Keys to the Past


Starting with L - 42 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

Lambing pen

An enclosure where ewes (female sheep) are kept at lambing time.

Landscape park; Landscaped park

Grounds, usually associated with a country house, laid out so as to produce the effect of natural scenery.

Late Bronze Age

1000BC to 700BC. See Bronze Age

Later prehistoric

General term for the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age periods.

Lazy Beds

Lazy beds are small plots of land, where the soil has been piled into long, narrow, raised mounds. These beds were used to grow a range of vegetables or crops, especially potatoes. They were often used in areas with shallow or poorly drained soil, as they provided a good depth of soil with good drainage.

Lead dressing

See Dressing.

Lead glaze

A transparent coating used to make the surface of a pot shiny. It contained lead. In the post-medieval period it was replaced by tin glaze.

Lead mine

A place where the lead ore Galena (PbS) is mined.
Lead mine


The site where lead ore is mined and processed.


A manmade water channel usually built to supply water to a mill.


A Roman army unit of 5, 000 men under the command of a legatus legionis. The legion would be broken down into smaller units if necessary. Legionaries, the actual soldiers, were Roman citizens and included engineers and surveyors for major building projects. The nearest legionary base was at York.

Leland, John

Leland was born in London. He was originally a priest after attending Cambridge University - he became a Royal Librarian and the King's Antiquary for King Henry VIII. As an early antiquarian he toured castles and churches noting their history, coats of arms and legends in the 1530s AD. Leland's notes were scattered on his death - but were used buy others. Leland's Itinerary was published as an account of his travels in 1710AD.


Lepers are people who suffer from leprosy, a disease that affects the skin and nerves. People could stub their toes - but not feel anything. In the Medieval period the word leprosy was used to mean a number of unpleasant skin diseases thought to be punishments from God. These diseases were often very infectious so lepers were made to live away from healthy people. Both secular and spiritual authorities founded special leper hospitals in which lepers could be looked after, on the outskirts, beyond any town walls, of any town or in remote areas - though would probably look after anybody ill. An example of a leper hospital is that at Sherburn, Durham.


Similar to an adit - a tunnel underground to extract vein minerals by cutting into a hillside and horizontally. These could be named if of special note, e.g. the Blackett level, Allendale, Northumberland.


An area where there was some legal freedom. This might be where locals had certain rights over the owner of the land. It could also be a group of manors held by a lord - but exempt from normal legal process for some reason. An example is North Tynedale - this was the 'Liberty of Tynedale', though recognised as England in the 12th century, this was owned by the King of Scotland. Tynemouth Priory and Embleton were also the centres of Liberties - though these were not exempt from taxation measures.


A white or gray substance, also often known as quicklime. It is obtained by burning limestone or shells to drive of the carbon dioxide. It becomes very hot when mixed with water, creating 'slaked lime'.

Limeburning pit

A pit in which lime was burnt. See limekiln.

Limekiln; Lime depot; Lime kiln

Permanent limekilns were built of stone or brick. They were circular in plan. At the base of the kiln was one or more arched openings called a draw arch where the fire at the bottom of the kiln was fed and from which the processed lime was removed. Kilns were loaded from the top, so they were often built into a hillside or had an earthen ramp constructed above them along which a waggonway could run to supply the coal and limestone, which were tipped onto the fire below. The limestone and coal was layered in the kiln pot and heated to temperatures in excess of 1000 C. The heated lumps of lime produce calcium carbonate or quicklime. This was highly volatile and a number of ships transporting quicklime caught fire because the cargo had come into contact with water. To avoid this problem farmers would leave quicklime in piles at the edge of fields, allowing the quicklime to slowly absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Once this process had been completed, a product called slaked lime resulted and this could then be spread onto the field in order to neutralise acidity in the soil and break up heavy clay soils.

Linear farmstead

A group of related farm buildings, which is arranged in a line.


A single large stone, often inscribed, over the top of an entranceway.

Listed building

A listed building is one recognised by the Government as being of special architectural or historic interest, as specified by the Planning (Listed buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. Listing is made at three levels of importance Grade I, the most important, Grade II* and Grade II. Listed building consent is required before any alterations, extensions or demolitions can be made to a listed building which might affect its character.Such buildings can be altered - but only with due consideration given to the history present.

Lithic scatter

A small scatter of worked flint tools and the remains of their manufacture. This may be all that remains of a prehistoric site.

Long Barrow

Long barrows are rectangular banks of earth or stones between 25 to 125m long. They may be edged by large stones, and one end is sometimes higher than the other. They usually contain at least one stone-built burial chamber. Long barrows were built in the Middle Neolithic period (3000BC to 2300BC). Each barrow may have been used for a long time, perhaps up to 500 years.

Long cairn

See long mound.

Long house

A form of Medieval and Post-Medieval house. Such houses have a long measurement greatly exceeding that of their width, by a factor of two or three. These buildings date to the 14th to 16th centuries. They were divided by a wood or stone partitions into rooms for separate animal and human occupation. Such a division of rooms may be made by a cross-passage leading through opposed doors across the width of the building. These may have had an upper storey in the roof space. Excavated examples possessed hearths in the living accommodation and drains in the byre section. Several examples have been excavated at Memmerkirk and West Whelpington, Northumberland. Longhouses are often found in earlier prehistoric enclosures.

Long mound

sometimes called a long cairn.
A cairn construction of stone piled together bounded by kerbs, placed over possible graves and wooded mortuary structures, dating back to the Neolithic. These have variable dimensions - though an arbitrary limit of more than 15m has been set, they may be nearer 100m in length, and of varying width. They are irregular in shape - though not rounded - and vary in orientation. Long mounds are usually on hillsides where views can be obtained, often of considerable distances in particular directions along valleys or across the sea, the remaining view may be limited. They are tentatively given a Neolithic date since they combine aspects of other Neolithic regional forms of burial such as long barrows, though they could have be a focus for later burials nearby.


See Long house.


A weight used to hold down the vertical threads in a simple loom. They may have been made from circular or clay pieces of clay or a stone with a hole drilled through it.


Small holes or slots in a building through which weapons could be fired.

Loosebox; Loose box; Loose-box

A compartment in a farmbuilding or stable in which a horse was kept.

Lord Armstrong

1810-1900. William George Armstrong was born in 1810 in Shieldfield, Newcastle, the son of a corn merchant. Although he initially planned to become a lawyer he was long interested in engineering and in the 1840s made a number of inventions including an hydraulic crane. In 1847 Armstrong set up a works at Elswick in Newcastle, which made electrical mechanisms and engines. One of his more important inventions was the Armstrong breech-loading gun was one of his more successful developments. He was made engineer to the war department and given a knighthood. In 1882 his company started building ships. By which time it was the biggest employer on Tyneside, with over 20,000 employees. In 1897 the firm joined with Joseph Whitworth and later became Vickers Armstrong. He used his great wealth to buy and restore Bamburgh Castle and to build Cragside, his mansion near Rothbury. It was the first house in Britain to be lit by hydroelectric power.

Lord Crewe Estate

Nathaniel, Lord Crewe (1674-1722) was a Bishop of Durham. An extremely wealthy man he left much of his property in trust so as to benefit the clergy. The Lord Crewe's Charity, based in Durham, which also has interests in the Bamburgh area on the Northumberland coast, manages much of the village of Blanchland and surrounding Estate land.

Lord Gort

Field Marshall Viscount John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker Gort of the Grenadier Guards won his VC at Canal du Nord, France, on 27th September 1918.
After the war Gort taught at the staff College and was promoted to the rank of colonel in 1925. He also served as Commander of the Guards Brigade (1930-32), Director of Military Training in India (1932-36) and Commander of the Staff College (1936-39).
Gort was made a full general in 1937 and later that year was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
In 1939 Gort was Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that went to France. The German offensive through the Ardennes during the invasion of France in May, 1940, left 10 divisions of the BEF caught and gradually squeezed onto the beaches of Dunkirk. He died in March, 1946.

Lord Russell

Lord Francis Russell. A nobleman who attended a meeting with Reivers at a 'truce day' at Wyndy Gyle (28th July 1585) " fer certain particular causes of his own". While he was talking to some gentlemen, "was suddenly shot with a gun and slain" the following fight ended in several deaths, and possibly the hanging of his murderer. The site is marked by Russell's Cairn.

Lord of the manor; Lords of the manor

The lord in charge of a manor.


An area or territory ruled by a lord, (see Manor). An example is the Lordship of Kidland, based around the Kidland area of Northumberland. This was Umframville and then Cistercian Newminister lands.

Lordship of Kidland

See lordship.

Lough, James

18th century sculptor. Carved several gravestones in the graveyard of the Church of Saint Andrew (Shotley Low Quarter).


A diamond-shaped device used that may appear, on a coat of arms singly or in a group, with or without other emblems.

Lutyens, Sir Edward; Lutyens

Edwin Lutyens was a leading architect of the late 19th and early 20th century. Traditional styles, building methods and materials heavily influenced him. Indeed he built a castle - Castle Drogo in the 1910s AD in imitation of the Medieval period. His work in the northeast included the conversions of four village houses to form Whalton Manor and the restoration of Lindisfarne Castle. Here, he worked in partnership with the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll (pronounced so as to rhyme with treacle), with whom he often collaborated for a small garden to the north of the castle.

Lychgate; Lych gate

sometimes called a corpse-gate
The covered entranceway to a churchyard. These are often inscribed as commemoration to someone or some group connected with the parish.


Lynchets appear to be large steps cut into a field on a hill slope. They are caused when ploughing moves soil downhill, which then piles up against a field boundary such as a wall or hedge. Sometimes they may even have been built deliberately to form flat areas which are easier to farm. They can date from many periods from the Iron Age (800BC to AD43) to the Middle Ages (1066 to 1540). Modern ploughing has destroyed many lynchets, but they can still often be seen in upland areas where crops are no longer grown.
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