Keys to the Past


Starting with H - 50 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

H H Seward

See Seward, H.H.

Ha ha; Ha-ha

A sunken ditch faced on one vertical side by a wall. This allows a view of a park or parkland from gardens uninterrupted by walls or fences, but prevents cattle or sheep from moving on to (and eating) the garden plants.

Hadrian's Wall

See Overviews for details.


A weapon of the 15th and 16th centuries having an axlike blade and a steel spike mounted on the end of a long shaft.

Hall house

A house consisting of a public hall with private living accommodation attached. Built from the medieval period onwards.


A hall house with its associated yard or garden.


A very small villages, usually just a couple of houses or farms.

Hammer stone

A large stone used as a hammer.

Hanging bowl

A metal bowl that was suspended by cords or chains threaded through attached side loops. These bowls date from the Saxon 5th to the first half of the 7th century AD. These bowls were highly decorated with enamels and incised designs. Hanging bowls are of uncertain function: the flattened rim would prevent the pouring of any liquid with any accuracy, whilst any solids held would obscure some of the incised details. Feasting bowls holding trinkets are mentioned in the Saxon poem Beowulf. Another possibility is that they held holy water. Only a few hanging bowls have been found in northern England - including one from Capheaton, Northumberland. (This is on display at the Museum of Antiquities of Newcastle upon Tyne).

Harr socket

The "Harr" is the upright member of a gate or door nearest the hinge and was originally a pivot-type hinge. A Harr socket would be the hole in the floor and the lintel where the Harr lodged.

Harrying of the North

Period of destruction in the northern English counties by William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings.


Hatchments are painted boards with coats of arms that were placed and carried before a coffin. They were common in the 18th and 19th centuries. These boards are diamond shaped which stated the ancestry, descendants and dependants of the deceased. They were often hung up in churches after the funeral.

Hatfield's Survey

A survey written between 1377/80AD to 1382AD of all the tenants, (their lands and it's quality), and services due to the Bishop of Durham - at the time Thomas de Hatfield. It was written in Latin and onto parchment - but was incomplete by the death of Hatfield. It is similar to Boldon Book in that covers the customal services due - but has major differences. It covers areas that the Bishops of Durham acquired, such as the Evenwood barony and the Sadbergh wapentake. It does not cover Bedlingtonshire in detail, the Norhamshire lands and Crayke manor, (North Yorkshire), where the Bishops held land. It has been published - though in Latin.


A Northumbrian word for a low, flat or marshy area of land by a river. They are often liable to be flooded. This term is often used in place-names, e.g. Humshaugh, by the North Tyne, Northumberland.


The remains of a steam powered lift. Often found at collieries.


The raised earth bank formed at each end of a field formed when a horse or ox drawn plough turns. Often found associated with ridge and furrow.


The specific mill-race for taking water to the waterwheel - whether that be an overshot (water hits the wheel from above) or undershot (water pushes the wheel from below) wheel.


See headgear.


The vehicle, self-powered or pulled by something, that transports a coffin to burial.

Hearse house

The building in which a hearse is stored.


The place where a fire is set upon the ground, in a pit or on stones. These can be detected by geophysical techniques.


The lines where a hedge used to run. Can often be seen as a slight ditch or earthwork.


A hemmel is a shed or covering for cattle with arches in one side.


Henges are circular enclosures marked out by an earth bank and an inner ditch. They often have one or two entrances. Sometimes internal pits or circles of post-holes can be seen. They are most common in the south of England, but are known in the North. The northern examples tend to be smaller. They are often found associated with a range of other monuments including barrows and processional avenues. They date to the Bronze Age (2500BC to 800BC) and were probably used for religious or ceremonial purposes.

Henry II

1154-1189 The King spent only 13 years of his reign in England; the other 21 years were spent on the continent in his territories in what is now France. By 1158, Henry had restored to the Crown some of the lands and royal power lost by Stephen; Malcom IV of Scotland was compelled to return the northern counties. Henry's disagreements with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the king's former chief adviser), Thomas à Becket, over Church-State relations ended in Becket's murder in 1170.


A person who separates himself or herself from the outside world to concentrate on religion, usually of the Medieval period. Several saints in the northeast have been hermits - these include Saint Cuthbert and Saint Godric. Hermits chose places to test themselves - such as rocky islands or marshy haughs. Hermits tended to build their own hermitages, as they tended to be self-supporting.
Some Post-Medieval country houses had a grotto with an employee pretending to be a hermit.


Hermitages were small sites where one or more hermits went to find peace in remote places, (compare with anchorage). Access to hermitages would be limited - physically, e.g. by their remoteness, or socially, e.g. in private places. They were simple sites usually with a small house and simple chapel often built by the hermit themselves. Wealthy patrons could endow hermitages, as at Warkworth, Northumberland. Some hermitages acted as lighthouses.


A Northumbrian dialect word for a rugged steep hillside. It is often used in place-names.


Hexhamshire included the parishes of Hexham (including Whitley chapelry), Allendale (including West Allen or Ninebanks, Allenheads and Carr Shield chapelries), and St. John Lee. It was a part of Northumberland which was not controlled by the Bishop of Durham- instead it was owned by the Archbishop of York.

Hicks, W.S.

1849-1902 Newcastle architect responsible for rebuilding the church of St John of Beverley.


Hillforts are large enclosures on the top of hills surrounded by one or more earthworks Usually the ramparts also have a ditch running alongside them. They usually contain the remains of round houses and other buildings. Although they may have their origin in the Bronze Age (2300BC to 800BC) or even earlier they were most commonly built in the Iron Age (800BC to AD43). They may have continued to be used into the Roman period.


A group of valuable objects, (most commonly metal, but not exclusively so), which has been hidden, (usually in the ground, but could be wall- or roof-spaces). The material may have been left for a number of reasons.

Hogback; Hogsback

A curved and ridged large stone that acted as a 9th-10th century Christian Viking grave marker. The side profile imitates the back of a hog, (a type of pig), so hence the name. The central ridge is often elaborately carved and the centre maybe flanked by carved animals.

Hollow way

A track that runs through a cutting below the level of the surrounding land, often through prolonged usage.

Holy well

A spring or well whose water is reputed to possess miraculous healing properties.


A small settlement, usually with only one dwelling.


A projecting moulding over an arch
or lintel designed to throw off water, also known as dripstones.


The mechanism or hole for introducing material to be ground by a quern or millstones.


A type of hospital usually for people with little chance of recovery.


A place designed for cared for the sick. The earliest in the northeast were purpose-built hospitals in the Roman period placed in the military forts, such as those along Hadrian's Wall. These were organised around a central courtyard with the separate wards leading off from it. Monasteries took over the role of caring for the sick in the Medieval period - as such these were often served by monks and nuns. These complexes had their chapels and accommodation. Specialist hospitals were built on the edges of towns for lepers - though anyone uncared for and unable to look after themselves might have been looked after at such places. Post-Medieval 'improvements' further increased the range of specialist hospitals - dealing with the mentally ill at a distance to towns, thought best at the time, or out in the countryside to provide fresh air away from the smoky Industrial Revolution towns.

House of Correction

These were buildings erected to house people with no work from an area, usually parish-based. These houses were to act as punishments and inspire people to find work.

House platform

House platforms are small areas of raised ground built to make a level surface on which to build a house. Circular house platforms may indicate that the house belonged to the prehistoric or Roman period. Rectangular house platforms are more likely to be medieval or later in date.

Hunting lodge

This term may be used for two similar types of buildings, indistinguishable in Medieval documents. The first types are the buildings erected by members of the nobility. These were grand buildings or ranges of buildings. If owned by the King or noble the hunting lodge would be administered by, and leased out (for most of the year) to, an official of the household. Nationally all English hunting lodges of this sort were under the command of the chief forester. An excavated example has revealed traces of gatehouses, halls, a chapel and courtyard surrounded by moats and fishponds, whilst being within a deerpark. Such buildings could also be used as travel stops by the nobility. King John is particularly noted for building hunting lodges.
The second form of hunting lodge would be the accommodation and base of the deerpark and warren officials. Both forms of hunting lodge would be within a deerpark and subjected to a higher authority - but the latter form would be more likely to be on the fringes of the park.


An area of land amounting to twenty-six acres of land ploughed by two oxen.


Hushing was a way of finding mineral veins, such as galena. They occur on hillsides where the miners thought there might be a vein, but could not find a precise location. At the top of the hill a turf dam was built with channels to collect water to fill the hole made by making the dam. When the pool behind the dam was full the dam was broken and the water washes away all soil and surface rocks revealing the veins. This would leave a deep gully and a fan of debris at the bottom of the hill.
Hushes are important features in the landscape of the Pennines. They appear to be localised in the region between the Rivers Derwent and Lune, and then again between the Swale and Wensley. Hushes are almost impossible to date; they may date from Roman times to the 19th century AD, though most are of 16th or 17th century date. The process of starting hushes may have been carried out till the 1830s - though it was unpopular as it left soils in the bottom of the valleys. Re-use of hushes seems to have been carried out till the late 1840s AD.

Hut Circle; Hut-circle

Prehistoric houses were usually circular in shape. The walls were made by building a low bank of earth and stone, particularly in upland areas. Although the wooden parts of the building do not survive, these banks do, leaving distinctive areas of level ground, marked by a hut circle.

Hut platforms

See building platform.

Hydrate of alumina

See alum.

Hydraulic ram

The plunger or piston moved by waterpower in a mechanical system.


A raised floor in Roman buildings. This was supported by piled pieces of tile or stone columns. It allowed the circulation of air, (often warmed in the case of bath-houses and villas), throughout the building.
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