Keys to the Past


Starting with R - 59 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


The channel of water that provides a current of water to drive a millwheel. See Mill race.

Radiocarbon date; Radio-carbon dated; Radiocarbon; Radiocarbon dating

See Carbon 14 dating


A vertical vein of metallic ore, usually lead, occuring between walls of rock and cutting through the bedding. Often rakes have been worked from early times leaving deep trenches several km long, with adits leading off and shafts sunk at the side.


A mound of earth which surrounds entirely, or in part, a defensive site providing protection against attack.


Area where members of the armed practice weaponry and tactics. These may have their own special features such as practice trenches, (of World War I date at Otterburn, Northumberland), batteries and magazines for ground-based soldiers. Firing ranges were also built for ground-attack aircraft from World War II to practice on. A 'railway line' was built at Goswick, Northumberland, as well as disused vehicles for aircraft from Milfield airfield. Such air-practice ranges had their own unique features of large white arrows - pointing to the targets and visible from the air.
The exclusion of everyday activities has sometimes led to rare survivals of whole landscape and sites, such as parts of the Otterburn Training Area, Northumberland.


A cross between a sword and a dagger, about 30cm long. Examples in Northumberland and Durham, on show at the Newcastle Museum of Antiquities, are from the Bronze Age, which are made of Bronze. Various classification schemes have been developed for these.

Reading room

See Mechanic's Institute.

Receiver's Roll

A medieval record of taxation made by the tax collector or 'receiver'. They are useful documents as they contain information about what property was owned and who by.


A rector is a priest which is appointed by a parish that is wealthy enough to pay for their own priest. (compare vicar].


Place where a rector lives.


A central tower within a fortification. An example is the visible remains of the 17th century Osbourne's Fort, Lindisfarne, Northumberland. This could be armed with cannons on the upper floors, (so as to fire above the curtain wall), accommodation and a magazine below.

Reduced fabric

This is used to describe clay heated in a kiln so that it goes black. This occurs when red clay is heated in a kiln with very little or no oxygen. This turns the iron in the clay (which gives it its red colour) to Ferrous Oxide (which is black).


A medieval official, usually the man in charge of running a manor appointed by the Lord.


This was a series of major religious reforms and counter-reforms of the 16th century AD. It divided the Christian church into Catholic and Protestant traditions - originally in Germany and Switzerland, but later spread worldwide. There was no single protest movement to the church, no single leader, no defined objectives and no single controlling organisation. It was a series of parallel movements, with different people, with differing perspectives - who have been linked together by period.

By the 16th century, people such as Martin Luther (1483-1546AD) had found the church no longer answering their questions about faith. Money could buy indulgences - pardons from sins committed. It was irrelevant about the sins committed, rather the amount of money you had whether you would go to heaven or hell. It was also thought that the Church was too interested in secular affairs - sometimes appointing Bishops from members of family to gain more power, making wars and ignoring the principles of Christian monasticism - such things had been noted before, which had given rise to the reforming Cistercians and Premonstratensians in the 12th century AD.

Luther published his beliefs widely trying to reform the church from within as he was an Augustinian. However, the Dominicans that made money from the sale of indulgences - the major criticism of Luther - persuaded the Pope that Luther was a heretic. Replies to Luther were also published. Further people who wanted reform, such as Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531AD), corresponded with Luther - sometimes agreeing, sometimes not. Rebellions and risings took place in Germany and Switzerland as the areas divided into Catholic and Protestant areas. There was religious destruction, iconoclasm, and loss of life on both sides with neither gaining the advantage.

In England, there was a different form of Reformation. King Henry VIII originally wrote against Luther. The published ideas of Luther and others had reached Britain - where some supported them in the 1520s AD. Henry later broke from the Catholic church when refused a divorce by the Pope in the 1530s AD. This led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry acting as the head of the church in England. The ideas of the reformers were used as justification for the separation. Henry's son Edward VI (who reigned from 1547-1553AD) carried on the reforming spirit - revising the mass - in The Book of Common Prayer in 1549AD. It was now that there was English iconoclasm. Further simplified prayer books were written in 1552AD, whilst the 1553AD The Forty Two Articles set out reformed beliefs for a fore-runner of the Church of England.

There was a Catholic interlude under Queen Mary I (who reigned from 1553-1558AD). There were about 280 Protestant reformers burnt - seen by some as martyrs. Authority in the church was put in the care of the Rome Popes - some short-lived monasteries re-started as Catholic clergy returned, from Europe and Scotland.
However, under Queen Elizabeth I (who reigned from 1558-1603AD) there was a vigorous re-establishment of the Protestant reforms - now developed in The Thirty Nine Articles in 1563AD setting out the Church of England position as the established church. This document trod an ambiguous path between the Catholic and Protestant traditions. The Thirty Nine Articles did not go as far some would have wished, and the Church of England has a spectrum of opinions due to it. Catholics were persecuted at this time - again some being martyrs for their religion.

There are several reformed churches of The Reformation period and later, some called are Lutherian churches after Luther. See specialised entries for Church of England and Presbyterian in particular.


An area under the direct control of a king, rather than one of his nobles.

Registered Park and Garden; Registered Garden

A garden which is included on the register of gardens and parks of special historic interest, compiled by English Heritage. The fact that a garden is registered does not mean that there is public right of access unless it is separately advertised by the owner as being open to the public.

Registered battlefield

A battlefield which is included on the register of battlefields of special historic interest, compiled by English Heritage. The fact that a battlefield is registered does not mean that there is public right of access unless it is separately advertised by the owner as being open to the public.


These were part farmer and part raider. Reiving was common in the Border Country, with allegiances being formed by, or against, particular families. Such feuds need not be across The Border - but could be English against English, Scot against Scot. The constant fear of raiding for cattle, sheep or horses, sometimes even wood meant that particular forms of architecture evolved for the safety of man and beast, (see bastle, pele, tower house and strong house.


Objects particularly associated with a holy person or saint. They could be objects buried with a saint or the remains of the saint themselves.


A carving on a flat surface which partly projects from the surface giving a slight impression of 3-dimensions.


A place of impounded water against a dam. The water is usually kept for drinking or an industrial use, such as milling. These are generally much larger than a gathering pond.


After the English Civil War there was a period when England had no king, and was instead ruled by a Lord Protector working with parliament. However, in 1660 Charles II (the son of Charles I) was made king. This was known as the RESTORATION of the monarchy. The phrase is also used to describe the art and society of the period of Charles II reign (1660-1685).

Revetment; Revetted; Revetting

A wall or fence that acts to stop slippage of a slope. This can also be called revetting.

Ridge and furrow

The remains of ridge and furrow can be seen across many areas of Northumberland and Durham. It results from a method of cultivation that was used throughout the medieval (1066-1540) period and later. It is commonly identified by the broad reverse s-shaped undulations that were created by ox drawn plough, cutting and turning the soil over. The ox team needed plenty of space to turn at the end of each furrow because, by ploughing in a slight curve, the plough could start to turn before the furrow had been completed, this enabled it to be turned and brought back around into the curve of the preceding ridge.

Post-medieval (1540-1901) ridge and furrow was created by steam driven plough. The steam driven plough did not require so much space to turn, so it has narrower and straighter ridges and furrows.

Right of sanctuary

Medieval criminals could claim this right to gain time for a legal defence or passage to exile by reaching certain places. The places where a criminal had to reach were churches where the criminal had to touch an object and/or toll a bell, confessing his sins to any person present there. Sanctuary was given for certain crimes for a fixed period of time, such as a month, after which the criminal had to accept the legal charges against him, or accept banishment to a foreign country. The criminal was given continued sanctuary to the nearest port and the criminal put on the first ship abroad.

The legal authorities would then be bound, under threat of excommunication (being expelled from the church), to give the period of legal freedom before pursuit could be resumed. Sometimes these legal freedoms were ignored - John of Keteringham MP, was excommunicated in 1313AD for arresting men at the White Friars, Newcastle upon Tyne, (Tyne and Wear). Sanctuary could be given at large and small churches, from Durham Cathedral to North Gosforth chapel (Tyne and Wear). Sanctuary crosses would give the boundaries of the legal areas.

Ring Motte

See ringwork.

Ring bank

A circular feature which is enclosed by a raised bank but which has no ditch.

Ring cairn

A circular ring or bank of stones, sometimes with a kerb on the inner and outer faces. The circular area inside the cairn was originally stone-free.

Ring ditch; Ring-ditches

A circular feature usually seen as a cropmark from the air. They may be all that remains of various circular monuments such as round houses, round barrows or searchlight emplacements.

Ring groove; Ring-groove huts; Ring-groove

These are the remains of circular structures of a prehistoric date. A shallow circular groove or gully was cut and used as a foundation trench for the wooden walls. Although the wooden part of the structure will have decayed, the grooved often remains if cut into rock.


See Cup and ring marked stone.

Ringwork; Ring-work

This is a castle where instead of a single building, such as a keep, on a motte the whole set of castle buildings are built on the motte. The positions of the buildings may be marked by house platforms around the centre of the motte. An example is that at Elsdon, Northumberland.

Rising of the north

See Northern Rebellion.

Robbed walls; Robbed; Robber Trench

The stone from ruined stone buildings was often removed to build a new structure. When the stone from the foundations was removed an empty trench would remain showing the course of the walls. These empty trenches are called 'robber trenches' as the stone has been robbed from them.

Robert Adam

See Adam, Robert.

Robert Stephenson

See Stephenson, Robert.

Robert Trollope

See Trollope, Robert.

Rock carvings

See Cup and ring marked stone.

Rock shelter

The place beneath a natural overhanging cliff or crag. These spaces were sometimes used as dwellings or burial sites.

Rocket battery

See anti-aircraft battery.

Rocket post

Place where rocket equipment is stored. A rocket is attached to a line, and fired to a ship in trouble. This would allow a line to be attached to the ship, whose crew could then be off by a chair suspended from the line by a team pulling various ropes, when shipwrecked.


See Overviews for details.

Roman Catholic

sometimes called just Catholics
These are people who do not follow any of the Reformation of the 16th century alterations to church structures. They continue to accept the authority of the Pope as God's representations on Earth. This group survived through resistance to the Protestants - though it was often carried out in secret. (This necessitated priest-holes - secret hiding for priests and their followers). As such these Catholics were called recusants. The priests were trained in Europe at these times. Such persecution lasted, for lay people and priests, till the 1680s when Kings Charles II and James II became Catholic. Catholics were acknowledged as a group in the 1740s AD - though they were not allowed to hold certain positions, such as Members of Parliament, in 1829AD when Catholic emancipation was achieved. (The emancipation of Catholics removed the Corporation and Test Acts that required that people should receive the Church of England service only).

Roman Empire

Roman Empire, political system established by Rome that lasted for nearly five centuries. Historians usually date the beginning of the Roman Empire from 27 BC when the Roman Senate gave Gaius Octavius the name Augustus and he became the undisputed emperor after years of bitter civil war. At its peak the empire included lands throughout the Mediterranean world. The Romans conquered much of Britain in the 1st century AD and ruled it until the early 5th century.See Overviews for details.

Roman period

See Romano-British.


An architectural style dating to the 11th and 12th centuries and sometimes called Norman. It preceded the Gothic style.

Romano British; Romano-British

Refers to sites, which were occupied by native British people during the Roman occupation, roughly from AD43-410

Ropeway; Rope walks; Rope way

A long, narrow strip of land used in the making of ropes. The ropes would be stretched at full length and strands of fibre further added to them. This stretching would stop a rope springing into loops caused by the natural fibres' reaction to be stretched for the first time.

Rotary quern

See quern.

Round barrow

A circular, and often hemispherical, mound surrounded by a ditch and, sometimes, a bank.

Round cairn

A specialised form of cairn - as one single mound of stones for burial.

Round house; Round-house

A circular dwelling, usually marked by at least one ring of post holes and/or a gulley.


Someone who fought on the side of parliament during the English Civil War. They got this name because many of them had short hair.


A row of buildings built during different periods, as opposed to a TERRACE.


Someone who fought on the side of the King during the English Civil War.

Rubbing stones

Stones used to polish, or smooth, materials. These materials might include textiles or pottery. Linen, (see flax), responds to rubbing by developing a shine. Roman pottery production involved rubbing stones of flint, (some on show at Corbridge Roman Site English Heritage museum, Northumberland), which could be used to develop a shine. So-called burnished pottery, e.g. Black Burnished Ware (BB1 and BB2), had all the clay compounds aligned where the pottery was rubbed.


Runes were used in a script formerly found in northern Europe and are particularly associated with Viking monuments. The script is based on a combination of vertical and diagonal cuts in wood or stone, although it was also applied to items such as swords. Most runes are associated with memorial stones.


See Rune.

Russell, Lord Francis

Russell was the son of the 2nd Earl of Bedford. Though never a Warden or Keeper himself, (see Border Reivers), Russell was of nobility and attended the days of truce at Carter Bar and Windy Gyle, (both Northumberland). Russell was captured in a skirmish that developed at the summer 1575AD truce, known as the Raid of Reidswyre - but was later returned by King James VI of Scotland. Russell was also a member of a committee that sen to Queen Elizabeth a report of the fortified buildings of the border area. On the 27th July 1585 Russell was again attended a truce meeting - surprising the Warden (and father-in-law) Sir John Forster.

Russell was apparently in discussion with his own men - when he fell mortally wounded by a gunshot. Forster and the Scottish Warden Thomas Ker of Ferniehurst agreed to postpone the business of the day. Russell's murder (if that it is what it was) was never solved. However, Forster seems to imply in letters written to London after the event Russell had be given letters which comprised Ker's position. Forster also stated that the Scots had come ready for battle. The English and some Protestant Scots used the death of Russell to remove Ker and other Scottish officials as supporters of the exiled Scottish Catholic Queen Mary, from power on the pretext of murder. (The position of Scottish Warden was filled by William Kerr of Cessford). Russell's cairn on The Border is said to mark the spot of the incident - though this is thought to be Bronze Age.
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