Keys to the Past


Starting with P - 84 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


Horses, and ponies, often used to carry heavy loads, such as Galena, fuel and sometimes haul coffins on long and uneven surfaces. Other animals so were used are called pack animals generally. It is written that Weardale was the last place in the north of England where Galloway cattle were used to transport Galena.

Paine, James

An architect for working in the Palladian style. He worked with Lancelot 'Capability' Brown Brown, Lancelot for a number of projects. He designed Belford Hall, and a bridge for Wallington amongst other projects in the northeast.


This describes the former course of a river or other water course, which has been filled up and often buried by later soil sposits


The term for the Old Stone Age, the immensely long period of hunter-gatherers extending from the time when humans first evolved up to about 10,000 BC. In Britain, the earliest evidence of human activity dates from about 450,000 years ago, although there are long periods (of 100,000 years or more) when there appears to have been no human presence. The period has been divided up by archaeologists into the Lower (the oldest), Middle and Upper Palaeolithic to indicate when social and technological developments - mainly increasingly sophisticated flint tools - occurred. Neanderthal Man was supplanted by Homo sapiens, modern man, during this epoch. What are popularly thought of as 'cavemen' also belong to this period. Their remains have been found in caves, such as those at Cheddar (Somerset), but they probably lived more often in open country. However, no convincing remains from this period have been found in the north-east.


Palisades are large wooden defensive fences. The posts usually have dug foundations, and the ends may be sharpened. They were often built to keep out wild animals, as well as human attackers. They were sometimes placed around Iron Age settlements and continued to be used until the medieval period, after which defences were no longer needed. All that remains for the archaeologist is usually the foundation trench.

Palisaded settlement; Palisaded

A Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age settlement often located on a hilltop or promontory. It was enclosed by a trench cut into the rock and set with a timber palisade. Palisaded sites are thought to be the earliest type of defended settlement in the border regions of England and Scotland.

Palladian; Palladian style

An architectural style from the 1600s-1750sAD in Britain. This was a simple, but decorative, style named after Andrea Palladio of Italy. It is less detailed than Classical forms - but has the same general origins.


A type of axe made of bronze.


The study of preserved pollen remains, which may give information on the environment surrounding a site.


Local dialect term for a water supply that may, or may not, be continuous.


A low protective wall or railing along the edge of a raised structure such as a roof or balcony.


Place where the growth of a crop is stunted (by buried remains) where its roots cannot reach water. The crop has therefore withered - but formed a cropmark that might be observable to aerial photography.


Every county is divided into area called 'parishes', each served by a parish church and a priest. Some large parishes may have more than one church, with the smaller ones called chapels-of-ease. The pattern of parishes is often complicated. Many of the larger old parishes have been divided to form several new parishes. In more recent times some small parishes have been combined to make larger ones.

Until 1866 these church parishes were also used as units of local government, but from this date a new unit known as the 'civil parish' was established. Sometimes these were identical to the older church parishes, but more often they were based around smaller divisions of church parishes known as townships. Since 1866 these two types of parish have followed separate patterns of change, so in most cases the boundaries of these two units do not coincide. In this website the parishes used are the modern civil parishes, rather than the old church parishes.

Parish Church

The main church in a parish.

Parish Register

A term used for church records that contain information about all those baptised, married and buried in a parish church. They were first started after a law was passed in 1538, but many churches did not start making records until the 17th century.


Land kept as, or specifically designed, to look as natural as possible. These may have clumps of woodland to frame a view or provide a shelterbelt. Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (Brown, Lancelot ) was well known for creating parkland.


Someone who acts as a priest to a group of people, such as soldiers, who do not have a fixed parish.


Home of a parson.


An area of low-growing plants, arranged in beds, which form a pattern (often symmetrical) in a plan view.


Partially decomposed vegetable matter - in the absence of bacteria and oxygen, such organic material survives. It will preserve some materials that are in it, as it is usually acidic. Skin can be preserved in peat bogs - acting like a natural tannery, but bone will be dissolved. Pollen can be preserved in stratified layers with a peat bog, making them sites for taking cores for pollen analysis. Peat can be used on gardens or as a fuel on a fire. A peat cutting is where such peat is taken from. The peat is then moved, sometimes by a sledge in the uplands, to a peat stand where (like a stack stand) it is allowed to dry before use.

Peat cutting

A place where peat, used as fuel, is cut.

Peat stand

A structure on which peat is dried.

Peden, Alexander

A Scottish Covenantor Peden was born and operated mainly as a church minister in the southwest of Scotland. After signing a petition with others to King Charles II he was forced from his job. He continued to preach his views of Christianity throughout Scotland, Ireland and northern England. As the Covenantor principles were against certain influential people, Peden and others were declared rebels, their estates forfeited and their meetings illegal. As such the meetings were held in remote spots - e.g. caves, valleys and in the middle of wild moors.
Peden was captured and imprisoned for four years in the prison on the Bass Rock, (in the Firth of Forth), and Edinburgh. He was sentenced to transportation to Virginia, America, for life - but was released when the ship's captain refused to accept as a prisoner. He died in Scotland, after further trips to Ireland - but was dug up after burial by soldiers. Some of Peden's sermons have been published which give a flavour of his renowned style by the title alone: The Lord's Trumpet sounding an alarm against Scotland'.
E.g. Padon's Monument, Troughend, Northumberland overlooking Redesdale. The monument does not seem to have been erected to Peden - nor is there any official evidence that he visited the spot - but it's still worth a look.

Pele tower; Pele; Peel tower

This is an old name used to described fortified tower houses. Although pele towers are known to the north of the border, the term is no longer used to describe these buildings in Northumberland. The only exception to this are the fortified towers that were sometimes built next to churches to provide protection for the priest- these are known as Vicar's Peles. Good examples can be seen in Corbridge and Ponteland.


Piece of jewellery (stone, metal, glass amber, jet and so on) formerly suspended by a string or twine around the neck. (Compare with torc).


The style of Gothic architecture used in England during the 14th and 15th centuries, characterized by tracery having vertical lines, a four-centred arch, and fan vaulting.

Peterborough Ware

Crudely-made domestic pottery of the later Neolithic period 3400-2600 BC, decorated with impressed designs.


A road up a steep hill.


A place where pheasant birds are raised. These game birds could then be shot for the table. Often occur as part of a country house.


Projecting masonry platform into the sea, so as to stop the movement of sands and gravel blocking a navigable channel. Sometimes with a lighthouse on.
A column of stone used to support an arch at the end of an arcade. These may be elaborately carved or painted, or be made of many individual columns to make a large so-called compound pier. Examples of such incised piers are at Lindsifarne, Northumberland, and Durham Cathedral.


Blocks of cast metal, such as cast iron made at a blast furnace or foundry. They are so-named because the shape of the moulds arranged around a central channel look like piglets suckling or feeding from a trough in plan view. The casting floor where the moulds were was sloped down from the furnace so as to allow the molten metals to flow easily and evenly.


A shallow rectangular column projecting only slightly from a wall.


A person who goes on a religious journey called a pilgrimage to a shrine perhaps a great distance away. This may be for personal devotion or for a cure of a disease. Saint Godric was a pilgrim to a number of European shrines.


Term for the journey made by a pilgrim. On some popular routes to particular shrines there would be special hostels for staying overnight. In the Medieval period badges would be produced at the shrines showing the focus of the journey - perhaps of the saint themselves or something associated with them. These were bought by the pilgrims to show one had been wherever. Going on pilgrimage was thought to cure diseases, (such as leprosy), and reduce the time spent in Hell. The badges would be worn in death to signify this was a special person.

Pilgrimage of Grace

This was a protest against the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536AD. It was led by Robert Aske and had a flag portraying the wounds of Jesus' crucifixion. This sought the restoration of the monasteries - but failed. King Henry VIII went back on his words of sympathy to the rebels and carried out further reforms. Many rebels were killed - these included monks and canons that had joined the rebels under threats and coercion, or as their conscious dictated. Despite the support of the monasteries generally in the rising, the Border area monasteries received little support - the tenants of Tynemouth Priory, the only surviving Northumbrian monastery valued over the £200 level, took the opportunity to chance to rebel against the monastery as their landlord. A further rising was held as the Northern Rebellion for the return of monasteries and Catholic forms of worship.

Pillar and stall

sometimes called bord and pillar
A technique of coal mining used from the mid-15th century to the 19th century AD. Long parallel rows of coal were removed, (the stalls), to leave equally long parallel lines of coal supporting the rocks above the seam, (the pillars). This technique typically left about a third of the coal supporting the 'roof' of the workings.


A small building, of concrete-slabs or filled bags, widely used in World War II to provide a line of defence, called a stop-line, against enemy landings by sea and air, and any advance from these. Most are of the slab type - but there are concrete-filled bag examples in Northumberland at Seaton Sluice, Bothal and Thropton. Some were disguised as cottages - there is one at Hemscott Hill, Northumberland. These buildings held small garrisons of soldiers armed with rifles and machine guns. Some pillboxes were large enough to accommodate anti-tank guns - there is a surviving example to the north of Bamburgh of this type. Mobile, and larger, forces could then be summoned as reinforcement.

Defensive circles were also built around airfields (Ouston, best example in Northumberland), coastal batteries, towns (example on north side of Ponteland, Northumberland, around Newcastle and Durham), and radar-sites (Ottercops Moss, Northumberland). These might operate with other defensive measures - see Bywell Bridge holes, (under George Basevi). There use was not widely advocated after 1941AD as they did not suit the style of warfare. There is a rare late World War I/1920s example at Hartley battery, (see under turrets), Seaton Sluice, Northumberland.


See stocks.

Pillow mound

Long, low mounds of the Medieval and Post-Medieval period. These are usually cigar-shaped and in groups. These were artificial warrens built to house rabbits for their fur and the table. A Medieval licence for the were required from the King, which gave the 'Right of Free Warren' on a piece of illuminated manuscript, which Robert de Ogle acquired for Thirston in 1341AD.

They had stone chambers and tunnels covered by earth for the rabbits to live in. They had many entrances in and out so the rabbits could sit on the mound of earth, spot predators, and run for cover if necessary. It was the Normans who introduced the Rabbit or Coney to Britain. There are still fields called Coney Garth near Ashington, (Northumberland). People who looked after pillow mounds were called Warreners. Pillow mounds were sometimes put on land of little economic value otherwise, such as quarry or mine spoil.

Pillow stone

A small stone, carved with a cross, which was placed on the chest or beneath the head of a corpse in the Anglo-Saxon period.


Local people who guide large vessels in dangerous waters. In the absence of lighthouses they may be the only people with knowledge of safe channels. Pilots may have a watchtower to keep a lookout for ships that might need guiding.


A pinery is a glasshouse building used to grow pineapples. Growing pineapples began in earnest in Britain in the eighteenth century, though they remained an expensive and exotic fruit for some time


An animal pound used and maintained by the village it is set in.


A niche in the wall of a church or temple where the sacred vessels used in the services are washed. In Medieval churches these were in the southern wall of the chancel. The wall was hollow at this point so the water used could drain away. This may be the identified feature of a chapel, as at Thrislington, County Durham.

Pit alignment

A single line, or pair of roughly parallel lines, of pits set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes. The pits are not thought to have held posts.

Pit village

A village specifically established to house the workers for a pit or colliery, who were usually tied to the cottage by working at the pit. They were often planned as a square with the pit on one side, chapel (if built at all) and shops on the other and houses the remainder by the 19th century. They were also built as a series of terraces. These were built as a response to the increases in the industrial working population. Conditions were unhealthy in the early examples, but welfare reforms began in the later 19th century generally, as with the working conditions generally. Many of the earlier ones were pulled down - in the 1960s many were labelled D-villages, with D for demolition.

Planned Farm

A whole farm complex built as a unit with buildings for every purpose. An example is that at Thornborough High Barns, Aydon, Northumberland in 1816AD by Greenwich Hospital. These were common in the Agricultural Revolution.

Planned village

A specially designed village. This may be of Medieval or Post-Medieval date. It may have been as estate village or pit village - or just a planned village for the ease or good of its inhabitants.


A group of planted trees or shrubs, generally of uniform age and of a single species.

Platform settlement

The remains of a small settlement at which the buildings were built on small earth platforms.

Pleasure grounds

A type of 18th century public park, with refreshment houses, concert rooms, etc.

Poll tax

The English poll taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381 taxed householders, wives, dependants and servants individually. The tax records therefore provide information about people who are rarely, if ever, mentioned in other documents - frequently including details of occupations and relationships.


The grains and spores that plants produce in quantity, though microscopic in size, so as to affect the reproduction of their species. Other floral evidence, (bark, leaves, seeds, stems and wood), might survive burial - but it is usually pollen that will survive best.

Pollen analysis

All plants produce grains of pollen and different plant species have different characteristics and can be identified under a microscope. The outer skins of pollen grains are very resistant to decay and can be collected from buried deposits. The change in vegetation in temperate zones, like north-west Europe, since the last Ice Age has been studied and a scale produced of all the intermediate stages from being non-existent to dense forest. A pollen sample (usually 200 grains) can be matched against this scale to determine its date. This information can tell us what the environment was like in past times and sometimes show the influence man had on his surroundings.

Poor house

A 19th century establishment for the provision of work for the unemployed poor of a parish; later an institution administered by Guardians of the Poor, in which paupers are lodged and the able-bodied set to work.


A covered projection to the main entrance to a building. Porches have side walls, (compare with portico).


A heavy grating, often made of wood or iron, usually lowered vertically as a defensive barrier at the entrance to a gatehouse or barbican.


A portico is a porch on the front of a house which has at least one side made by pillars or columns which also support the roof. They are a feature of Classical architecture, such as John Dobson's Dobson, John Longhirst Hall, Northumberland.

Post hole; Post-hole

A hole for a timber post. The post inserted may be smaller than the hole - so the remaining space is filled with material called packing, to keep the post steady.

Post medieval

See post-medieval.


Used to describe the period between 1530 and 1900.See Overviews for details.


A piece of clay that has been fired to make it hard. Pottery is made in kilns for a variety of purposes. Prehistoric pottery is usually very soft, since it was fired in bonfires with no control over the firing, (compare with a kiln). Samian ware is a special type of pottery - it is a tableware, one that was put on the table to display food. Some types of pottery were produced in the northeast - from Roman period White Wares (COR WW) made at Corbridge to Post-Medieval and Modern times on Tyneside and Wearside. Designs that change often are useful for dating a layer by comparisons to elsewhere.


A pen, often circular and stone-walled, for rounding up livestock.

Practice camp

A temporary overnight camp enclosed by a shallow ditch and palisade, constructed by Roman troops on campaigns or manoeuvres.


A manor or estate owned and run by an order of knights and governed by a preceptor.


General terms for all the periods before the start of historical records. This is mostly before the Roman period for Britain - the first mention of the northern Iron Age Brigantes tribe is in 49AD. See the specialised entries for Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age. The time depth of the term can be widened for certain aspects of the northeast's past.


See prehistoric.

Premonstratensian; Premonstratensian Order

sometimes called The White Canons
This group of canons was also as the Norbertines, after their founder Saint Norbert. The group was founded in 1120AD to follow Augustinian rules, but was influenced by the Cistercians to develop estates and granges. One of the early monasteries founded by the order was at Premontre, (France). They founded several monasteries including Alnwick and Blanchland Abbeys (Northumberland) and Egglestone Priory (County Durham) from their 12th century arrival in Britain. These places acted as bases to go out preaching from and the order was well known for missionary work in the east of Europe. They left England for exile as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. They wore white clothes, which can be seen in surviving Medieval stained glass at Blanchland.


A member of a reformed section of the Christian church based upon the ideas of John Calvin in the Reformation. The group was against the appointment of non-religious people, such as Kings, being appointed as of right into the structure of the church. Instead, the ultimate authority in the Presbyterian Church is The Bible, which guided a mix of clergy and lay people meeting in a synod. Presbyterian removed statues and pictures as iconoclasm in the Reformation. Presbyterianism was widespread in the south of Scotland and the north of England. The group was persecuted and gave rise to covenantors in the times of King Charles I, Charles II and James II (1625-1685AD in total). Alexander Peden is mentioned elsewhere. This did not stop the group and in 1690AD William III recognised Presbyterianism as the official Church of Scotland. The persecution of group often led to enforced transportation and emigration to Ireland and North America.

Presbyterian Chapel

A place where Presbyterians worship. These buildings have little elaboration.


The home of a presbyter or priest.


Knapping is a comparatively 'loose' hitting process. Pressure-flaking allows the production of flint tools by high pressure being applied to a selected portion of a core. This can be used to produce very small and precisely formed tools called microliths.

Primitive Methodist

This was a breakaway group from the Methodists of John Wesley. It was founded in 1811AD by Henry Bourne and William Clowes, who were expelled for holding out-door meetings, (originally at Mow Cop, Staffordshire). Primitive Methodist preachers tended to be local lay people of the same occupation as their congregations. The Primitive Methodists were noted for open-air meetings and being especially strong in industrial areas. They accepted teetotalism and women preachers.


The man in charge of a priory.

Prior's House

The place within a monastery that a prior lived. These men would have their own accommodation so the prior and his guests (such as nobility or royalty), could worship in privacy. These would also include there own kitchens and chapel.


See monastery.

Priory cell

Sometimes called a monastic cell or cell.
A small monastery dependent upon a larger monastery for supplies. There may be only two or three monks at such a place.


A soldier who has been captured and transported to another place. They were imprisoned in prisoner of war camps which were often purposefully built in World War I and World War II. These would be wooden huts based on concrete, ringed by barbed wire fences and guarded by an accommodated garrison. These huts would be living accommodation, kitchens and mess halls - sometimes including their own theatre for entertainment. Examples were common for World War II in the northeast - examples still visible include Featherstone Castle (Northumberland) and the almost intact Harperley Hall (County Durham), which has some World War I survivals. These camps were often situated in the countryside near railway stations for transportation and in remote areas. Prior to World War I French prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars were keep in normal prisons and Medieval castles.
Incidentally, some prisoners of war remained in the area that they were interned. Some such as Fritz Berthele becoming an archaeological artefact collector of importance.


An outside toilet that may not have drainage, so may need to emptied manually.

Promontory Fort

A type of hillfort, usually of Iron Age date, constructed on the projecting spur, or promontory of a hill. The steep sides of the hill may act as an extra level of defence.


This is a general term for a number of religious groups within the Christian church. Included are followers of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin of the Reformation. The term comes from the protesting minority in a German parliament at Spires in 1528AD during the Reformation. It has been expanded upon to include the Church of England, Anabaptists, Methodists and Presbyterians. There is some common ground on the role of The Bible in worship, the rejection of Papal authority, devotion to preaching and a reduction of Catholic religious styles of worship. However, there are also differences between the various groups.

Public house

The public house was a 19th century development, distinctive from the earlier BEER HOUSE by its decorative treatment and fittings.

Pudsey, Hugh

Also known as Hugh le Puiset. In 1189AD, the bishop of Durham, Hugh Pudsey (1153-95) (who was also the Justicar of England and controlled the mighty Norham Castle) bought the County of Northumberland from King Richard of England for £11,000. As he already held Durham as its prince-bishop, and was connected to the powerful Percy family through his wife, this gave him a substantial amount of financial and political power. He ruled Northumberland like a private kingdom while King Richard was imprisoned in Germany, but was imprisoned himself when the King returned, and Hugh Bardolf became the Sheriff of Northumberland.

He was responsible for building or adding to many important medieval buildings in Durham, such as the castle.


Platform on which a dead body is, or dead bodies are, placed for cremation. Grave goods or dead animals may also be placed on the pyre to be burnt.
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