Keys to the Past


Starting with C - 118 Glossary entries found.

In this section of the website you can find out more about specialist and technical terms archaeologists sometimes use. There is also lots more information about famous people and historic events in the north-east.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Z 1-9

Cades Road

A Roman road, which ran from Brough-on-Humber to Newcastle passing to the immediate west of Chester-le-Street. It was named after the 18th century archaeologist who discovered its route.
Cross-section of a typical Roman raod.


A mound of stones. These can be to cover burials of inhumations or cremations, or clearance cairns. Groups of cairns, of whatever purpose, can be called a cairnfield. They are a variety of types, such as ring cairns.

Cairn cemetery

This is a group of burial cairns.


Cairnfields are groups of cairns. They may have only a few cairns or many tens, such as Chatton Sandyford, Northumberland. They are believed to have been built with stones from the surrounding area to make it easier for farming, called clearance cairns, but may also be funerary with inhumations or cremations beneath. Even in the event of excavation it may still difficult to decide on a purpose. They are usually found in upland areas, but they may once have been more widely spread. They are mainly believed to belong to the Bronze Age when much upland was first opened up for farming - but they could well have be re-use of the material or the individual cairns for religious rituals. A Iron Age pin was recovered from an Alnham cairn.


Calcined bone is bone reduced to its mineral remains by burning.


See Calcining kiln.

Calcining kiln

A kiln where the heating process got rid of water, volatile substances and sulphur from the raw material ironstone in metal smelting. Flint was also calcined for use in potteries at flint mills. The end product could then be reduced to a powder easier to smelt or to give bulk to the pottery produced.


A loose general term for any large enclosure of uncertain type.

Cannel coal

Cannel coal is a low quality from of coal, still containing many parts of plants. It burns easily, but produces little heat. It was also sometimes used to produce jewellery in the same way as amber and jet, especially since the Bronze Age.

Canon William Greenwell

See Greenwell, William.


This is a title given to some priests. Canons were usually attached to cathedrals or some institution, such as hospitals or a seminary.

Capability Brown

See Brown, Lancelot.


A capstan is a cylinder or drum rotated by handles used to raise an anchor or a rope.

Carbon 14; Carbon 14 dating

A method of dating archaeological artefacts or layers based on the amount of a radioactive particle. Carbon-14 is a natural type of Carbon (C) produced in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays and Nitrogen (N2) gas. It is only produced in small amounts. This is dispersed through the atmosphere as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), and then into other parts of the environment through time as it is taken up by animals, marine organisms and plants.

When an organism dies it ceases taking up this radioactive particle. Therefore, over the time the amount an organism of this radioactively unstable compound will go down in proportion to the time that the organism has been unable to replenish their Carbon-14. Collection of a sample from an archaeological artefact or layer of material which contains Carbon will also contain Carbon-14 in small amounts. Measurement of the amount of Carbon-14 to a normal amount held will therefore produce, via complicated mathematics, a Carbon date with + and - values. The date is subtracted from 1950AD for convenience and a date is produced.

For the prehistoric periods and with marine-derived samples a form of calibration is required. This is due to the amount of Carbon-14 being produced in total and it's time in distribution varying. The amount of Carbon-14 is known for specific years in the past through precise dendrochronological samples of a single years growth. This can allow for a calibration procedure. In the case of marine samples a offset is needed - since it takes time for any Carbon-14 to enter the marine environment from being a gas.

In referring to a Carbon date the experimental date is given, the sample code of the laboratory where the measurement was taken, the calibrated date at one and two levels of experimental uncertainty. A Carbon date strictly does not exist - date ranges are produced, with a strong statistical probability that the archaeological artefact or event is within those ranges. Calibration means that the limits of the date ranges cannot be used to make a statistical mean date for a single year - however, tempting that might be.

Carding mill

A place where wool is passed through cards, hand held wooden cards or of a machine, with protruding nails. This rids the wool of any muck or dirt. The name comes from the Latin for the Thistle family - Carduus. The first widespread machine to carry the process out was that of Richard Arkwright (1732-1792AD) that he patented in 1775AD.


The Carmelites are an order of nuns and monks which started on Mount Carmel in Israel about 800 years ago. The friars were brought to Britain in 1242 by returning crusaders; arriving first at Hulne in the north east of England and then, later in the same year, at Aylesford in the south. From England the Order soon spread to Scotland and also to Ireland. At its height before the Reformation there were more than 1000 friars England in many communities.


sometimes called a hide
A Medieval measure of land. One carucate of land was thought able enough to feed one family, with one plough, for one year. Early charters gave land in carucates. The donation of land to build the Jarrow monastery by the Northumbrian King Ecgfrid was 40 carucates of land. Carucates could be divided into eight bovates - one bovate being enough land for a plough team of eight oxen in a year.

Carved rock

A carved rock - this might be religious, such as cup-marked stones or the Roman relief of Rob o'Risingham, and seen over a long period of time, or just carved to record a temporary presence.

Cast iron

Iron (Fe) that has been smelted from a blast furnace to temperatures so high that the ironstone has passed its melting point (15400C) that it has turned to liquid. It contains some carbon from the fuel used. Whilst at temperature it can be run into moulds called pigs for transportation to a foundry. This is brittle. It may be made into steel through cementation.


See Roman Catholic.


A causeway is path that leads over a ditch, moat or other area of ground. Sometimes they can be raised off the ground.

Causewayed barrow

A monument comprising an irregularly circular enclosing ditch, interrupted by several causeways, surrounding a central circular area used for funerary activities, often concealed originally beneath an earthen mound. Thought to be of Bronze Age date.

Causewayed enclosure; Causewayed camp

These are early Neolithic enclosures. They are roughly rounded in shape - though are bounded by segmental banks and ditches, pits or scoops, with wide causeways acting as entrances/exits to/from the centre. In plan the standard causewayed enclosure will look like a link of several sausages arranged in a circle, or concentric circles. The pits and mounds were large - but were only slight in their respective dimensions of height and depth.

Causewayed enclosures are common to central southern England. Elsewhere there are such monuments around The Fens eastern England. They are common at boundaries of land types, or land-water boundaries, with wide views. These were used as ritual monuments like henges as extensive pottery and animal remains are often found in their excavation.

Probable examples have been noted at Hastings Hill, near Sunderland (Tyne and Wear) and Lookout Farm, Seaton Sluice (Northumberland) by aerial photography and excavated at South Shields, (Tyne and Wear) - though this identification is only slight, being based upon two shallow pits, (which need not necessitate a whole enclosure), - positions which need not be out of place for land-water locations. The usefulness of the term has recently been reviews, which includes other enclosures may be more relevant for northern Britain.


Cavalry are soldiers who fight from the back of a horse.


A small enclosed space - such as a small monastery for a handful of members (see priory cell, or a place of punishment for prisoners.


Amongst other meanings, archaeologists have often in the past, used the term Celtic to describe the period between about 800BC and the arrival of the Romans. This period is now generally called the Iron Age.


This is a process for making large Steel quantities - an alloy of Iron (Fe) and Carbon (C) - of consistent composition throughout. Cast iron bars were packed into chests with a mix of slag and coke. The chests were sealed with clay to stop any air getting in. The chests were heated to high temperatures above Iron's melting point (1540°C) - this caused the Iron to absorb the excess Carbon of the 'grozzle' mix all the way through. Steel of the same composition throughout would then be formed in these long furnace operations. This was called 'Blister Steel' - as the Steel had 'boils' on its surface.
The northeast was famed for producing such Steel. There is a rare survival in the Derwentcote Steel Furnace, (English Heritage site, County Durham). Here cast iron from Europe - especially Russia and Sweden could be landed and converted. Excavation at Derwentcote revealed Swedish bars - indicated by special marks. Such Steel was known as 'Newcastle Steel' before the rise of Sheffield.


An official survey carried out every 10 years by the government to collect information. This included name, how old people were, who lived with who and where, their birthplace and occupation. However, some questions have only been added later - so the early examples starting in 1801AD do not give as much information as others. The most recent census was 2001AD. Some of the returns survive for the early examples and can be used in the tracing of employment patterns, family and social issues, being found in the county record offices. Specific information on the answers given by individuals is not given till 100 years after the event - but used generally in the creation of government statistics and policies leading from those.

Centurial stones

Centurial stones are stones placed on Hadrian's Wall by the army units which carried out building work on the Wall. It shows who carried out the work.


Cess is another name for sewage. Before mains drainage cess was often put in pits called cesspits or spread on fields.

Chain Home Low

Chain Home Low was an early network of experimental radar created during World War Two to detect air attack.


This is the area in the church set apart for the priest saying mass. It is where the altar stands. In most churches it is to the west of the nave.
Diagram of a parish church . Copyright Peter Ryder 2003.

Chancel arch

See Chancel.

Chantry chapel; Chantry

A small chapel, sometimes in a larger church, where priests said masses for the souls of the dead. In the Medieval period rich people often paid priests, (sometimes as hermits), to pray for them and their ancestors hoping it would make it easier for them in Heaven. These required Royal permission - but were suppressed as part of the Reformation in 1547AD.


A metal tip or mounting on a scabbard or sheath.


A word to describe a small church or place of worship. Many groups of Dissenters chose to call their palces of worship a chapel, as they believed the work 'church' should be only used to describe the wider Christian community.

Chapel of Ease

A small chapel built near a centre of population not served by it's own parish church. Large parishes may have had many chapels of ease for each township.
Chapel of Ease


A priest who is attached to the household of Medieval nobility, such as a Lord or Earl, and moves with that small elite group. Since the 17th century and the English Civil War preachers and later chaplains have been attached to the armed forces.

Chapter house

Place in a monastery where meetings were held to discuss all the organisational matters. Before each meeting chapter of The Bible was read for guidance before all those at the meeting. These buildings, if they survive, are often ornate and may be shaped as a hexagon to allow all the monks to have a seat on the benches that lined the walls. Abbots and patrons to the monastery may also have been buried in the chapter house.

Charcoal; Charcoal pit; Charcoal platform

Wood holds too much water to produce very the high temperatures needed in a furnace smelting operation. To achieve these temperatures charcoal was required. This was produced by piling dried wood on a platform, sometimes as a hearth base, and covering it with a layer of turf. (The wood could also be placed in a sealed metal container). A small fire in the wood was then started. Not all the wood was burnt, though the sealed nature of the operation meant that all the wood had changed to elemental Carbon (C). This 'wood' could then be used as fuel for smelting. The operation took place on a charcoal platform.
Small pieces of wood were used and there was special pruning (called coppicing and pollarding) to ensure a constant supply. Most charcoal was Oak, though over woods have been used. Many charcoal platforms have been found, identified by pieces of charcoal, in Teesdale and Weardale.
The most common remains of the charcoal burning are the small pits in which charcoal was burnt or the platforms on which the fires were placed.

Charter rolls

Charters might be very longwinded documents - so as to be easily accommodate every legal eventuality. As such they may have been rolled up.


Charters were legal documents in which an important person gave another person or group of people the gift of land or certain legal rights, such as permission to have a fair or a market. The first charters were written in the Anglo-Saxon period, but none are known from Northumberland until the medieval period. Although, still very occasionally used by government they have been little used since the end of the medieval period (1540 onwards).


The outer wall of a castle


A type of stone similar to flint - though more variable in colour and quality. It may be subjected to knapping. It has been used the same way as flint - though they are many local sources of this in clays along the coast and in glacial gravels. Types of agate were also used in the absence of flint.

Church of England

A Protestant church formed as part of the Reformation in England. The church is quite broad in theological standpoint. At times this has been hard-line Protestant especially in its early years following foundation. The position was set out originally in The Thirty Nine Articles of 1553AD on matters of doctrine, justification, predestination and ordering of the church. This trod a careful line between the Catholic and Protestant beliefs - which the church continues, though has led to further divisions, (see the Oxford Movement) and off-shoots, (such as Methodism).

Cinerary urn

This is a pottery vessel used to the remains of a cremation.


A roughly rectangular structure used for inhumation and cremation burials and formed from four or more stone slabs set on edge, and covered by one or more horizontal slabs. The base may be a slab, unaltered earth or clay. Cists may be built on the surface or dug into the ground. They are usually buried beneath a pile of stones which form a cairn.
Occasionally the slabs utilised may be decorated with Cup and ring marked stone motifs. In such cases debate is strong about the meaning, (if any), of these particular stones and the dating with the Bronze Age. Generally, these are Bronze Age (numerous examples) - sometimes being reused with that period - but also Roman (Beadnell and Sewingshields, Northumberland) to the Early Medieval long-cist cemeteries at Bamburgh's Bowl Hole site, where many slabs were used for inhumations.


A monk, or lay brother or nun, of the Cistercian Order. They wore white so were called the White Monks. The Cistercians were a reforming order of the Church, who sought to reform the church through spiritual and physical hardship, from 1098AD. This was first achieved at Citeaux from where the order took its name - under the leadership of Stephen Harding and Hugh of Malmose.
When building the Cistercians chose sites in (usually) remote areas for their improvement. The buildings were plain when compared to the churches of the other monastic orders, such as the Benedictines), often by being whitewashed, whilst a general rule prohibited decorative floor tiles. The Cistercians were famous for simple lifestyles, biblical and biographical studies, and their internal annual conferences. The Cistercians established Newminster Abbey in the 1130s AD, near Morpeth, Northumberland.

To serve the self-supporting monasteries Cistercians used lay brothers who carried out the manual works, and extensive specialised granges for agricultural, salt and metal production. Over time the Cistercian ideals of the abbots, (including the first Newminster abbot, Saint Robert), faded as they accumulated large amounts of money from the sale of their gathered surplus, notably wool. This money often went on decoration and elaboration of churches - economic crashes in the price of wool occasionally meant that some Cistercian monasteries ended up owing money widely.

The early aspirations of the order persuaded some monks of other orders to join. These included Saint Robert of Newminster (1100?-1159AD) who had previously been a Benedictine at Whitby. Robert wrote a number of works (now lost) and according to his biographer he was zealous for prayer and poverty. Ailred of Rievaulx, Yorkshire, (1110-1167AD) also had northern connections to Hexham, and wrote a life of the Hexham saints. Both these men knew and admired the hermit Saint Godric.

Clamp kiln

A temporary kiln, in which the pots
are stacked and baked in a pit underneath a bonfire.

Classical; Classical style

This is a word used to describe the style of Greek and Roman architecture. In the 18th and 19th century the style became very popular again after many architects and patrons had travelled to these areas to seek inspiration in what was called 'The Grand Tour'. This style could be divided into sub-styles, such as Ionic.


Roman emperor (10BC-54AD) who started the conquest of Britain in 43AD. It is thought he invaded to build up his prestige, after his nephew Caligula was murdered. Claudius himself was murdered. Claudius was not the first Roman emperor to send troops across The Channel - they had been Roman raids in the 50s BC by Julius Caesar - though with no thought of invasion.

Clavicula; Clavicle

A type of Roman earthwork defence. It is a curved continuation of a bank and ditch around a marching camp so it came in where the entrances where. This is named after the curved collarbone - the clavicle. This prevented an enemy storming a gateway and running unopposed down the length of a camp. They were used on marching camps and temporary camps as they were a quick form of defence. Examples can be seen at Chew Green, Northumberland, for the 'construction' camp.

Clearance bank

Similar to a clearance cairn, but the stones are placed in a long bank.

Clearance cairn

Mound, cairn, of stones usually created by clearance of stones from fields for agricultural purposes, usually initially of Bronze Age date, as at Chatton Sandyford and Millstone Hill, Northumberland, Crawley Edge and Ravock Moor, County Durham. These may be part of a cairnfield where some cairns might be funerary.


A clerestory is a high wall with a row of windows along the very top, often rising above adjoining roofs.


A ravine or valley usually with water running down the centre. It is often found in Northumberland place-names, for example Catcleugh, Northumberland.


This is a covered walkway around the courtyard within a monastery. It was used as a place of ceremony - including processions, foot-washing (to imitate Jesus) and readings in the Collation service. Since the collation readings were not devotional sitting was allowed. The monks sat beneath decorative arches. The reader stood in a pulpit - standing directly opposite the monastery's superior. Study was also carried out in the cloister since it caught most of the light (though study areas and desks were usually made of wood).

Coach house

A building used to store a horse-drawn coach.

Coaching inn

From the 17th to early 19th century most long-distance transport in England was by horse-drawn coach. These were slow and the horses often needed changing. This meant that a network of inns where passengers could rest and horses could be exchanged grew up.

Coast guard

An organisation that acts to help mariners.

Coat of arms

A method of displaying status. Special permission was needed to gain these. It showed who you were and your ancestors to others by the use of symbols, such as a lozenge and animals. Conventions needed to be followed and there is a special language for that which could appear on your shield, clothes, castle or tom for both the things visible and their colours. They appear on hatchments.


Buildings that have walls of dried mud called cob. These walls can be unstable and so have wider foundation trenches than wooden or stone walls.


A god worshipped by the Romans. It is thought Cocidius was a local god to the North Country - since inscriptions have been found and there is a documentary reference to the shrine near Hadrian's Wall called Fanum Cocidi, thought to be Bewcastle (Cumbria). Though to act as a god of hunting (both of animals and men) he was also shown, with dedicatory texts, carved on natural rocks surfaces. Jewels also the god's image. Cocidius was often linked to Silvanus and Mars. The exact dates of worship to Cocidius are vague; definitely by the 3rd century AD, possibly earlier and probably later.

Cockpit; Cockfighting pit

In the medieval and post-medieval periods it was a common sport to watch cocks fight each other. Cockpits are the small pits which were built to contain the fight. They are usually small circular mounds with a pit in the middle. The sport is now illegal.


A cohort is a unit of Roman soldiers around five hundred men strong.

Coke; Coke oven

Coal contains large amounts of Sulphur (S). This cannot be used to create cast iron as it will cause the metal to become impossible to work. Coke is coal that has been partially heated to drive off the Sulphur. This happened in coke ovens or just in the open, where the burning process could be specifically controlled by covers (sometimes completely) and wetting.

Coke ovens were introduced in 1763AD. These ovens had a chamber filled with coal dust, a chimney and a door that sealed the chamber after staring the burning. The coke was formed by slow, but complete combustion. Removal of the coke was achieved by breaking the seal and using a small crane and scooped shovel. Coke ovens were built in rows, which could be served by waggonways. The gases produced could be used elsewhere, such as heating boilers for making steam. The Whinfield, (County Durham), coke ovens generated heat for a copper oxide plant specifically built nearby in 1915AD.
Coke oven

Collared urn

An early Bronze Age vessel with a broad overhanging rim.


Monastic college


This is another word for a coal mine. It includes all the buildings and machinery on the surface, as well as all the passages beneath the ground.

Common Land

Land that is common to all - it is owned by a community as a whole for grazing cattle and so on. Many commons disappeared with the Agricultural Revolution.

Conduit head

A conduit head is the small building built at the top of a conduit.

Conservation Area

Conservation Areas can cover the whole or part of a village, part of a town or a single street. They are areas of distinct character, which the Council wishes to conserve and improve.

There are a small number of extra controls which apply within conservation areas. These relate to extensions, additions and alterations to roofs (including dormer extensions), the cladding of buildings and the installation of satellite dishes.

The purpose of these additional controls is to ensure that the special qualities of the area are not undermined by the loss of important features or damaged by insensitive new development.

Conservation plan

A conservation plan is a document which explains why a site is significant and how that significance will be retained in any future use, alteration, development or repair. The same approach can be used for historic gardens, landscapes, buildings, archaeological sites, collections or even a ship, and is particularly relevant when a site has more than one type of heritage.


A man responsible for the day-to-day running of a castle belonging to a Medieval authority. He may have special military, or social, responsibilities.


A convent is the specialised monastery where a group of nuns live. The head of a convent maybe called an abbess, a prioress or a mother superior. These are affilitated to the various monastic orders, such as the Benedictines or Cistercians. Most northeast examples were Medieval in date. These possessed they own granges, and sometimes served hospitals. Many were dissolved at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Conyers, John

This is one of the legends of County Durham. Sir John Comnyers is reputed to have killed a monstrous and poisonous vermine which overthrew and devoured many people, nicknamed the Sockburn Worm. The event is first commemorated by a record in 1396AD. This ceremony has been re-enacted many times - usually when the bishop-elect for Durham first entered the county. In this the Lord of Sockburn met the Bishop in the Tees river giving a falchion (a sword with a curved edge) that is said to be the one used to kill the worm. The weapon is then returned to the Lord by the Bishop proposing his good health.

The legend is thought to have several possible sources; perhaps a victory over the Scottish or the Vikings of York. Regardless the Conyers family have been appointed to a range of posts within the Medieval Bishop's household staff.

Copper alloy

Copper alloy is a combination of copper and another metal. The most common second metal is tin; copper and tin is called bronze. When mixed with zinc, the alloy is called brass.


A thicket or grove of small trees or shrubs. Branches from the tree are regularly cut to provide fire wood.


A bracket of stone, wood, brick sticking out from the face of a wall and generally used to support an arch or a roof.

Cord rig; Cord rigg; Cord-rig

A series of narrow ridges generally less than a metre apart, formed as the result of cultivation in the immediate pre-Roman Iron Age. It can be found as earthworks by careful looking in upland areas, such as The Cheviots of Northumberland, and has also been found in excavations elsewhere, such as beneath Hadrian's Wall forts. It has been found at a range of altitudes from 15m above sea level upwards.


Lump of stone, usually flint, from which smaller pieces have been removed, such as blades and flakes by knapping. The core is left over, but it can be shaped again.
A column of peat or sediment taken for analysis, which may contain pollen and other indicators of the environment at, or close to, an archaeological site.

Core samples

Portion of a peat core that might be used for Carbon 14 dating, pollen analysis or sedimentary analysis.

Corn exchange

A corn-exchange is a building where oats, beans and corn were bought and sold. They were usually built in the 18th and 19th century.

Corn-drying kiln; Corn drying kilns

Corn-drying kilns were used in the medieval and post-medieval periods. They were built either to dry corn before threshing in areas where it was not able to ripen before harvesting. It was also used to dry damp corn before it was ground into flour. They are usually either simple stone-lined bowl-shaped ovens built into a bank side or larger, freestanding buildings. Hot air, usually from a peat fire, would rise through a wooden grill covered with mats or straw with the grain laid on top.

Corn-mill; Cornmill

A mill, powered by wind or water, used to grind corn into flower.

Cornish pumping engines

Cornish pumping engines were a form of steam-powered pump developed in Cornwall to pump water out of mines. They were invented by James Watt in the 1760s. These types of engines were soon used in the North Pennines for a similar purpose in the lead mines.


An organisation responsible for the day-to-day administration of a town or city. Usually called a council these days.


Tenants of land with a cottage and usually a small piece of land, not necessarily used for agriculture as a croft.

Country house

A large house not occupied all the year round - perhaps only occupied for the summer. These houses are highly ornate and decorative. Sometimes, such as Cragside (see Lord Armstrong) these had the height of technology.


Covenantors sought to preserve a hard-line Presbyterianism and opposed any Royal impositions into the affairs of the church. The predominantly Scottish Covenantors put forward their ideas in The Solemn League and Covenant as well as the Scottish National Covenant, to both King Charles I and parliament. They were severely oppressed by King Charles II, so their illegal meetings were held in remote locations. (See Peden, Alexander).

Crag and tail

This a geological feature caused when the great ice sheets that covered much of the north-east during the Ice Age were retreating north. When the sheets moved over an small area of very hard rock it would leave this area of rock upstanding. The hard rock (the crag) would protect an area of softer rock behind it (the tail). The soft rock may show scratches wear it has been damaged by the glacier. Sometimes these marks are mistakenly thought to be manmade.

Creeing trough; Creeing-trough

A large stone mortar used for taking off the husks of barley or wheat, before boiling them to make broth. Sometimes a wooden pestle was used, and round ball of stone.

Cremation; Cremated bone; Cremated

In many periods the main way of disposing of human remains was by burning them. This is known as cremation. In some cases the ashes were probably thrown to the wind or placed in rivers. In other cases the ashes were buried, sometimes along with grave goods. Cremations were sometimes used in the Bronze Age (2300BC to 700BC) and in the Romano-British period (AD43 to 410). It was also used by some in the early Anglo-Saxon period (AD410 to 700). With the arrival of Christianity cremation fell out of use. It has only begun to be used again in the last century. In some periods we have very little evidence for any burial ceremonies, such as during the Iron Age (800BC to AD43). In these cases it is possible that people were cremated and their ashes disposed of in such a way as to leave no remains for archaeologists to find.

Crenellation; Crenellated; Crenellate

More usually known as battlements. They are low defensive barricades running around the tops of castles and other buildings- there are regular gaps through which weapons could be fired. In the medieval period it was necessary to have permission from the king to defend a building with crenellations.


A small enclosure attached to a house and used to keep animals or grow crops.

Crop mark; Cropmark; Crop marks

Marks left in crop fields caused by the vegetation growing at different rates; this shows buried features most understandable from the air. These may be where crop has withered, (a parchmark), or where the crop has thrived. They only occur with a combination of factors - and may last long or short periods of time.
A cross-section of a 'positive' and a 'negative' cropmark.

Crop pit

A shallow pit from which coal was quarried.


The main symbol of the Christian church. Stone crosses were often built as monuments or memorials, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods.

Cross base

A stone base on which the pedestal of a cross would be erected. There is an example to the southeast of Ingram, Northumberland. This may have a slight socket to steady the pedestal.

Cross dyke; Cross ridge dyke; Cross-dyke

This is a catchall term for a mound (dyke) cutting off the end of a hill. These dykes, sometimes bounded by a stone kerb, are of uncertain function and date. They may be associated with a ditch. Cross-ridge dykes may have gaps in, and span the ground in various ways, may represent territories of ritual and influence; Yorkshire (presumed Bronze Age) examples have possible associations with barrows and cairnfields. Northumbrian examples are associated with hillforts and prehistoric settlements of the (presumed or confirmed) Iron Age. The maintenance of such a monument has been used as a proxy for the continuance of the settlements - possibly at Wether Hill, Northumberland), from the 4th to 7th centuries AD. Many of these dykes are un-dated - but are generally assumed to have been constructed in the later prehistoric periods.

Cross passage; Cross-passage house

Cross passage house. A Post-Medieval house, sometimes a long house which is divided into portions, sometimes for separate animal and human accommodation, by the cross passage which gives the house it's name across the width of the building.

Cross shaft

The shaft of a stone cross; usually wood or stone.


A sculpture or statuette of Jesus on the cross.


The nailing of Jesus to the cross - this is a common Christian symbol.

Crucks; Cruck frames; Cruck trusses

These are timbers leaning against one another, to support a roof. They are usually from the same tree and so face each other symmetrically in their curves. Timbers called trusses place along a building's width are used to support the main body of the roof between the crucks. The crucks may have been visible from the outside, even if a building was finished.

Crushing floor

Lead ore would be broken into smaller fragments on a crushing floor before they were washed to separate the lead ore from the other stone.

Crushing mill

To make it easier when smelting lead ore the rocks were often crushed. In the 18th and 19th century this was done by a steam-driven mill.


A small underground chamber that might be constructed, as a part of a chapel or monastery. These were used for the display of relics belonging to, or of, a saint or as a burial vault for members of a wealthy family. These include Hexham Abbey and Bamburgh Church, Northumberland, of the two types given above.

Culley, George

Wrote about agriculture in Northumberland. In 1800 published General view of the agriculture of the county of Northumberland with John Bailey. This book is a contribution to the vast survey of British agriculture inaugurated by Sir John Sinclair, when he became the first president of the Board of Agriculture in 1793.

Cultivation terrace

sometimes called terraces
A level surface of ground created on a hillside so that crops can be grown. These were used in the later prehistoric periods - but could have been created or re-used in the Medieval period, as at Hethpool, Northumberland.

Cup and ring marked stone; Cup and ring carved stone; Cups and ring marked stone; Cup and ring marks; Cup and rings; Cup and ring marked; Cup marked; Cup marked stone; Cup-mark; Cup mark; Cup-marked; Cup-marked stones; Cupmarks; Cups and rings

A cup-mark is a roughly circular depression pecked and then ground into a stone. These may be seen singly, in lines, or as the basis for further patterns, called cup-and-rings, so as to cover a whole or portion of rock. The depth of cup-marks alone also varies. Such marks are found predominantly on the sandstone and limestone rocks of Northumberland and Durham, mostly (but not exclusively) in the uplands. An andesite example is noted at West Hill, near Kirknewton, in the Cheviots. They are found elsewhere in Britain - such as the west of Scotland and Yorkshire in abundance, but limited elsewhere.

The reason, or reasons, behind these carvings is unknown. Various suggestions have been put forward since early antiquarians identified them as prehistoric; including maps of the world, maps of the stars, sites where fat was set alit for religion, records of ownership or boundaries and so on. Parallels to other forms of prehistoric art have been drawn, as have parallels from tribes remote from western European life. Despite the multiplicity of the suggested ideas there are common features in the setting of the 'art' forms - they are usually on highland overlooking land thought to be suitable for grazing. However, it is noted that there the flat tops to some cliffs have no cup-marks on, whilst the vertical sides do and vice versa, as at Morwick, Northumberland.

Equally debateable are the dates of this 'art'. Stones with such are found in Bronze Age cists as capstones and the sidewalls (sometimes facing the central portion, sometimes not), (numerous examples), in a henge pits at Milfield, in barrows, cairns, Edlingham and Ketley Crag rockshelters and Scottish souterrains. Sometimes they are within an intentional placing in a kerb. Also they can be seen upon standing stones, as at Matfen. In all cases of sometimes, they may also be absent or sometimes the opposite to before. Some think that they were deliberately used in these cases - which suggests a Bronze Age date, others favour Neolithic dates with other parallels, based upon the state of the Bronze Age examples. All that can be stated is that they seem to have lost their concentrated currency in the middle Bronze Age.

There are vigorous arguments for all sides regarding their meaning, dating and placing. It is unlikely that all the answers can be gained - though many new examples are found almost annually in survey work. They puzzled antiquarians, continue to puzzle archaeologists and will do so for some time yet.
Cup and ring marked stone


Curricks are small enclosures made from stones. They were used by shepherds as lookout points.


A long narrow rectangular earthwork enclosure of Neolithic date, usually defined by a bank and ditch and presumed to be of ceremonial function. Known examples range in length from less than 100m to c.10km.

Curtain wall

The outer wall of a castle or other fortified place. This links all the towers together. This may be so wide to accommodate internal passageways along the walls, (from which guns or arrows could be fired), and garderobes. They would be topped by a walkway and battlements. Examples include Dunstanburgh and Prudhoe castles, Northumberland.

Customs House; Custom House

A customs house was the building where customs officers, sometimes known as excise men or gaugers were based. Their job was to make sure that people made taxes, especially on goods they had brought into the country, such as wine and tobacco. They also had to make sure that alcoholic spirits, such as whiskey, were not made in England without taxes being paid on them.


Saint Cuthbert is a Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon saint. His fame and methods vary to those of his contemporaries Saint Bede and Saint Wilfrid. His biographers provide only a few details of his life prior to him becoming a monk, when prompted by a vision of the Bishop Saint Aidan rising to Heaven in 651AD. Cuthbert became a monk at Old Melrose (Scotland) - but his was later at Lindisfarne, Northumberland, and Ripon, Yorkshire - in the Irish style. Cuthbert travelled and preached widely - but often in remote areas which are often unknown or unnamed. He reached important posts of guest master at Ripon and prior at Lindisfarne in 664AD, where he accepted the Roman styles argued for at the Whitby synod (see Saint Wilfrid).

Cuthbert found further spiritual challenges in building hermitages as a hermit; first on the isle just off Lindisfarne, and later on Inner Farne in 676AD. On Inner Farne Cuthbert intended to be self-supporting. He grew his own crops and built his own accommodation for himself and guests, and an oratory. Whilst preaching he was responsible for many miracles, had premonitions and gave advice (on always followed) to the Northumbrian royal family. Despite his preference for being a hermit Cuthbert was elected a Bishop in 685AD for a short period whilst Saint Wilfrid was away. He soon retired back to his hermitage where he died there in 687AD.

Saint Cuthbert was originally buried at Lindisfarne - but his body was found not to have decayed by 698AD. Miracles were attested to his relics and parts of his hermitage and a cult developed, giving rise to the biographies, called hagiographies, by Bede, (in 716AD and 720AD), and another anonymous Lindisfarne monk. His body and other relics were removed from Lindisfarne in 875AD to avoid further Viking damage after raids from 793AD. Stops were made for long periods of time at Chester-le-Street, (County Durham), in 885AD and later to the predecessor of Durham Cathedral in 995AD. Cuthbert's body was moved in 1069AD to avoid the Harrying of the North - before returning to Durham, where his body was again moved in 1104AD (being witnessed by Symeon of Durham). Articles from the tomb area were thought to bring good luck to pilgrims. As such the English took a banner to the Battle of Flodden in Northumberland (1513AD). Many of the treasures of the tomb were taken by Henry VIII at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

In May 1827 the tomb was again opened as an antiquarian excavation, involving members of the Durham Cathedral staff. High-status artefacts were recovered including a jewelled cross, rich vestments (priestly clothes), an ivory comb and parts of the wooden coffins carried around. The bones of the tomb were recorded - not just those of Saint Cuthbert - but also the reputed skull of the Northumbria King and Saint Oswald (605-642AD).


A place where ground has been removed to allow the level unimpeded progress of a road, railway or waggonway.


The upstream side of bridge piers or supports were V-shaped in plan to make it easier for the water to flow around it.
Diagram of bridge. Copyright Peter Ryder 2003.
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