Keys to the Past


Starting with F - 53 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


A small farm.

Faunal evidence

Remains from animals generally. This can include bones and teeth, antlers, shell casings and so on. Usually only the bone-based elements and teeth survive to be discovered.

Ferme ornee

The term is French - this means a 'farm ornamented'. These were farm buildings, that were intended to be used, with spires and/or false battlements to add an air of grandeur or history. They were parts of a country house estate. Examples include Bantam Folly, (of the Middleton's Belsay), and Lemington Hall Farm, (both of Northumberland).

Field clearance cairn

See clearance cairn.

Field system; Field-system

A network of fields and related featy.

Fieldwalking; Field walking; Field walking survey; Fieldwalked

A technique to recover artefacts or identify archaeological earthworks. This can be carried out in a number of ways - but usually is done by rows of people working within in a measured area. This allows the fields to be searched systematically - so the earthwork and artefact information can be located again, (perhaps as the basis for excavation). The same areas may be searched many times for different artefacts may be brought to the surface, or the vegetation may have changed.


See 1715 rebellion


A decorative architectural element - situated at the points of a building.

Fire dog

See firedog.

Fire hole

A point that armaments could be fired through at an attacker. These armaments could be arrows or guns.


A type of clay that is capable withstanding high temperatures of a furnace or kiln. Fireclays are often found in connection with coal seams, so collieries often had a brickworks.


A mix of potentially explosive gases found underground. Such a mixture contained Methane (CH4) which would explode if ignited by a spark. The miner's safety lamp, (see Stephenson, George), was to provide light shielded from the gas so as to stop any explosions. Prior to this firedamp had been ignited in several collieries with attendant injuries and loss of life.


One of a pair of metal supports used for holding up logs in a fireplace.

Firing range

A piece of ground over which small arms or large artillery may be fired at targets.

First World War

See World War I.

Fish traps

A shaped funnel of wood wattle, (see wattle-and-daub), which forced fish to a point from which they cannot escape. Examples outside of Northumberland and Durham date to the Bronze Age.

Fishpond; Fish pond

A pond specifically dug to hold fish for the table. A common feature of Medieval monasteries, manor houses and hunting lodges.


(Linaceae family, Linum genera)
A plant grown especially to make linen and linseed oil. This grows wild in Britain - but has long been cultivated. The linen is made by removing parts of the plants by retting, (washing in water to break up a binding resin of the plant), in large pools or troughs. Scutching, (the breaking of the woody stems), was then carried out to further release the fibres. The fibres were then removed, spun into lines, the lines joined together to produce linen. It was only in the 18th century that the process became mechanised, since the flax had less strength than woollen fibres. A 9th-12th century hemp-retting pit has been sampled by pollen analysis at Glasson Moss, Cumbria - such ponds would be similar for flax. Possible Medieval usage of flax has been identified from Newcastle's Stockbridge excavations, (Tyne and Wear).
The linseed oil was extracted by crushing the seed of the plants, sometimes before the retting. The oil could be used to produce oilcake for cattle.

Fleur de lys

A decorative element in heraldry that is meant to represent a lily flower. The term is French.


Flint is a glassy stone, which was commonly used in the prehistoric periods to make tools, such as microliths. In the Post-Medieval period gun-flints were made. It can be easily shaped by knocking it against other stone, bone or wood. The earliest flint tools were made in the Palaeolithic, but most flint tools were made in the Mesolithic and Neolithic. It is being debated if flint use continued into the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Flint can be found in small amounts of pebbles found in the clays along the coastal strip of Northumberland and Durham. It is likely that there are offshore deposits as well - though the dumping of ballast will have confused the picture.

Flint mill

Method of producing light to mining underground by holding a piece of flint against a rotating steel wheel. This was (officially) invented around 1740AD - but would be dangerous in the presence of firedamp.
2. A place where flint, after being roasted, is ground to dust. This was used in the pottery industry, (as on Tyneside). These watermills, as at Jesmond Dene, Newcastle, ground the flint so it could be used to lighten the colour of the clay and to harden it. Underwater grinding of the flint was also carried out. Flint bought in as ballast by the coal ships of the northeast was frequently used.

Flint scatter

A flint scatter is often the only surviving archaeological evidence for prehistoric activity at a site. It may have formed through the accidental discard of flint tools at a site where there was a lot of human activity. If flint tools were actually made at the site, this may be indicated through the presence of debitage, the flint flakes and fragments created in this process.

Flint tool

See flint.


See Battle of Flodden.

Flow moss

A low lying area of watery or flooded land.


A channel for fumes leading to a chimney or vent from a furnace which would allow the fumes to disperse. This might be large enough to admit a child or periodic flooding to scrape any residues from the side walls. Flues could run for miles, e.g. the Allendale chimneys were used from the smelting mill and were about three miles.


Also known as fluorite. A mineral used in the chemical industry and in the manufacture of coloured glass and enamel; some of its colorless crystals are used for making lenses and prisms.


also called foldyard
Another term for an animal enclosure - generally used for horses and ponies.


Another term for an animal enclosure - generally used for horses and ponies.


A decorative building or structure often built as part of a landscaped park or estate of a country house. These may have been specially designed by an architect to fulfil an entertainment function, such as a place for picnics or as a hunting lodge, or commemorative or of no function - but entertainment itself as a flight of fancy. Follies could therefore be nonsense buildings - with rooms or staircases that might lead nowhere, or be built already as ruins. Sometimes they were added to - but again in deliberately ruined portions. (Compare with ferme ornee). Statues might be employed in niches of appropriate figures. A grotto is a further type of folly. Prehistoric standing stones and Roman materials could be acquired for display or re-created as a small folly, from local or exotic sites. A standing stone was taken from a near a barrow at Shaftoe for 'use' at Wallington, Northumberland.

These buildings could derive inspiration from Classical temples, or Medieval tower houses - though follow no style totally, sometimes as a pastiche of the original forms being called Gothick. Follies often followed the fashion of the day - 'Chinese' and 'Egyptian' forms being built in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries - though most northeast examples are of the Gothick type. There was a 'Chinese' wooden pavilion erected at Wallington - the (again false) style being called Chinoiserie - in the 18th century, but this rotted away, where only the Chinese pond remains. Many follies remain around country estates - there are two surviving clusters around Wallington and Alnwick of predominantly18th century date. There might also be legends about follies - such as secret tunnels, or how long things took to build. An example is Starlight Castle, Seaton Sluice, reputed to have been built over one night.


A large trough used for baptism into a religious community. These are often highly elaborate and may have a carved cover for when not in use. They may be made out of Frosterley marble. These were buried in some rituals when they went out of use. One was found at West Chevington, (Northumberland), chapel excavations.

Food vessel

A type of pottery vessel dating to the Bronze Age. It is usually with a cremation either upright or upside down, sometimes within a larger urn and is thought to have held food. Examples have been used to hold cremations if of sufficient size.

Fordyce, Thomas; Fordyce

Thomas Fordyce was a local historian of Northumberland.

Forecourt house

A simple prehistoric or Roman period roundhouse with a paved stone forecourt in front of it.


A place where metals may be further shaped from the blast furnace or bloomery prior to going to a blacksmith. These may have water-powered hearths or bellows, so the metal can be heated up and shaped. Water-powered hammers might be employed to knock the metal against the anvils present. These are generally larger than the average blacksmiths. Such sites do not make the metals through smelting.


This is a small castle. The term can be used for more than one single fortified building - such a group of towers defended by moats. It may be that it is only documentary evidence that separates this group of buildings to other castles and towers. Licences to crenellate were needed for battlements on these buildings. An example was Horton Castle, near Blyth, Northumberland.


A small fort for a moderately sized garrison - but not so large as to hold a full unit of soldiers, such as a cohort or legion. Usually spaced about a day's march from another military base they may be outposts or with a specific function, such as guarding a bridge or road. Examples of fortlets guarding roads are at Chew Green (phases II and IV), for Dere Street, and Haltwhistle Burn for the Stanegate, (see Hadrian's Wall), both Northumberland.


A place where metals, e.g. cast iron or bronze, are melted down and cooled in specific moulded shapes. However, some work was not organised in such workshops - such as Medieval bell making which was carried out on site.

Four poster stone circle

A stone circle featuring four upright stones standing at the corners of an irregular rectangular. The monument may feature more than 4 stones, overall, but the corner stones are often the most prominent.


A small hole dug by an infantry soldier in which they slept and protected them selves from attack.


sometimes called 'The Grey Friars'
A member of the friars found by St. Francis of Assisi, (Italy). The Franscians were founded in the 13th century. They sought to reform the church by preaching widely within a local population. They wore grey

Free tenant

In the medieval period a free man who held land from his lord. He usually owed his lord about 40 days military service each year.


Freemasons are member of a secret society. They take much of their imagery from the world of masons and architects. They are primarily known for their charitable work. Freemasonry became increasingly popular during the 19th century, and many Freemason Halls were built.


These are flat stones used for and flooring roofing prior to the widespread use of slate. They can be cut in any direction. In the 18th century such stone was exported from the Northumberland ports of Cambois and Warkworth.


Friars were travelling monks who had special permission from the Pope to preach and hear confession, wherever they like without permission.


A friary was where groups of friars lived.


A decorative horizontal band, as along the upper part of a wall in a room.

Frosterley marble

sometimes called 'Egglestone marble'
A black stone with grey fossil remains of corals and marine plants which was used for decorative effects (in churches) from the 12th to the 19th centuries AD. It is not strictly a marble, but is a crinoidal limestone. A marble mason called Lambert is mentioned in the Boldon Book for Stanhope, County Durham.


This is the process of cleaning wool or other cloth by beating it with soap or Fuller's Earth, an absorbent clay used to remove grease from wool.

Fulling mill

A mill, usually driven, in which cloth is washed by fulling.


A unit for measuring distance, equal to 1/8 mile (201 meters). It is also used to described a strip of land marked out by medieval ploughing.


Place where temperatures are generated to affect smelting, melting, physical or chemical change to a material. More specialised furnaces are given elsewhere, see Bail hill, bloomery and/or blast furnace. Chemical changes involved the reduction of a mined compound to a metal, or a material from which it was after firing easier to extract metal. Physical changes might be the hardening or softening and re-hardening of a material, such as pottery from clays, glass or metal, to increase its durability.

Furnace lining

Furnaces need a lining to prevent damage by the constant reheating. These linings are usually made from clay or a similar material. These linings would be replaced when they began to wear out.
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