop in Byker also still stands.

As well as producing pottery for local and national needs much of the region’s ceramic output was exported abroad. Large quantities of brown ware were shipped to the Continent. Many companies produced mainly for an export market, such as the Sheriff Hill Pottery for Norway, the Ouseburn Bridge Pottery for Holland, and John Carr’s Low Light pottery to India and Egypt. A large dump of waste material from the latter pottery was recently found at Clifford’s Fort, North Shields (John Nolan pers comm).

Canney Hill operated from 1844 until 1913 producing a range of pots and vessels as well as ornaments, bottles, flowerpots and chimney pots. No remains of the pottery now survive; a watching brief on the site during the construction of the bypass recovered no wasters and no structures that could be related to the pottery. Another significant manufacturer was the Errington Reay works at Bardon Mill, which produced pipes and salt-glazed sanitary ware and pipeworks. The company still operates from the original site (a converted woollen mill) and the stationary steam engine bed, the water wheel and some kilns are still preserved.

Although many brick and tile works are marked on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd edition Ordnance Survey maps very few survive, though ponds flooding pits formed by clay digging are known. Kilns at Ewart Park (Northumberland) can still be seen (Grade II Listed) and there is also a poorly preserved pair of kilns at Shilbottle (Northumberland). At Corbridge there are more extensive remains of a works which produced chimney pots and roof tiles; the remains of a bottle kiln and a Newcastle horizontal kiln can still be found at the site. Significant remains can also be seen at the Capheaton tilery (Scheduled Ancient Monument) and the kilns at Belsay tilery are Grade II Listed.

Inorganic manufactures: glass

Crown glass manufacture was an important trade along the Tyne, though the industry had declined by the mid 19th century. At around the same period it was replaced by the Sunderland glass industry making sheet glass using the rolled-plate method. There are, however, no upstanding remains of either industry. At one point there were also over 40 bottle works in the region. The remains of only two can now been seen, the cone-shaped kiln at Lemington is a significant industrial monument (Grade II* Listed) though it has now been converted into a showroom. A number of tunnels survive at the Royal Hartley bottleworks at Seaton Delaval. As well as providing access to the kilns they also linked the works with the quayside allowing the easy movement of raw materials and finished products.

Inorganic manufactures: chemical industry

The North-East had two major centres of chemical production: Tyneside and Teesside. The Tyneside industry developed in tandem with the glass-making industry for which alkali was a key ingredient (along with sand brought to the area as ballast by returning colliers). Alkali was also used in soap making. Some alkalis were manufactured from brine, which required the used of copperas (iron sulphate). This was made by roasting weathered iron pyrites (a common by-product of the coal industry). A range of other chemicals, particularly dyes, was also produced. In general the chemical works were concentrated in areas with good transport links, mainly Gateshead, between South Shore and Bill Quay, but also Jarrow, Walker, Wallsend, and Washington. There is very little left to be seen above ground of this industry, which had declined by the mid 19th century. Waste tips from the alkali industry survive in the Felling area, and the site of the 19th-century Pattinson works at Washington has recently had an archaeological assessment. Many of the early chemical processing sites were destroyed by the later construction of shipyards.

In the south of the region the earliest chemical industry was the alum industry, developed from around 1600 and centred on the north-west scarp and north coast of the North York Moors; Boulby, Loftus, Newgate Bank, and Belman Bank works lie within the regional boundary. This industry, and its associated coastal and maritime archaeology, have been recently surveyed and synthesised (Miller 2002). On Teesside the chemical industry grew up in the mid 19th century capitalising on new techniques that did not require the presence of cheap coal allowing more economic use of the underground salt deposits around Billingham.

In addition to these two major centres of the chemical industry, remains are known elsewhere. For example, the extensive remains of a 19th-century chemical works still stand at Spittal, Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Organic manufacturers

Unlike Yorkshire or Lancashire, the North-East was not home to major textile industries, although there were plenty of small-scale and localised industries. For example, worsted was woven at Thorngate Mill in Barnard Castle (Grade II Listed) and the town was also home to a thriving carpet industry. Darlington also had a weaving and spinning industry and produced linen and worsteds, though little survives to be seen.

The Errington Reay pottery at Bardon Mill started life as a woollen mill, and the Acklington ironworks building was converted into a blanket mill in 1791. Other similar surviving structures include Oliver’s Mill, Morpeth, Haltwhistle Mill and the Otterburn Mill.

Rope was an important product in the 19th century, encouraged by the thriving shipping industry. The region saw the use of the first machinery for continuous manufacture at Webster’s ropery in Sunderland in 1797, although rope walks continued to be used for their manufacture well into the 20th century. Most have now disappeared, but the ropery at Hexham is a Grade II Listed Building.

Power and utilities

For much of the post-medieval period the main sources of power were animals, wind and water. At one point Newcastle is recorded as having more windmills than anywhere else in the country. Good examples of surviving windmills include Fulwell Windmill, Sunderland (Tyne and Wear), Whitburn Windmill (Tyne and Wear) and Woodhorn Mill (Northumberland). An unusual example of a surviving windmill is the 18th-century mill on Shackleton Beacon, Heighington (Durham), which was converted into a folly in the 19th century. A number of substantial watermills survive including Plessey Mill, Blyth (Northumberland), Waren Mill, Easington (Northumberland). There are also the more extensive remains of a large number of mill leats and related watercourses. The North-East Mills Group has carried out important work on locating and recording such remains.

The advent of steam power in the late 18th century and the steam engine replaced many of these other forms of power, but waterpower was still used in many areas into the later 19th century, for example, in the lead crushing mill at Killhope. Stationary steam engines were used on farms, often replacing earlier gin-gangs. A good example of a stationary farm engine is now in the Beamish Open-Air Museum (originally from West Auckland). Cavil Head Farm, Acklington, is still dominated by the chimney from the engine shed. Stafford Linsley has recorded photographically many such rural engine sheds and boiler houses. The remains of engine houses can also be seen on a number of North Pennine lead mining sites, for example, Beldon and Shildon (Blanchland) and Healeyfield (Consett). Steam engines also provided power to coal mines; sadly there are few well-preserved examples surviving, such as Stublick Colliery, Haydon (Northumberland), Washington F Pit and Woodhorn Colliery (Northumberland) (the latter two retaining their engines; Figure 45)

Gas was another important source of power, though there has been no systematic survey of the surviving infrastructure. Two buildings related to the private gas works at Rokeby House still stand, as does a building related to the private supply of gas to Raby Castle. Electrical power began to be generated in the later 19th century, though on a small-scale and for private use. Notable early uses include Lord Armstrong’s hydroelectric power supply at Cragside, Rothbury (Northumberland). Recent survey here has recorded remains of the connecting cables (Reed 2004). The powerhouse itself is a Grade II* Listed Building. The earthworks of another early hydroelectric supply also survive at Hethpool House, Kirknewton (Northumberland). English Heritage has carried out an MPP survey on the remains of the gas and electricity industries. Other non-hydraulic electrical generating sites include Swarland Hall Cottage, Swarland (Northumberland), which is now a Grade II Listed cottage. An early power house built by Drake and Gorman in about 1890 also survives at Calally Castle.

Until the 19th century most water was supplied through wells or pumps. In Northumberland the village ‘pant’ could often be quite elaborate, and several are listed. There are also a number of listed pumps in County Durham, such as the example which stands in The College, Durham.

In the 19th century the provision of pumps increasingly became a field for public benefaction; the site of a series of pumps provided by the London Lead Company can still be seen in Masterman Place, Middleton-in-Teesdale (Figure 47). The massive increase in population and the increasing demand for water by industry led to a series of massive infrastructure projects to ensure that demand from the new urban centres of the region was provided for. Major reservoirs were built, including Catcleugh (Northumberland), where work was begun in 1899, and Whittle Dene, Horsley (Northumberland), in the mid 19th century. Traces of the navvy camp at Catcleugh survive and the remains of the construction railway can still be seen at Fontburn (Northumberland). As well as the reservoirs themselves some elements of the associated service buildings, such as the Grade II Listed late-19thcentury water sulphurisation building at Whittle Dene, and the Grade II Listed overflow bridge and valve house at Catcleugh (1899-1904). Several important pumping stations survive. The best is probably Ryhope (Tyne and Wear) (Grade II* Listed), which still retains two 100- horsepower beam engines. Another important site is the Tees Cottage Pumping Station in Darlington, which is part of a Victorian water works dating to 1847-1901. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and still retains its original pumping engines.

Transport and communications

Although the basic network of main roads in the region is already recognisable by the medieval period, the increased number of maps of the region allows the road network to be plotted in detail. As well as the improved recording of existing routes, there was an expansion of the number of roads in this period. The expansion of settlements in industrial areas led to a commensurate increase in local streets and roads. The mid 18th century also saw the construction of toll roads. These roads often transformed pre-existing informal routes into formal roads, for example, the roads built by the London Lead Company in Teesdale and Weardale replaced pack-horse routes into the upper ends of the dales, and for the first time formed permanent links over the watersheds into Cumberland (Blackburn 1992; Linsley 1992; Elliot 1994; Fennell 1996). These turnpikes provided the infrastructure for much of the major routes across the upland areas of the North-East, although in places there have been minor changes in route required to accommodate motor vehicles. As well as the construction of the roads themselves, there are many original bridges still surviving, though these tend to be small in scale (bridging small sykes and becks) and little studied. In addition to these upland turnpikes, many other turnpikes were created across the region. These have been less studied, though the forthcoming PhD on postRoman road networks in the north by Gillian KeeganPhipps (University of Durham) may help rectify this. Milestones and posts are well recorded (e.g. over 80 in Northumberland), but seem to survive better in upland areas (such as along the Teesdale and Lunedale turnpikes). These are mainly of stone, but there is a small number of cast iron examples. Over 90 milestones or posts in the region are protected as Listed Buildings (Figure 47). A number of tollhouses also still stand, several of which are listed, such as Farnley Gate Cottage, Corbridge and Bridgend tollhouse, Bellingham (Northumberland). A tollhouse on the Stainmore Pass turnpike has been excavated (Vyner 2001, 148-150).

There is a substantial body of post-medieval bridges in the North-East reflecting the pattern of major east-west rivers and mainly north-south communication routes. Many of these are protected by Listing or Scheduling. Although the region had many substantial medieval stone bridges, major floods in the 18th century, particularly 1771, destroyed many, requiring rebuilding (Rennison 2001). Most of the new bridges are single or multiple-arched bridges, but there are also early suspension bridges; the earliest European suspension bridge built in 1741 stood at Wynch Bridge, Holwick (Co. Durham), although the current suspension bridge at the site is not the original. The first suspension bridge designed for vehicular use still crosses the Tweed at Horncliffe (built 1819-20). Another early (1831) suspension bridge survives at Whorlton (Co. Durham).


The North-East is celebrated as the home of the railway, which grew out of the demands of the coal trade to move bulk goods quickly and cheaply. Horse-drawn waggonways developed from the early 17th century until the early 19th century. There has been extensive documentary research (e.g. Lewis 1993; Bennett et al 1990; Guy and Rees 1988), but very little field archaeological research on such aspects as the development of formations, grading of track-beds, and civil engineering (the Causey Arch being a notable bridge from the later phases of waggonway development). There is, however, increasing archaeological evidence for the later phases of waggonway development. The remains of a late-18th- and early-19th-century wooden waggonway have been recovered close to Lambton D pit (Ayris et al 1998). A stretch of waggonway has also been recently excavated at Wylam (Northumberland) (Brogan 2003). Other archaeological interventions on waggonway include sections dug at Throckley, Rainton Bridge (work by Pre-Construct Archaeology) and Walkergate, Newcastle (work by Northern Archaeological Associates).

The region was also important for the development of the incline and the rope-hauled railway. The rope-hauled Bowes railway has been preserved and is still in operation. The railway and associated buildings is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. There are also considerable, but largely unsurveyed, remains of the Stanhope and Tyne railway, including engine houses on the hauled inclines. The Stockton and Darlington Railway, although normally considered as a locomotive railway, initially included rope-hauled inclines. There are several important collections of illustrations of waggonways and rope-hauled railways and their sites, including amongst the special collections at the Robinson Library, Newcastle, the Thomas Harrison Hair collection and the photographs taken by Stafford Linsley (some now available on the Structures in the North East website).

Despite the importance of the North-East in the development of locomotive-hauled railways, relatively little archaeological or building recording work has been carried out on the remains. Of most importance are the extensive photographic records of railway buildings, to be found in the Rokeby Collection (held at the National Monument Record) and the collection of Stafford Linsley. The Greenesfield Locomotive Works (including the remains of the former station) at Gateshead were recorded in some detail by plan, elevation and photography by Northern Counties Archaeology Services prior to redevelopment (NCAS 2003). Some work has taken place on the architectural development of railway station architecture (e.g. Hoole 1985; Fawcett 2001). The neo-Classical Monkwearmouth Station is now a museum, and its original 1867 booking office has been restored. Two important protected railway buildings are the early locomotive factories in Newcastle and Shildon. The Stephenson engine works in Forth Street, Newcastle, are preserved. Parts of the 1823 works survive subsumed among later buildings; the structures at 20 South Street are a later addition, dating to around 1850. Also preserved is Timothy Hackworth’s house, and the adjacent Soho Engine Works in Shildon are now part of the Timothy Hackworth Victorian Railway museum.

Although some of the building stock, including stations (such as Berwick and Norham, Northumberland), railwaymen’s cottages (e.g. Greenhead, Northumberland) and associated infrastructure (e.g. water-tank building and water columns at Haltwhistle, Northumberland), have been protected by listing, there has been less effort applied to preserving the track and related civil engineering works themselves. A notable exception is the Scheduling of two inclines on the Stockton and Darlington railway at High Etherley and Brusselton (Co. Durham). A related category of protected sites is railway viaducts. The most important is the Causey Arch built in 1727 to carry a waggonway over the Causey Burn; it is the oldest single-arch railway bridge in the world and a Scheduled Monument. The Grade II* Listed Skerne Bridge carried the Stockton and Darlington railway over the Skerne in Darlington. Other listed railway viaducts include the Belmont Viaduct (Durham), the Durham viaduct (Durham) the viaducts at Carham (Northumberland) and the main East Coast rail line over the Coquet at Acklington (Northumberland). Important early iron bridges were also built in the North-East including Stockton, Gateshead and Darlington (Rennison 1998).

Although much of the rail network is still in use, substantial stretches were closed following the 1963 Beeching Report. Long stretches of these unused lines are not protected in any way, though the North-East is home to a number of railway preservation societies, which are looking after lengths of track. The South Tynedale has a track running from Alston (Cumbria) to Kirkhaugh (Northumberland); although narrow gauge, it runs on the former standard gauge Alston-Haltwhistle line. There are plans to extend it to Slaggyford. The Bowes railway still has a rope-hauled system, and other lines in operation include the Tanfield Railway and the Weardale Railway.

Ports and harbours

Ports and harbours were an important element of the economic life of the North-East. Before the advent of the railways, the bulk of the region’s industrial production was transported by ship. Major ports existed at Newcastle and Hartlepool, and by the 19th century much of the mouths of the Tweed, Tyne, Wear and Tees were dominated by docks and quays (Rennison 1991; 1994). The quays at Newcastle have their origin in the medieval period and were formed by successive phases of reclamation, which were largely complete by the 14th century, though excavation at Queen Street has produced post-medieval stratigraphies (O’Brien et al 1988). Docks, however, developed downstream throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The vast expansion of the coal industry necessitated the creation of dedicated coal staithes. For example the North Dock (1850) and South Dock (1837) in Sunderland were primarily for coal export. In Hartlepool, the decline of the port was only reversed in the 19th century with the building of docks for the coal trade (Daniels 1991). Smaller coal ports, such as Amble and Blyth also developed in this period.

As well as the major docks, a series of coastal harbours developed in the 18th century. Alnmouth (Northumberland) was an important grain port until 1806, when the course of the River Aln was shifted by a huge storm. Several of the grain warehouses are still standing, but have been converted into houses, a good example being the Marine House Private Hotel. Major imports included wood from the Baltic and guano; a recent report has been written on the surviving Guano Shed at High Buston (Williams 2003; Burgess 2004). In Berwick, the New Quay was developed through land reclamation in the later 18th and 19th centuries, supplementing the medieval Old Quay (Griffiths 1999).

A number of smaller harbours, such as Beadnell, Seaton Sluice (Northumberland) and Seaham (Co. Durham) were also purpose-built. Seaton Sluice was the earliest of these, being built in the mid 17th century. It was large enough to take fourteen ships, and was built to ship coal from the developing coalmines in the area. Altered and enlarged in the mid 18th century when the ‘New Cut’ was built, it became the centre for many industries including a glassworks, saltworks, a brewery, brickworks and a quarry until it finally fell out of use in the mid 19th century. Beadnell Harbour exported lime to Scotland from the nearby kilns and like many of the Northumberland harbours, such as Seahouses and Craster, became a centre for the processing and export of kippers. Seaham Harbour was built in the 1820s as a point from which the Marquis of Londonderry could export coal from his mines. Other related facilities grew up in the 18th century; the Newcastle Custom’s House was built in 1766, though subsequently remodelled in the 19th century. The Custom House at Berwick (Grade II Listed) is of later-18th-century date.

The advent of increased shipping led to a need for a fuller network of lighthouses and associated navigational and life-saving infrastructure. The first lighthouses date to the later 18th century: High and Low Light, North Shields (1727), the Longstone lighthouse in the Farne Islands (1776) and the base of Blyth High Light (1788). The light on Coquet Island and Low Light on the Farne Islands are early 19th century and in 1871 the Souter Lighthouse became the first ever light to be powered by AC electric current. An organised coastguard was formed in the early 19th century; coastguard cottages still stand at Hawthorne Hythe and Low Newton (Northumberland). The Royal National Lifeboat Institute was founded in 1824; the earliest operational lifeboat house (1851) stands at Newbiggin. An unlisted and derelict lifeboat house stands below the church on Holy Island still bearing a pair of brown-glazed ceramic decorative roundels dating to 1884 (Figure 48).


The post-medieval period has produced a wide range of evidence for what might be broadly called entertainment. This broad heading covers a range of licit and illicit activities, many of which have left surviving material remains.

Alcohol consumption and production has been an important element of social life in the North-East. There were a large number of local and regional brewing industries, and a number of important brewery buildings still survive. The 19th-century Castle Eden brewery still stands (Grade II Listed), but is no longer used for brewing; the large maltings and brewery in Berwick and the brewery in Alnwick are also Grade II Listed. The Bruce Building, the former Newcastle Brewery, has been taken over by the University of Newcastle; the well-preserved monumental interior is of particular interest. The remains of a small private brewery belonging to the demolished Lambton Hall are also Grade II Listed.

Although brewing was a widespread industry, there were much stricter controls on the production and import of spirits. This had two consequences: smuggling liquor from abroad and illicit production within the region. Both activities peaked in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a period of high tariffs due to the Napoleonic war (Phillipson 1961). The sites of several hidden distilleries are known (three in Durham and six in Northumberland). Archaeological work has been carried out on some of the Northumbrian examples, including excavation at Wholehope, Alwinton (Philipson and Child 1960).

Despite the widespread distribution of public houses less work has been carried out on consumption than distribution of alcohol. Although over 100 pubs are protected by listing there is no overview of the development of public house architecture in the region. Little is known from archaeology; the remains of the Chew Green Inn (Alwinton, Northumberland) are Scheduled as part of the complex of remains relating to the nearby Roman fort and deserted medieval village.

New forms of public space reflect changing patterns of social networking. Of the assembly rooms in the region, the finest example is undoubtedly the Classical Newcastle Assembly Rooms (1774-76) designed by William Newton. Smaller assembly rooms also exist in Alnwick (1826), Berwick (in The King’s Arms Hotel) and Durham (c. 1800, now the Salvation Army Citadel). Newcastle is home to a number of historic theatres: the Theatre Royal (Grade I Listed, 1837) is a significant element of the Grey Street streetscape, and like the Tyne Theatre (1867) (now The Opera House), it is still used as a theatre.

Entertainment of a less refined type was also available. An iron-ring used for tethering a bull for baiting is preserved in Barnard Castle. Another from Sandhill, Newcastle, is in the Castle Keep. Cock-fighting was a popular sporting pastime, and a number of cockpits are recorded (Jobey 1992).

Amongst the sporting sites in North-East, the remains of 18th/19th-century racecourses can still be seen at Morpeth and on the Town Moor, Newcastle, though many rural racecourses, such as Byerhope, Allendale, have left no obvious material traces. A number of 19th-century buildings survive at some of the bigger courses, such as Hexham and Gosforth. Other sporting sites include the unusual ball courts at Ushaw College, Durham.

On a more cultured level the North-East is home to a number of important, purpose-built museum buildings. Sunderland was home to the first local authority museum outside London, and the museum, library and winter garden were opened in 1879. Although the Winter Garden was destroyed during World War II (and recently rebuilt) the rest of the original building is still used as a museum. The Grade II* Listed Hancock Museum, Newcastle, is also a purposebuilt museum. In Barnard Castle, the Bowes Museum (opened 1892) is a Grade I Listed structure. In Darlington, the former museum was a 19th century conversion of an 18th-century house.

The 19th century also saw the development of coastal holiday resorts, including Whitley Bay (Tyne and Wear), Saltburn and Redcar (Teesside). The Saltburn Cliff Railway was built in 1884 and was the third such system built in Britain, and the earliest surviving example. The hoist worked by pumping water into the top carriage, which descended when heavy enough, hauling the second carriage up the cliff at the same time. Although Coatham and Redcar Piers have now been lost, Saltburn Pier still stands (Figure 49).

Religion and ritual

The transition from the medieval to post-medieval period broadly coincided with the Reformation in England. This had a fundamental impact on almost all aspects of religious behaviour (Gaimster and Gilchrist 2003). The biggest change was the Dissolution of the monasteries, yet while the religious communities themselves disappeared or were transformed, the monastic buildings often survived. At Black Friars, Newcastle, the church only survived a few years, but most of the remaining precinct and claustral range was taken over in 1552 by nine craft companies. Later the open space and closes around the claustral range became infilled with 18th-century light industry and tenements (Harbottle and Fraser 1987). In Durham, on the other hand, the monastery was re-established, the first dean and prebendaries all being former monks (Roberts 1994, 17). The former outer court of the monastery (The College) became the accommodation for the dean and prebends.

Blanchland Abbey suffered a very different fate. Its land fell into private hands and eventually came to be owned by Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham. On his death the estate was left as part of a charitable trust. Much of the original infrastructure was converted into a model village, the Abbot’s lodging, guesthouse and kitchen becoming the manor house. The remains of Finchale Priory were also taken over for agricultural use, while the claustral range at Egglestone Abbey was converted into a private house, which was finally abandoned in the mid 19th century. The landscape had been re-ordered in the mid 18th century when the Morritt family bought the abbey and made use of the remains of the medieval buildings as an ornamental feature in their estate. Many of the associated landscape and garden features were recorded in a recent English Heritage survey (Dunn and Lax 2001).

Despite the end of monastic life, parish churches and secular foundations continued in use. Although the Shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral was ransacked there was continued development. The Laudian reforms led to refurbishment in the hands of Dean Hunt and Bishop Cosin (1595-1672), although many of these additions were destroyed during the Civil War when 3,000 prisoners were held in the cathedral over the winter of 1650-51. Cosin returned following the Restoration and commenced further work, including the font canopy and the choir stalls. The cathedral saw attempts at restoration in the 18th century, leading to the demolition of some medieval fabric, such as the 13th-century revestry. Ignatius Bonomi, Anthony Salvin and George Gilbert Scott were all involved in various campaigns of renovation and repair.

In County Durham the biggest influence over parish churches was again Bishop Cosin. He was responsible for the internal reordering of several churches, and is best known for the quality of the wooden fittings he commissioned, of which the screen, pulpit and reading desk at Brancepeth (now destroyed) were perhaps the best examples. Significant features can also be seen at Auckland Castle chapel (Figure 50), Darlington, Durham Cathedral, Egglescliffe, Haughton le Skerne, Houghton le Spring and Sedgefield, among others. In the 17th century there was almost no church building in Northumberland, with the notable exception of Holy Trinity, Berwick-uponTweed, one of the few churches in England to be built during the Commonwealth. Lesser 17th-century work includes the chancel at Edlingham.

In the 18th century there was little church building in Durham, though Stockton parish church (1710-20) belongs to this period, as does the church at St John’s Chapel (1752). In Tyne and Wear, James Paine’s Palladian Gibside chapel is the most important structure, though work was carried out on the medieval towers of St Mary’s Gateshead and St Hilda, South Shields. The construction of new churches in and around Newcastle (All Saints, St Ann’s, Gosforth and North Shields) reflects population growth there.

Church building continued into the 19th century following the Church Building Act of 1818, with architects such as John Green (Earsdon, North Shields, Sugley) and John Dobson (St Thomas, Newcastle) providing new structures. Commissioners’ churches south of the Tyne include Holy Trinity, Seaton Carew (Teesside), though most of the commissions were for colliery villages and of a relatively simple Gothic design. There was a particular increase in the creation of new parishes and consequently church construction from the 1860s following the passing of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act (1860), which freed up the powers of the Durham diocese to increase provision in mining areas, thereby combating the increasing influence of non-conformity (Emery 1990, 59). Often these mission churches were constructed from very simple materials such as brick, wood or corrugated iron (Emery 1990) North of the Tyne, despite continued church building in the later 19th century, there were few architecturally significant structures, except Pugin’s Roman Catholic cathedral in Newcastle.

In addition to parish churches there are also a number of Anglican chapels, both chapels-of-ease and private chapels. For example, a now-roofless chapel dating to the 18th century lies in the grounds of Egglestone Hall (Co. Durham). Another 18th-century chapel stands opposite Chipchase Castle (Northumberland) As well as separate external chapels, some houses retained internal chapels, such as that at Raby, which although medieval in origin was heavily modified in 1847.

Another major trend in religious life in the post-medieval period was the rise of non-Conformity. Two broad traditions are recognised: Old Dissent (mainly the Society of Friends and Baptists) which developed in the 17th century, and the New Dissent (Methodists) which grew out of John Wesley’s 18th-century Anglican reform movement (Figure 51). The Methodists themselves experienced a reform movement, when the Primitive Methodists split from the Congregationalists in 1810. The large numbers of physically and socially marginalized population groups in the North-East created by the demand for new labour by the rise of industry were fertile ground for all forms of non-conformity. The Quakers were influential in the North Pennines, where the Quaker London Lead Company was a significant player in the 18th- and 19th-century lead industry. Other less successful groups include the Presbyterians, United Reform Church and tiny groups such as the Bochimites. Although non-conformity tended to be a broadly working class phenomenon it spread to all strata of society. There were a number of important Quaker industrialist families, particularly around Darlington. Early Quaker meeting houses in the area include Coanwood, which is of exceptional importance as it has not had a major 19th century refitting (Ryder 1998a). In the towns there are important meeting houses in Darlington and Stockton (Butler 1999). There have been a series of important surveys of non-conformist places of worship carried out by Peter Ryder, which go far beyond the work by Stell (1994) and Butler (1999). His work has mainly covered the North Pennines (Ryder 1998b; 2003b; 2003c), but he has recently carried out a survey of non-conformist chapels in Darlington (Ryder 2004c).

Catholicism was another important non-Anglican current in the religious life of the North-East. The area retained a high level of recusancy, and the Jacobite cause was strong, reflected in the role of several local families such as the Radcliffes of Dilston and the Forsters in the 1715 rising. There is little 17th-century ecclesiastical evidence for Catholicism due to the need for concealment, though it is likely that the village cross at Esh erected in 1687 was commissioned by the recusant Smyth family, who may have taken advantage of the short respite from persecution under James II to express their belief.

By the late 18th century it was safe enough for Catholicism to be practised in the open, as long as it was kept discreet. For example, the church of St Michael (c. 1799-1800) and its presbytery and outbuildings at Esh Laude are arranged around a courtyard to make it appear like a model farm, rather than a place of worship. Small chapels were attached to Thropton Old Hall (Northumberland) in the late 18th or early 19th century, at Ancroft (Northumberland) for the use of the Haggerston family in the late 18th century, and at Hutton Henry (1824-25), where a small chapel was built by the last Roman Catholic chaplain of Hardwick Hall, though it was rebuilt in the late 19th century. An outbuilding at Tudhoe Hall was also used as a Catholic chapel by students who went on to form Ushaw College in Durham.

Following the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 there was a surge in the construction of Catholic churches to accommodate existing congregations and an expanding demand from Irish immigrants. New churches in Northumberland include Alnwick (1836), Bellingham (1839), Hexham (1830), Morpeth (1850) and Wooler (1856), while those in County Durham include Consett (1854), Crook (1853), Darlington (1827), St Cuthbert’s in Durham (1829), St Godric’s in Durham (1864), Spennymoor (1870), Wolsingham (1854), and Wycliffe (1848). The College of St Cuthbert, Ushaw, was both a school and seminary; work started 1804, and later additions include work by Pugin and Joseph Hansom. Also of interest is the Catholic mortuary chapel (1877) of Monsignor William Witham in a private cemetery at Lartington Hall.

In the post-medieval period, although internal funerary monuments continued to be used in churches, the practice of placing gravestones over burials becomes increasingly common. Churchyards with particularly important or unusual collections include Holy Trinity, Berwick (although many have been destroyed, there are photographic records in Berwick Record Office), Holy Island, Staindrop (Co. Durham) and Ryton (Tyne and Wear).

The most significant post-medieval cemetery site is the Newcastle Infirmary Site, which was cleared in 1997. Archaeological work recovered 210 articulated skeletons as well as charnel deposits containing disarticulated remains from a minimum of 400 further individuals (including c. 200 amputated limbs) (Chamberlain 1999; Boulter et al 1998). Many of these skeletons showed evidence of post-mortem medical intervention, including 60 craniotomies and other dissection (Boulter et al 1998). Bones from this site were used in trials to diagnose ancient tuberculosis using chemical methods (Gernaey et al 1998). By the mid 19th century increased pressure on parish churchyards saw municipal cemeteries being laid out (see above). The rise of non-Conformity also saw the growth of separate burial sites for the various dissenting congregations. In some cases these have now been lost, and are occasionally found unexpectedly during modern construction work (John Nolan pers comm). Their archaeological importance, however, seems not to have been generally recognised.

Christian activity was also imprinted in the wider landscape. Esh Cross has already been mentioned and several crosses, although of medieval date, continued in use as landmarks despite new Protestant attitudes to such monuments; this seems particularly true in upland areas, where they could serve to mark routeways and corpse roads (Coggins and Fairless 1999). A few crosses were actually erected in the post-Reformation period, such as the cross on the boundary between Cumberland and Durham at Kilhope, and the Market Cross in Stanhope. The crosses of Durham and Tyne and Wear have been surveyed as part of the English Heritage MPP programme (Rimmington 1999). Another element of the wider religious landscape is holy wells, whose use may reflect a vernacular resistance to institutional Anglicanism (Rattue 1995). Their recording is variable, for example, they are listed on the Northumberland Sites and Monuments Record but not on the County Durham Sites and Monuments Records.

As well as Christianity, Judaism played a part in the religious landscape of the post-medieval North-East with important communities in Newcastle, South Shields and Sunderland. There are Jewish cemeteries or sections in larger cemeteries at Hartlepool (Hartlepool Jewish Cemetery), Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough New Cemetery Jewish section), Newcastle (Thornton Street Jews Burial Ground; Newcastle City Cemetery Jewish section), North Shields (Preston Road Cemetery, Jewish section), South Shields (Harton Cemetery, Jewish section), Stockton-on-Tees (Stockton Old Cemetery, Jewish section) and Sunderland (Ayres Quay Jews Burial Ground; Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, Jewish Section). There is also a Grade II Listed synagogue on Leazes Park Road, Newcastle.

Intriguingly, there are one or two survivals of poorly understood folk traditions in the region. A child’s clog and a pewter spoon placed in the heather thatch at Causeway House (Northumberland) appear to reflect a wider national pattern of such small, ritual deposits (Emery et al 1990, 137). Other possible ritual deposits include the chicken bones in a blocked alcove at Rowley Gillet (Co. Durham). A number of ‘head and hooves’ burials are known from Teesdale, including Chapel House (Laithkirk) and Lonton (Holwick). Prehistoric stone axes appear to also have been of particular importance; one was found buried beneath the floor of a farmhouse at Bowes Close, Langdon Beck, another built into the wall of an 18th-century barn in Cotherstone (Pickin 1982).

Social provision

With the disappearance of monastic houses following the Reformation there was a shift in patterns of social provision. Whereas in the 16th-18th centuries private benefaction and charity was the main provider of social housing, medical care and education, in the 19th century the state increasingly assumed responsibility for social support.

Almshouses are common throughout the region. Many have been demolished, but a series of important examples still survive, such as the Holy Jesus Hospital (1681) and Keelman’s Hospital (1701) in Newcastle. The Bede Houses in Barnard Castle were founded by Bishop Cosin. Many were built anew, such as Bishop Cosin’s almshouses on Palace Green, Durham, but in Newcastle the buildings of Black Friars were converted into almshouses. Almshouses continued to be constructed into the 19th and even early 20th century; late examples include the Grade II Listed Armstrong Cottages in Rothbury.

Many hospitals were built in the mid/late Victorian period, though the earliest pupose-built ‘hospital’ in the region was the Newcastle Infirmary at the Forth, built in 1753 for the sick and lame poor of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle. It was paid for by subscription and also treated outsiders admitted from ships docking at Newcastle. It became the Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1887 and moved to its present site in 1906. Other important Newcastle hospitals include the Fever Hospital, Bath Lane, built outside the town walls in 1804 and the Lying-In Hospital (1826).

The mid 19th century also saw the construction of a series of asylums for ‘lunatics’. The best surviving is the Northumberland Pauper Lunatic Asylum, now St George’s Hospital, Morpeth. Built from brick it has a central block with wings on either side, with wards for male and female patients. Many hospitals or medical facilities often had several sites; the Newcastle Dispensary initially re-used a Masonic Hall built thirteen years earlier before moving to Nelson Street and then, in 1928, to 115 New Bridge Street. Workhouses were another important post-medieval social institution. Some of the earlier examples, such as the Grade II Listed Bellingham Union Workhouse (1839), were similar in plan to traditional farmhouses. Other surviving workhouses include Glendale Poor Union, Wooler (1839), Hexham (1839, 1883), Berwick (early 19th century), Durham (1837, 1870, 1875) and South Shields (1877-80). Many of the surviving examples have been preserved due to their later history as hospitals.


The great period of cross-border warfare came to an end by the mid 17th century, although issues of defence remained important. Defences of the 17th and 18th centuries were mainly predicated on the fact that the threat would come from the North, and a number of border castles, such as Wark-on-Tweed and Norham, were altered to take into account the changes in warfare caused by the widespread use of gunpowder (Kenyon 1977; 1981). Although little survives of the castle at Wark (Northumberland), the 16th-century artillery platform can still be seen; a recent English Heritage survey at Norham has also revealed a series of earthworks, probably used to house canon. Excavation and survey at Harbottle Castle in Upper Coquetdale recorded a Tudor gun battery on the motte equipped with two distinctive ‘letter box’ gun ports of a type paralleled in Scotland (Crow 2004, 246-261). This is the only residence defended with gunports set back from the line of the Border.

A number of 16th- and 17th-century defences are recorded at Holy Island. The now largely disappeared Fort on the Heugh was built in 1671 to defend a small harbour at The Ouse. It complemented the small fort built under Henry VIII on Beblowe (now Lindisfarne Castle). Recent excavation on the site known as The Palace suggests that it may have been used as a victualling station for military forces on the island (Hardie 2001). The most extensive artillery defences of this period are those surrounding the border town of Berwick (MacIvor 1965). Begun by Mary Tudor in 1555, they are of Italian design; the extensive earth-banked walls can still be seen, and the Cumberland Bastion, Brass Bastion and Meg’s Mount are well-preserved bastions of international importance.

By the mid 17th century the direction of perceived threats was changing. The Civil War led to the need to defend against enemies from the south as well as the north. A fortification was built at North Shields to protect the river mouth and Charles I re-defended much of Newcastle’s town walls, including artillery bastions and a sconce, Shieldfield Fort (mound extant) (Ellison and Harbottle 1993). A Scottish garrison at Hartlepool also augmented the town’s existing medieval defences. There are also some possible Civil War earthworks at Barnard Castle and Bothal Castle. An increasing threat of plundering raids from the Dutch in the 1670s led to the construction of Clifford’s Fort, North Shields, as well as Osborne’s Fort on the Heugh, Holy Island, and the construction of batteries at Hartlepool (Lilburn 1986; Kear 1986).

In the 18th century Scotland was once more seen as a potential military threat, particularly following the 1715 Rebellion. One response was the construction of the barracks at Berwick-upon-Tweed (MacIvor 1976). These are some of the earliest barracks in England, predating others by around 80 years. Until the 18th century most soldiers had traditionally been billeted rather than provided with accommodation and these early barracks were designed in a traditional ‘college’ form with ranges of buildings arranged around a central court, whereas later barracks were more open and arranged around a parade ground and had subsidiary buildings. The later 18th century saw the construction of a series of new barracks at Berwick in response to the perceived threat of internal disorder stimulated by the French revolution (Breihan 1990). As well as their architectural recording in the English Heritage volume on barracks (Douet 1998), there has also been a small amount of archaeological work on the site (TWM 1998). These formal responses to the Jacobite threat, were complemented by a series of more informal, individual attempts at defence, such as Codger Fort at Rothley, built in 1769.

In the 19th century there was an increased threat of invasion from France and Germany. A number of defensive batteries were built, such as those at Blyth and the Old Battery at Alnmouth (Northumberland) and the Heugh Battery, Hartlepool (Teesside). Some, such as those at Goswick, Alnmouth and Trow Rock near South Shields, were primarily intended for the training of volunteers. An example of the new military technologies is the conversion of Clifford’s Fort to a Submarine Mining Depot (c. 1888) for electrically fired sea mines; some associated buildings still survive.

There is also good number of rifle ranges dating to the surge in volunteer activity in the second half of the 19th century. These were usually within easy travelling of centres of population, for example, Trow Quarry at South Shields, or where local landowners themselves encouraged the formation of local rifle volunteers, as at Chillingham Park.

Material culture

Substantial ceramic assemblages have come from urban excavation in Newcastle (e.g. Ellison 1983a; Ellison et al 1993; Nolan 1990; Vaughan 1993; 1994a; Vaughan et al 1987). Post-medieval wares identified here include, in the 16th century, Cistercian ware, redwares imported from the Low Countries and German stonewares; and in the 17th century large quantities of English redwares (including metropolitan slipwares from Essex), lesser quantities of tin glazed wares and continuing continental imports. An analysis of an assemblage from part of the later 17th century defences at the Castle (Newcastle) has been undertaken by Andrew Sage, as part of his MA at the University of Durham (Sage 2002). This explored an assemblage (excavated in 1992) from the same Bastion ditch as that published in 1983, and is thus directly comparable with those published earlier (Ellison 1983).

Outside Newcastle, two small but important assemblages have been recovered in Gateshead (Oakwellgate and Bottle Bank) (Nolan and Vaughan 2002; OAN 2003). These have yet to be published, but are important as they are backland pit groups, which will allow a greater refinement in dating than the large Newcastle assemblages, which are likely to be derived from large-scale communal dumping, and are often re-deposited. Important assemblages have also been recovered from Durham (Lowther et al 1993) and Berwick (Ellison 1992). In general, a wide range of local wares, regional imports and some foreign imports (e.g. Low Countries redwares and German stonewares) are represented.

Despite the relatively large number of post-medieval assemblages, reports have tended to focus on the earlier groups (i.e. 16th-18th centuries) rather than 19th-century assemblages. A large assemblage of 19th-century ceramics was recovered and retained from the Old Rectory at Oakwellgate, Gateshead, but has yet to be analysed. A small assemblage of later post-medieval wares was also excavated at Alnwick Castle Gardens (PCA North 2003). Other biases are notable, particularly the emphasis on urban contexts; few come from rural sites, though an important early-18th-century group has been recovered from Dalden Tower (Durham), which contained a large number of Lower Rhine slipware vessels (Anon 1986).

Glass is also found on most urban sites of this period, though not in large quantities. The most extensive assemblages derive from Newcastle (Ellison 1979; 1981; 1983b; Vaughan 1994b), but significant collections also come from Durham (Ellison 1983), Monkwearmouth and Jarrow (Willmott forthcoming), and smaller collections from Hartlepool (Young 1987, 32-34). Glass from these assemblages is included in a recent overview of early modern vessel glass from England (Willmott 2002). As with pottery, most research has focused on the earlier assemblages, rather than 19th-century groups.

The arrival of tobacco brought an important new artefact type, the clay tobacco pipe (Cessford 2001). These have wide date range, from the 16th to the late 19th or even early 20th century, and are common finds in postmedieval contexts (e.g. Nolan 1993, 145; Ellison 1993b; Edwards 1987). Pipes are important as diagnostic dating artefacts due to their short use life, but also provide an important insight into patterns of commodity consumption. The major producers of such pipes in the region were centred on Tyneside (Edwards 1988), although some were imported from elsewhere in Britain, and also from overseas, like the Dutch pipes found in Berwick (Ellison 1992). These are a relatively well-studied category of material culture, both within the North-East, and across Britain generally. The standard typology for Tyneside pipes was created by Edwards (1987; 1988), superseding earlier work by Parsons (1964). The excavations in Gateshead in 1999 (Oakwellgate) and 2000 (Bottle Bank) recovered waste material from claypipe making kilns for the first time (Nolan and Vaughan 2002; Oxford Archaeology North 2003).

Large and interesting assemblages of 16th- and 17thcentury leather, mainly shoe leather, were found in excavations at the Castle (Vaughan 1981; 1983). In general, a wide range of other small finds has also been found on post-medieval excavations. For example, those from Black Friars, Newcastle, include sewing equipment, dress items, cutlery, musket shot, keys, textiles and shoes (Harbottle and Fraser 1987). There have been few attempts, however, to bring together this material and allow comparisons to be made with other sites within the region or beyond, nor have many cross-disciplinary studies been undertaken. That by Gwendolyn Heley on Newcastle probate inventories is one exception (Heley forthcoming).

Museum and archive collections

Museum collections

There are huge collections of post-medieval material held in the region’s museums. The vast majority is contained in social history and art collections, with a relatively small proportion belonging to archaeological collections. The sheer quantity and diversity of this material makes it nearly impossible to characterise, though there have been isolated attempts to assess individual categories of museum objects, such as material related to maritime themes or the colliery industry (Gale 1992; 1994). The outstanding collection is that at Beamish, which holds a huge social history collection dating from the 1600s to the early 20th century, including an important folk art and crafts section. In total there are over 300,000 objects here. The Discovery Museum, Newcastle, is another museum with a nationally important collection, relating particularly to scientific and technical subjects, as well as maritime history, social history, regimental militaria and costume. Hartlepool Museum also holds major collections of material for the town’s maritime and social history.

Other museums in the region curate collections of regional importance. The Dorman Museum holds a major collection of Linthorpe Pottery, including around 465 of the 2,350 known different designs. The Old Fulling Museum, Durham, holds important archaeological collections relating to excavations on post-medieval sites in the city of Durham, including the archives of the Durham Archaeological Survey, one of the largest collections of glass bottles from the country (from Claypath) and the Eric Parson’s collection of clay pipes.

Finally, some museums house material culture related to the colliery industry. The most important is Beamish, which holds large quantities relating to work and society in the north-east coalfields. There is also material at the Woodhorn Colliery Museum (currently being refurbished), including a nationally important selection of trade union banners. A small collection of material related to the Wallsend B Pit is held by Tyne and Wear Museums.

Archive holdings

If the museum collections have proved difficult to characterise, the archival resources are intractable. The post-medieval saw a massive explosion in the use of texts for administrative and technical purposes, with the rapid expansion in literacy and the increased formalisation of administrative and technical institutions. Of potential use to those researching the post-medieval historic environment are maps, plans, topographic prints, photographs, wills, leases, probate records, and much more besides.

The regional record offices are the major repositories for much of this material, and some of their indices are now available online, but other archives and collections should also be highlighted. Most important are the collections held by Beamish, which include a nationally important holding of trade catalogues, mainly dating between 1860 and 1960, major collections of advertising ephemera, topographic prints, agricultural and industrial books, plus over 300,000 photographs. The museum has developed a Regional Resource Centre, allowing easy access to its collections.

 Further important material is held in the Durham University Archives and Special Collections, including the Durham Castle Buildings Archive and deposits by the Durham Dean and Chapter Estates. Major public libraries in the North-East also include significant local study collections comprising amongst much other material, topographic photographs, maps and plans.

Thematic collections include the Ken Hoole Study Centre at Darlington Railway Museum, which is a major resource for the study of the railways of North-East England. The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in Newcastle has a well stocked library, including most major mining-related works pre-1920, as well as a wide range of pamphlets, articles, religious tracts and other material. Its collections also include important London Lead Company documents, John Buddle’s papers, the Watson collection and the Bell collection, all of which are now housed in the Northumberland Record Office.

An increasing number of important on-line initiatives disseminate significant archive material. The Structures in the North-East collection includes digitised images from major collections, such as the Stafford Linsley Collection which comprises some 20,000 colour transparencies and 600 black-and-white prints of industrial subjects, in addition to a large collection of maps, plans and largescale aerial photographs. It also holds images from the Norman McCord collection (c. 1,500 colour transparencies of aerial images, mainly of industrial developments and associated housing developments).

20th Century

History of research

Any attempt to characterise the 20th-century historic environment represents a challenge. The sheer scale of building and redevelopment over the last hundred years makes it difficult to summarise concisely and the task is made no easier by the lack of policies for listing or scheduling 20th-century sites and monuments which would otherwise separate what is seen as long-lasting and of socio-cultural significance from the more transient elements of the historic environment. With these provisos in mind, the resource can be examined using the main thematic headings used elsewhere in the NERRF resource assessment (Figure 52).

Still seen by many as essentially ‘current affairs’, the historic environment of this period, particular post-World War II, is often not deemed worthy of study or preservation. Over the last decade, however, there has been increased recognition that closer investigation is valid and this tendency has particularly been motivated in the North-East by the rapid destruction of many elements of the mid-20th-century landscape. For example, the colliery landscapes that once characterised much of east Durham and south-east Northumberland have completely disappeared and the total removal of pithead buildings and spoil heaps has fundamentally altered the cultural landscape of the region. Many more mundane but equally important aspects of the historic environment are also threatened, such as post-war council houses, offices and industrial architecture, concrete pillboxes, and telephone boxes. The decline in heavy industry has run parallel with a rise in light industry and manufacture, which are not merely post-war phenomena, as the mid-1930s industrial estate at Team Valley (Tyne and Wear) illustrates (Hudson 1981a). Some new, heavier, industries have also developed, such as the petrochemical industries on Teesside. Imperial Chemical Industries, for example, was established in 1926 and their base at Billingham became a major employer, providing c. 50,000 jobs by 1945 (McCord and Thompson 1998, 367).

Four main constituencies within the heritage sector have been working on this period, each with differing research and publication strategies. First, architectural historians; they have perhaps the longest tradition of exploring the heritage of the 20th century. The Thirties Society was founded in 1979 as a result of the increased threat to interwar architecture through demolition, redevelopment and neglect; in the mid 1990s it was transformed into the Twentieth Century Society as interest in post-war architecture grew. As well as acting as a pressure group fighting to protect 20th-century architecture, the society’s journal and conference provide a forum for research and publication, though relatively little of this work has focused on the North-East. Much of the emphasis has been upon architect-designed buildings and schemes, with less interest in more mundane architecture (though there are some exceptions e.g. Stratton 1999). English Heritage has also been responsible for recording 20th-century sites, including military remains, hospitals, prisons and law courts (e.g. Cocroft and Thomas 2003; Dobinson 2000; 2001; 2003; Richardson 1995; Brodie et al 2002; 2003). There are also more site-based projects, such as the 2002 Gateshead Project (Taylor and Giles 2004).

The second main interest group comprises archaeologists. Though the prisoner-of-war camp at Low Harperley is a rare example of a 20th-century Scheduled Ancient Monument, the notion that broadly contemporary material culture might qualify for archaeological study has been gaining ground recently (e.g. Buchli and Lucas 2001; Smith 2001; CHAT 2003). In part, the advent of PPG16 in 1990 has led to increased levels of small-scale archaeological investigation, much of which has cut through 20th-century deposits. Generally, however, 20th-century material is still considered incidental and within the region it is still rare for PPG16 conditions to require the specific recording of modern remains. Work elsewhere, however, has shown what is possible (Gould 2001). At present there is little appetite for research on the portable material culture of the 20th century, which has tended to remain the domain of social and design historians. As a consequence, unlike 20th-century historical archaeologists in the United States, British archaeologists lack usable typologies of modern artefacts, such as ring pulls.

A third group, industrial archaeologists, also undertake research mainly on the origins and rise of industrialisation, but there is an increasing realisation that it is also important to make a record of 20th-century industrial sites and processes (Barker and Cranstone 2004). Locally, the work of Stafford Linsley has been crucial in this respect, although the 20th century has been covered in some recent surveys (e.g. Ayris and Linsley 1994), and many of the English Heritage Step 1 and 3 reports on industrial archaeology also deal with relatively recent sites (e.g. the coal industry coverage: Gould and Cranstone 1993; Instone and Cranstone 1994; Gould and Ayris 1995; Thornes 1994).

Finally, there is the role of special interest groups, mainly run by amateurs working outside the formal heritage sector. These groups investigate topics ranging from mills to World War II defences, historic cinemas and war memorials. A leading example was the Defence of Britain project, which used many amateurs co-ordinated through the Council for British Archaeology. There is also a large number of history projects and societies studying the history and heritage of localities (parish or village). In many areas of the North-East these tend to focus on recent industrial heritage, particularly when these industries have now disappeared. Special interest groups have been responsible for creating and recording large amounts of important data, though there is often a problem with disseminating information outside the core group.

Existing research frameworks

In the heritage sector for this period the main agenda has been the Research Priorities for Post-Medieval Archaeology (SPMA 1988), currently being updated by the Society (Paul Belford pers comm). A national research framework for the archaeology of the industrial period is also being developed by the Association of Industrial Archaeology, while English Heritage has established a research framework for the study of military sites and a more general one for the 20th century (Schofield 2004).


The North-East has seen comparatively recent shifts in settlement patterns. Within Newcastle and the surrounding urban areas, the 1960s saw major phases of clearance of traditional terraced streets (deemed ‘slums’) and their replacement with new developments, mainly tower blocks, such as at Cruddas Park. Schemes like these were particularly promoted by T. Dan Smith, first as leader of Newcastle City Council and later as chairman of the Northern Economic Development Council. These and other re-developments which took place in Middlesbrough and other major urban centres, have long been seen as poorly designed and detrimental to the communities who live in them, although recent attempts have tried to revive these areas by renovating many of the tower blocks. The wider architectural and social importance of some of the more successful housing schemes has also been recognised; most obviously with the proposal to list Ralph Erskine’s Byker Wall development (Figure 53).

The sheer scale of expansion in settlement in the 20th century must not be overlooked. This growth was not simply due to population increase; the major period of growth had been during the 19th century, and between 1931 and 1951 the population of Durham actually declined (McCord and Thompson 1998, 377). Instead, it was the distribution of the existing population which was dramatically altered, as slums were cleared and new developments built. At the same time, there was a move from multiple occupancy of properties to occupancy by individual families. For example, in 1934-36 Sunderland re-housed 445 families. Originally occupying 881 rooms, they now occupied 1,671 (McCord and Thompson 1998, 379). The expansion of housing continued after World War II; over 40,000 new houses were built on Teesside alone (Thompson and McCord 1998, 400-401).

Major alterations also occurred in smaller settlements. In 1951 Durham County Council published its development plan tackling the problems of c. 350 small mining villages, which had grown up around uneconomic coal mines, and were now threatened with closure. Many of these villages were categorised as ‘Category D’, a recommendation that they should be allowed to die with no further economic assistance. By contrast, a series of new towns were developed to house those who were fleeing the colliery villages and seeking employment elsewhere: Peterlee was founded in 1955 (designed by Victor Passmore), and followed in the early 1960s by Cramlington New Town, Killingworth, Newton Aycliffe and Washington. Although much research on ‘new towns’ has been carried out nationally, little has been focused on these north-eastern examples.

As well as these ‘new towns’ there are also a number of important planned suburbs and dormitory villages, such as Darras Hall on the edge of Ponteland (Northumberland) and Gosforth Garden Village (Tyne and Wear), created with different philosophies in mind. At Darras Hall, for example, there was a focus on exclusivity and an isolation from neighbours, which contrasts strongly with Gosforth Garden Village’s community-based ethos.

In addition to such conspicuous examples of major alterations in settlement patterns, towns and villages have clearly undergone a slow metamorphosis over the 20th century. This has been in reaction to the advent of the car, the decline in the industrial base, changes in patterns in consumerism and much else.

A significant factor in changing attitudes to townscapes has been the tension between a demand for economic growth leading to wholesale clearance of blocks of urban landscapes with an aim to comprehensively redevelop them, and regeneration, which aims to reform existing built landscapes and to conserve and improve them, with an emphasis on economic and social sustainability. The latter approach is closely linked to the growing post-war conservation movement, and has often worked hand-inhand with local grass-roots and community movements. A good example of this regeneration-centred approach to urban transformation is the recent Sunderland ARC Initiative (http://www.sunderlandarc.co.uk)

Both the Tyne and Wear Historic Town Survey and the Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey have charted the changing patterns of urban development. The Northumberland survey is particularly important as it focuses primarily on the understudied small towns of the region. Despite their importance in the history of the region little work has been carried out on the colliery villages (though see Brown 1995). The Market Towns Initiative, a Countryside Agency project to bring new life to market towns, also has an inevitable conservation element, and includes thirteen small towns in the North-East.

Many individual elements of the urban landscape, particularly architecture, have been explored and in some cases listed, such as the Civic Centre, Newcastle (a rare example of a post-War Grade II* Listed building) and Jesmond Branch Library (Grade II). Records have also been made of important monuments and sculpture, notably through the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association’s National Recording Project (Usherwood et al 2000) and the Imperial War Museums War Memorial Recording Project. Wider surveys taking in all aspects of the urban historic environment have been more rare, though the English Heritage Gateshead Project and the Grainger Town Regeneration Project are two important exceptions (Cullen and Lovie 2003; Taylor and Giles 2004).


Whereas the late 18th and 19th centuries have traditionally been seen as the great period of industrialisation, the 20th century has more often been characterised as a time of decline for industry (Stratton and Trinder 2003). The first major phase of industrial decline in the region came with the Depression of the 1930s, symbolised most strongly in the North-East, and perhaps throughout the country, by the Jarrow Crusade (Figure 54). Although temporary respite came with the increase of manufacturing caused by World War II, the post-war period saw a long-term decline in the major industries in the region with many of the flag-ship industries, such as ship-building and coal mining, more or less completely disappearing.

Despite this long-term pattern of decline, for most of the 20th century heavy industry has dominated life in much of the region, particularly in Tyne and Wear, south-east Northumberland, east Durham and Teesside. In some areas, such as Teesside, the former heavy industries, such as shipbuilding, have been replaced by new ones, such as chemical production or car manufacture. Equally, there has been a widespread increase in lighter manufacturing, including hi-tech industries.

In the North-East the most important extractive industry has long been coal. Collieries were constructed across the coal measures of east Durham and south-east Northumberland, the industry reaching its peak in the early 1920s when over 170,000 men were employed as miners in County Durham alone. Much of the infrastructure for this industry was created in the 19th century, though technological advances led to the continual updating of machinery throughout the 20th century, particularly following nationalisation in 1947. The decline of the industry, however, has meant the removal or demolition of almost all pithead installations, as well as associated remains such as spoil heaps. The ironic consequence is that far less field evidence survives of the 20th-century industry than it does for earlier periods. There are now no remaining deep-cast coalmines in County Durham or Northumberland. The only significantly preserved colliery is at Woodhorn and that is now a museum (Figure 45). Built in 1899 with production starting in 1901, the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument with buildings which are Grade II and II* Listed. A winding house with winding engines and headgear is also preserved at Washington ‘F’ Pit, but sadly little else on any scale survives, though in some cases machinery has been moved. The friction winding engine at Murton Colliery (installed 1922) was moved in 1992, when the tower in which it was housed was demolished (despite being Grade II Listed). Smaller-scale remains do survive, especially in more rural areas of the coalfield, but these have not been systematically investigated.

Of course, the collieries did not exist in social vacuums, they had a complex infrastructure of housing and social facilities associated with them, and the absence of surviving features from the collieries closed in the late 20th century or its detailed preservation by record, is itself a vivid illustration of political attitudes to the coal industry in the 1990s. After 1945 opencast coal mining became increasingly important in County Durham (over 120 sq km of opencasted land). These areas too have now been restored to agriculture and forestry, though all previous features in the area have been totally destroyed. Coal related transport features also survive, the most notable being the Dunston staithes. Ironically the most significant remains associated with the coal industry today are now the monuments which stand to commemorate those who died in mining disasters (such as the Ashington Colliery Disaster Memorial, 1923; the two Easington Colliery Disaster Memorials, 1952) or to commemorate the passing of an industry (e.g. The Putter outside the Durham Miner’s Association offices at Durham) (Usherwood et al 2000). Few of these monuments are listed.

In the west of County Durham and in small areas of south-west Northumberland lead mining dominated. Although this industry was in a serious decline by the late 19th century, in contrast to coal mining, the material remains of the industry are much more visible. The majority of these remains are 19th century, though a small number of lead mines continued to be worked into the early 20th century. There was also an increase in mining for minerals associated with lead veins, such as fluorspar and barytes (both used in the chemical industries) (Cranstone 1993). These mineral mines mainly thrived until the early 1920s, though a number were reopened during the war. None are worked today though there are still traces of 20th-century pithead structures, such as at Middlehope Old Mine and Grove Rake Mine, Rookhope, where the pithead winder can still be seen (Figure 55). Unlike the remains of the lead industry, few of these later mines are listed or scheduled.

Another important extractive industry found in the 20th century is quarrying. Small-scale quarrying for immediate local use was found across the entire region in the postmedieval period, and large-scale industrial quarrying, mainly for roadstone, lime and refractory products was centred on the North Pennines. Several quarries are still worked. Major 20th-century quarries have also beenworked on the Magnesian limestone of east Durham, and the Whin Sill of Northumberland. Although many smaller quarries were worked in the 20th century it is difficult to date them without further map-based work. Many quarries still contain traces of processing and loading installations often linking to the wider rail network, but little work has been carried out on these remains. Coastal quarries sometimes retain small piers, harbours, and/or shipboard loading facilities, for example that west of Budle Point, Bamburgh.

In the glacial clays of the lowlands and the brick shales of the coal measures, brick-making was widely spread, and brick was an important architectural material into the 20th century in many colliery villages. No 20th-century brick or tileworks are protected.

The final major extractive industry was ironstone mining in Cleveland. This continued into the mid 20th century. Traces of the mining industry can still be seen, though it is not always clear which remains are of 20th century date. The most significant remains of ironstone extraction lie just south of the border of this region in Rosedale (North Yorkshire) (Hayes and Rutter 1974).

Associated with the coal and ironstone industries, iron and steel making has flourished at the interface between the Coal Measures and the Pennines at locations such as Consett, Tow Law and Wolsingham, as well as the major Teesside industry, due to the availability of coal, local ironstones and limestone (used as a flux). Some remains of the late-19th/early-20th-century Newport Ironworks (Middlesbrough) survive, and the Redcar steelworks with its associated slag tips forms an impressive working industrial landscape, whose recording in the event of closure would be of prime importance. Limited work has been carried out on the 18th- and 19th-century wrought iron industries, and even less on the 20th-century industries. As with coal, much of the recent evidence has been destroyed by landscaping and regeneration.

The North-East has also been home to many manufacturing industries, though these have been less studied from the heritage perspective. There are two listed post-war factory buildings in the region: the Wills Tobacco Factory in Newcastle (Grade II) and the Cummins Engine Factory in Darlington (Grade II*) (Figure 56).

Another major industry, traditionally associated with the North-East, is shipbuilding, with major shipyards on the Tyne, Wear and Tees, as well as other yards at sites such as Blyth. Although relatively little shipbuilding is carried out today, infrastructure does still survive, including dry-docks. Many associated office buildings have been converted to other uses (such as the Swan Hunter buildings that now comprise elements of the Segedunum Museum at Wallsend); others, though, are threatened with demolition.

Evidence for the production of electricity and gas includes a range of surviving material; some major power-stations, such as Blyth, have been demolished, even if with some recording by English Heritage (Rushton 2004). Others, such as Lynemouth power-station (Northumberland), arelisted on the relevant Sites and Monuments Records as being part of the local historic environment. There are also some smaller scale elements of infrastructure surviving, such as the late Arts and Craft’s electrical substation at Chatton (Northumberland) or the Grade II Listed gas house built for the Raby Estate in 1910.

As well as the advent of a power infrastructure, the late 19th and early 20th century saw the creation of a planned and large-scale system of water provision, for both drinking and sewage disposal. In upland areas, the most apparent aspect of this new development is the creation of a series of large reservoirs, such as Kielder Water (Northumberland), Cow Green and Selset (Co. Durham). These major landscape features have become important parts of the upland landscape of the North-East, and contribute significant wildlife and amenity value. They are also associated with a series of related standing remains, such as the valve tower at Selset, or the visible traces of the work camp for labourers who built Catcleugh reservoir.

Transport and communications

The railways were of fundamental importance in the development of the North-East, though like many of the other industries their main period of expansion was the 19th century. The 20th century has been a period of slow decline in the extent of the railway network, particularly after the ‘Beeching Axe’ in 1963. Much of the trackside infrastructure of the old lines was removed, though associated engineering works, such as cuttings, embankments, bridges and viaducts still remain (but mostly of 19th-century date). The end of steam power also saw the disappearance of many other trackside features, such as water towers. There are however several important archives which hold significant pictorial records of early- and mid-20th-century railways, particularly the Ken Hoole Study Centre in Darlington and the National Rail Museum in York. The Rokeby Collection in the National Monument Record is also a major source for photographic images of railways in the 20th century (mainly 1940s-60s).

Bridges are an iconic element of the local 20th-century transport infrastructure, among them the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge (1907) and the Tyne bridges between Newcastle and Gateshead, including the King Edward VII Bridge (1906), Tyne Bridge (1928), Metro Bridge (1981), Redheugh Road Bridge (1983), and Millennium Bridge (2000). As well as these major road and rail bridges, the North-East also has one Grade II Listed footbridge, the Kingsgate Footbridge, New Elvet, in Durham (designed by Ove Arup in 1965).

Although the wider road network in the North-East has been radically altered in the 20th century with the advent of the internal combustion engine, there has been no significant attempt to explore the material aspects of this important transformation in the environment, though occasional peripheral elements of the road network have been protected (for work elsewhere in the country see Merriman 2005; Polley and Turnbull 2005). There is a Grade II Listed pre-war garage at Rothbury (Northumberland) (and the conversion of 18th- and 19th-century stable blocks into garages is common) and there are two Grade II Listed bus shelters at Stannington (Northumberland). There is an important ferro-concrete bus depot at Portland Terrace, Jesmond (Tyne and Wear) and a ferro-concrete bus station (Grade II Listed) at Seaton Carew. Beyond these rare exceptions little attempt has been made to record or protect surviving bus stations, shelters, garages, etc.


Parts of the rural landscape are protected from development because they lie within the Northumberland National Park, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and individual Countryside Stewardship schemes. Equally, many farm buildings are listed and while most are of 18th- or 19th-century date many do preserve 20th-century modifications. The increased use of tractors in the 20th century saw the end of use of gin-gangs and stationary engines and many farm buildings show signs of conversion for other uses. The only survey to have systematically covered farm buildings is the MPP Thematic survey of model and planned farms (Wade-Martins et al 1997). Although mainly focusing on the 18th and 19th century, this survey and its associated academic publication do consider briefly the early 20th century (Wade-Martins 2002). The Northumberland National Park’s Historic Village Atlas project has recorded important elements of the surviving rural 20th-century building stock within the boundaries of the park. Recording work on farms has also been carried out by Stafford Linsley, though much of this has focused on pre-20th-century remains. The lack of substantial recording work on agricultural sites is disturbing in light of the current popularity of farm conversion schemes.

An important 20th-century development has been the widespread expansion of forestry in the region. Afforestation is mainly found in the north of the region (c. 80% in Northumberland). In total some 99,500ha (11%) of the area is covered by forest and woodland. The major increase in planting began in the early 1930s and reached a peak between 1950-60 (DEFRA 2002) and while afforestation is undoubtedly responsible for destroying many elements of the earlier historical environment, it must also be recognised as an important element of 20thcentury rural heritage. Apart from Kielder Forest, much of this woodland cover is scattered and divided into thousands of woodland blocks. Beyond the trees themselves, however, little tangible infrastructure survives. Unfortunately, the site of the 1933 training camp in Kielder, which was used as a base for Canadian lumberjacks during World War II and later became a Forestry Commission depot, now lies under the waters of the Kielder Reservoir. As well as commercial forestry, a more recent development is the Great North Forest, an initiative which has seen over 800ha of trees planted in north-east Durham, and Tyne and Wear. This project aims to revitalise countryside in the urban fringe, with an emphasis on amenity and community value rather than the direct economic value of forestry.

The fishing industry was also important to the coastal towns and villages of the region, with (for example) considerable remains of 20th-century fish-processing works (many currently derelict and under threat) around North Shields Fish Quay. Traditional smokehouses also survive at Craster and Seahouses, and there are working fishing ports at Amble, Blyth, Hartlepool, North Shields and Sunderland, along with formerly fishing-related harbour installations at numerous coastal villages.


In terms of recorded heritage (e.g. listed on the region’s Sites and Monuments Records) 20th-century military remains are relatively well represented, thanks to a combination of initiatives by the Council of British Archaeology (i.e. Defence of Britain project), English Heritage, and large-scale survey work by independent researchers.

There are relatively few World War I remains, though some can still be seen, including coastal defences such as Hartlepool Heugh Battery and Robert’s Battery at Hartley. There has, however, been no systematic survey. For example, the evidence for damage from enemy action at sites such as Hartlepool has yet to be assessed. There is, however, growing wider community interest in such sites and a significant locally based community initiative is aiming to restore the Heugh Gun battery. There are also 20th-century defences around the mouth of the Tyne and some remains of relevant industrial sites, such as the early aircraft factory on Town Moor, Newcastle (Tyne and Wear).

The Defence of Britain project was established to record all 20th-century military remains, but it has focused on World War II anti-invasion defences (components of stop lines, area defence, roadblocks, beach and bridge defences, etc). The relatively broad flat beaches of Northumberland were seen to be a potential landing site for a German invasion and were defended accordingly with a thin ‘crust’ of coastal defences, which aimed to hold off landing forces long enough for reserves to be mobilised (Alexander 1999). These were supplemented by a series of ‘stop lines’ to slow down and channel enemy advances. Areas around river mouths were also often defended, such as around Hartlepool and the Blyth Coastal Defence Battery. Many of these coastal defences are still visible and have been systematically recorded, though independent researchers retain much information which was not submitted to the Defence of Britain project and thus may not be held on the local Sites and Monuments Records. In addition, the Defence of Britain project ended in 2002 and any later discoveries will not have been recorded via the scheme. Much of this work is unpublished, but 20th-century defence features along the Northumberland coast are included in a recent guidebook (Hardie and Rushton 2000, 84-95).

English Heritage have also carried out three surveys on aspects of World War II military defences, including AA defences, radar stations and bombing decoys (e.g. Longhoughton and Widdrington, Northumberland) (Dobinson 2000; 2001; 2003). These have again been supplemented by other English Heritage projects, such as the recent work at Dunstanburgh, which recorded the Chain Home Low radar station at Craster in more detail.

As well as these formal surveys, a number of other military remains have been recorded. Good examples include a number of air-raid shelters by Northern Counties Archaeology Services (e.g. NCAS 2001), the preservation of a concrete turning-circle for tanks at Swarland (Northumberland), and the preserved carved stone eagles outside Milfield airfield. One final group of World War II remains worth mentioning are prisoner-of-war camps. Low Harperley in Weardale recently became the first such camp to be protected by Scheduling and the remains of other camps are known, such as the concrete hut bases at Featherstone Castle and the recently surveyed Mediterranean-style terraced gardens built by Italian prisoners of war at Dunstanburgh. Ordnance factories are known at Spennymore, Birtley and Aycliffe, though much here has been redeveloped and little of the original infrastructure remains.

Finally, English Heritage has carried out work on sites related to the Cold War, although most relevant sites were located further south. Middleton St George was designated as a V-bomber dispersal airfield, however, and elements of the radar screen were based at RAF Boulmer, Cold Hesleden, Seaton Snook, Danby Beacon and Goldsborough (Cocroft and Thomas 2003, 115-116, 126). The designated headquarters for regional government in time of nuclear war was at Hexham, in a converted World War II cold store (Cocroft and Thomas 2003, 209). Sadly, this has now been demolished, with little recording beyond a small number of photographs taken by English Heritage (Roger Thomas pers comm). As well as the work of English Heritage, the Cold War air navigation beacon at Low Newton (Northumberland) has also been recorded in advance of its conversion to other uses (Figure 57).


Despite the general secularisation of society over the course of the 20th century there have still been significant developments in religion and associated practices. Although the great Victorian period of Anglican Church restoration and renovation was over, there continued to be small scale alterations to church structures throughout the period. The early 20th century also saw some new church building, such as St Andrew’s in Roker, and the important extensions to St Michael’s in Bishopwearmouth. A second phase of church building, both Anglican and Catholic, occurred in the 1960s following the creation of new towns at Aycliffe, Cramlington, Killingworth, Peterlee and Washington. Although post-war churches have been listed elsewhere in the country, there are no such protected buildings in the North-East.

Non-conformist chapels date mainly to the 19th century, though, like other churches they have undergone constant small-scale alteration, and the laying out of new towns sometimes led to the construction of new examples. The 20th century has also seen the expansion of several, previously small, groups, such as Mormons (Church of the Latter Day Saints) who have been responsible for the construction of several new churches in the region in recent years.

Information about these building campaigns can be found in a variety of locations, including the Church Plans OnLine website, the minutes of the Diocesan Advisory Committees (both Anglican and Catholic) and the associated diocesan archives, which hold information about all the relevant Faculties. The non-conformist chapels for Darlington and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are fully covered by surveys carried out by Peter Ryder, which supplement the less comprehensive survey by Christopher Stell (Ryder 2003b; 2003c; 2004c; Stell 1994).

The 19th-century move away from churchyard burial to larger municipal cemeteries has continued. As well as the continued use of the great Victorian cemeteries, many new cemeteries have opened. This has not only happened in towns; many villages have now opened overflow cemeteries following the cessation of interment in the churchyard. Little work has been carried out on changing trends in 20thcentury gravestones and related memorialisation. The advent of cremation as a popular burial rite has led to the introduction of a new architectural form, the crematorium, and there are important national archives for cremation in the Palace Green library at Durham University.

In addition to Christian places of worship, the increasingly multi-cultural nature of 20th-century society is reflected in the presence of places of worship and burial of other religions. The most comprehensively catalogued are those belonging to the North-East’s Jewish communities. The Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage in the United Kingdom and Ireland has recorded a range of surviving 20thcentury Jewish sites, including nine synagogues (one, the Ryhope Road Synagogue, Sunderland, is Grade II Listed), a Jewish school and a mikveh in the area. There are also a number of synagogues of earlier date, and also several Jewish cemeteries, some incorporated into larger municipal cemeteries.

The distribution of Sikh gurdwaras in the region reflects that of South Asian immigrant communities (two in Cleveland, one in Darlington, one in Newcastle and two in South Shields). There are also four Hindu temples in Newcastle and one in Cleveland as well as nine mosques in Newcastle, one in County Durham, three in Middlesbrough and one in Stockton. Most of these buildings are converted pre-existing structures, the mosque at Grainger Grammar School, for example, was converted from its original use by the Newcastle Turkish Community Association. There are also some purpose-built structures, such as the Laygate Mosque in South Shields, built in 1973. Many of these communities have separate burial areas, such as the Muslim section of Gateshead cemetery. Very little work has been carried out on the historic environment of these aspects of society in the North-East, though the South Tyneside Library Local Studies section holds some useful photographs in its Ethnic Communities collection.

Museums and archives

Archival holdings

Coverage of 20th-century features on Sites and Monuments Records is generally poor. This is mainly due to their low perceived importance, but also to the inconsistent inclusion of 20th-century Listed Buildings. There are, however some areas in which Sites and Monuments Record coverage is better. Most obviously, the inclusion of the Defence of Britain project data ensures that military remains, particularly World War II, maintain a relatively high profile.

Photographic collections are extremely important for understanding the 20th-century historic environment and the North-East is not short of major archival collections. The largest and most accessible collection is that held at Beamish, which contains over 20,000 images, many of which have been scanned-in digitally and are available through a comprehensive catalogue. Most local record offices also hold important collections in a range of formats, including prints, 35mm slides, glass transparencies and postcards. Major collections of photographs can also be found in a number of local studies libraries (South Tyneside and Newcastle being the most important). Collections in museums include Hartlepool Museum and the Dorman Museum, both of which are strong on local industrial sites. Important collections related to the railways can be found in Ken Hoole Study Centre, Darlington Railway Museum, the National Railway Museum at York and the Rokeby Collection at the National Monument Record, Swindon.

Although valuable, these resources are often poorly catalogued and it often proves difficult to find specific images. Some are available through on-line resources, such as Tomorrow’s History and Northumberland Communities, which act as useful, but limited search tools. One important on-line resource is the Structures in the North-East Project (SINE) website, which includes several important photographic collections, particularly the Stafford Linsley Collection, an archive of some 20,000 colour images of industrial archaeology taken for teaching purposes and the Norman McCord Collection, which includes many aerial images taken between the 1950s and mid 1970s, mainly depicting industrial and urban sites, many subsequently destroyed by re-development. Both Durham and Newcastle University libraries also hold important collections of photographs.

Although focusing primarily on people rather than the environment, the archive held by Amber Films, an important Newcastle-based film and photographic collective is of considerable interest. It includes many realist documentary projects of working-class life in the North-East from the 1960s to the present day. The Northern Region Film and Television Archive is also central, holding film stock from Tyne Tees, three decades of Look North (BBC), as well as a range of specialist industrial, educational and training films.

The volume of other archive material is immense, though it is possible to do no more here than highlight the obvious sources. The county record offices are important, though the caveat raised above on cataloguing still applies. The various local and regional newspapers also hold archives, though public access is not always easy. Other bodies holding material include the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers (coal and lead mining) and the Anglican and Catholic Diocesan archives.

Museum collections

This project has not attempted to collect information about 20th-century museum holdings. It was not felt practical to distinguish between fine art, social history and archaeological collections. However, there are a number of museum collections which do deserve to be highlighted, the most significant being that held by Beamish. This huge archive includes a number of nationally important collections, particularly for the period 1800-1920, among them major assemblages of coal-mining artefacts relating to the Great Northern Coalfield, a rare collection of printing presses, advertising art up to the 1970s and folk art collections. The Woodhorn Colliery museum also holds an important collection of mining related material, particularly a nationally significant collection of trade union banners.