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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 248
Date assigned Wednesday, July 29, 1998
Date last amended Thursday, January 21, 1999


REASON FOR DESIGNATION In Cumbria and Northumberland several distinctive types of native settlements dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non- defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. In many areas they were of stone construction, although in the coastal lowlands timber-built variants were also common. In much of Northumberland, especially in the Cheviots, the enclosures were curvilinear in form. Further south a rectangular form was more common. Elsewhere, especially near the Scottish border, another type occurs where the settlement enclosure was `scooped' into the hillslope. Frequently the enclosures reveal a regularity and similarity of internal layout. The standard layout included one or more stone round-houses situated towards the rear of the enclosure, facing the single entranceway. In front of the houses were pathways and small enclosed yards. Homesteads normally had only one or two houses, but larger enclosures could contain as many as six. At some sites the settlement appears to have grown, often with houses spilling out of the main enclosure and clustered around it. At these sites up to 30 houses may be found. In the Cumbrian uplands the settlements were of less regimented form and unenclosed clusters of houses of broadly contemporary date are also known. These homesteads were being constructed and used by non-Roman natives throughout the period of the Roman occupation. Their origins lie in settlement forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. These homesteads are common throughout the uplands where they frequently survive as well-preserved earthworks. In lowland coastal areas they were also originally common, although there they can frequently only be located through aerial photography. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important. Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the 5th century AD. They usually comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right-angles to one another. The field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls, orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to, or within, the field system. The majority of field systems are thought to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation may also have been practiced in a mixed farming economy. Regular aggregate field systems represent a coherent economic unit often used for long periods of time, thus providing important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries. Those which survive well and/or which can be positively linked to associated settlements are considered to merit protection. The settlement and field system at Rainster Rocks is important because a wide range of diverse features survive well, together with evidence for associated agriculture and industrial useage of the site. The settlement is situated in an important lead producing area of Roman Britain and, as such, the monument holds much potential for better understanding of native agricultural and commercial activities during the Romano-British period. DETAILS The monument includes the extensive remains of a Romano-British period settlement and field system, visible as lynchets, terraces, embankments, platforms and orthostatic (upright boulder) field walls. The settlement stands on gently sloping ground at the foot of a dolomitic limestone outcrop known as Rainster Rocks. A series of low, orthostat walls forming a series of enclosures are key elements of the site. In addition there are earthen terraces and platforms and connecting trackways or droves, forming the remains of a settlement of some complexity. The site lies between the rock face of the outcrop to the north and later ridge and furrow ploughing to the south. Partial excavation of the area in the early 20th century revealed that the site was occupied during the third and fourth centuries AD. Finds included fine and coarse pottery together with metalwork and coins from this period. Further excavations in the 1970s revealed that lead smelting was also likely to have been one of the activities in the settlement. There are between 10 and 12 level platforms on which stood buildings which are thought to have been sub-rectangular in shape. Associated with the settlement are fragments of its field systems lying to the east, west and south east, visible as faint plough marks, terraces and lynchets. These features are bounded in some places by the remains of field banks. The settlement is approached by what appears to be an original track from the present road to the village of Brassington. All modern walls, gates, posts and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Hart, CR - Title: North Derbyshire Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 - Date: 1981 - Page References: 106 Unpublished Title Reference - Author: Wildgoose, M. - Title: Notes on Excavation at Rainster Rocks, Brassington - Date: 1972 - Description: unpublished report Unpublished Title Reference - Author: Wildgoose, M. - Title: Notes on Excavation at Rainster Rocks, Brassington - Date: 1972 - Description: unpublished report

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1998. Scheduling Notification: Romano-British settlement and field system at Rainster Rocks. List entry no. 1018475. SM Cat. No. 248.



Grid reference Centred SK 2193 5474 (315m by 236m)
Map sheet SK25SW

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Oct 21 2013 11:09AM

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