Tyne and Wear HER(13284): Dinnington, Fox Covert, monastic grange - Details
Dinnington, Fox Covert, monastic grange
Agriculture and Subsistence
Land Use Site
Excavated in 2005 in advance of open cast coal mining. Before the grange was constructed a north to south boundary ditch and ridge and furrow was created. The ditch had a steep sided profile with a rounded base and was 1.14m wide and 0.60m deep. It was deliberately backfilled with mixed silty clay. No dating evidence was recovered from it. The furrows were filled by brown sandy silt. They were 1.60m wide and 0.04m deep. The ditch may date from the later 12th century, possibly representing an earlier access route to Prestwick Carr, which was later superseded by a cobbled road. In the mid 13th century a rectangular enclosure was constructed on a slight ridge. It was probably a grange (farm complex owned by monasteries). The grange was enclosed by ditches, with the main complex measuring 55m by 40m . The remains of at least two buildings survived in the interior. One of the buildings may have had a stone foundation or dwarf wall. The other was constructed on a frame of timber posts and contained a hearth stone. The enclosure also contained a stone-lined well of exceptional quality. Another enclosure was added to the south side and contained a large rectangular timber building, possibly a barn.There was a sunken cobbled area against the interior of the southern ditch, which might have been a purpose built retting pond for soaking bundles of hemp stalks to extract their fibres for use in manufacturing coarse fabrics, ropes and sails. Charred hemp seeds were found within the enclosure, associted with the latest phase of activity on the site. The grange was accessed by a substantial metalled road with wide flanking drainage ditches. In the field immediately north of the grange there was a causeway over the road ditches. West of the road there was a penannular gully that may have been a drainge feature around a stack-stand for drying peat. The fields west and north of this contained traces of east to west aligned ridge and furrow. Documentary evidence suggests that the grange was probably associated with Newminster Abbey, a Cistercian abbey on the outskirts of Morpeth. The Newminster Cartulary states that a grange at Horton and its turbary (the award of the right to extract peat) were provided with a stone road. The end of the grange in the second quarter of the 14th century (based on pottery evidence) was abrupt and possibly violent, as destruction deposits were recorded. The site may have been a victim of the plague, or a Scottish raid (in 1327 the township and turbary of Mason, 1.5 km to the south-east, was wasted by the Scots). Following the abandonment of the site, a ridge and furrow field system was created over it. The grange may have been re-established on higher ground at 'Old Horton Grange' 1 km to the north. Finds included 12th to mid-late 14th century pottery, a corroded mid 13th century 'short cross' silver penny issued by Henry III (c.1242-47), a worn 'Long Cross' silver penny edward by Edward I (1301-10). 250 pieces of wood were recovered (objects include a few stakes from a wattle structure, a peg and a ladder rung) and a leather sling pouch, which is a rare find and worth specialist study. Animal bones included cattle, sheep, pig and horse..
Gary Brogan and Steve Speak, Tyne and Wear Museums, 2006, Fox Covert in Northumberland County Council and Northumberland National Park, 2006, 'Archaeology in Northumberland', Vol. 16, page 13; Timescape Surveys, May 2002, A Geophysical Survey at Fox Covert, Dinnington, Newcastle upon Tyne; Timescape Surveys, September 2002 Phase 2, A Geophysical Survey at Fox Covert, Dinnington, Newcastle upon Tyne; Warren Muncaster, Tyne and Wear Museums, September 2007, Archive Report, Fox Covert OCCS, Dinnington, Tyne and Wear - Archaeological Excavation; J. Fraser, 2010, Monastic granges, Arbeia Magazine, Issue 41, pp 12-17; T.W. Museum, nd, Excavations at Fox Covert, innington, 2005 in Arbeia Magazine No. 33