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The Ringses

Our ancient heritage

Situated on Beanly Moor is The Ringses: a small Iron Age hillfort. This fortified enclosure is made from three not-quite-circular concentric banks and ditches, measuring about 46m by 43m at the widest point.

Schematic diagram of the Ringses

[Credit: The above schematic diagram was made from an original photograph of the current information board (see below) and has been created to preserve the image owing to weathering and deterioration of the original.]

Rather than being a predominantly defensive structure, The Ringses is thought to have been a status symbol, designed to be seen from afar.

If you’re interested in ancient history and archaeology, it is well worth a visit. There’s a display board [OS: NU 09851 18649; GPS: 55°27’36.222″ N 1°50’54.312″ W] with information about the site.

The Ringses’ information board

Unfortunately, at the time of writing (March 2021), the board has been weathered so much that it is becoming difficult to read. In the interest of preserving this information, the text is reproduced below.

The Ringses

In front of you are the remains of a 2000-year-old Iron Age Settlement

Ramparts and ditches still ring around the settlement and give it its present day name – The Ringses. Such ramparts and ditches are often thought of as being defensive structures, designed to protect the inhabitants from attack. However in some respects the location of this site is not well chosen for defensive purposes, being overlooked by higher ground. Instead, these massive ramparts and ditches may well be status symbols, designed to be seen from afar. They certainly represent a considerable effort in terms of labour costs.

There are two entrances into the settlement, one on the east, and the other on the west. The western entrance is quite complicated. First visitors would pass through the outer ditch between two stone slabs, then the route inside dog-legged as it approached the inner wall. At a much later date, the defences were made simpler by cutting straight through the ramparts.

Inside the walls, the remains of two circular foundations can still be seen. Excavations at similar sites suggest that these are round house foundations. Such round houses were often built with stone walls and thatched roofs. As this site has not been excavated, we cannot be sure what the function was for each house, or whether additional structures may lie buried below the ground. However we can conjecture that at least one building was a domestic dwelling while the other structures would act as storehouses or workshops for weaving. Houses usually consisted of a central heart with seating and bedding around the perimeter and storage for cooking utensils. Inside, the air would be thick with smoke drifting up to the ceiling and through the thatched roof.

The people who lived here were probably an extended farming family, grazing cattle and sheep in surrounding fields. They may have enclosed fields nearby to hold their animals and would have considerable resources or power to command such impressive looking defences. There are other similar settlements in the vicinity, although we cannot be sure they were exactly contemporary with the Ringses, but one could imagine smoke from a number of household hearths dotted around the surrounding landscape.

This site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is protected by law. It is an offence to disturb the ground surface, or to use a metal detector on it, without the appropriate consent.

The Ringses: outer ditch on south side
Inner ditch looking west towards Cheviot Hills

Further information

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1006594

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