Keys to the Past


Starting with T - 37 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

Table tomb

A type of tomb in the form of a slab raised on freestanding legs.


A place where tanning takes place. Tanning is the process of preserved animal hides, by prolonged soakage in water and chemical treatments, to become leather. These buildings have large pits that held the hides for some lengths of time. Water supplies would be brought in via a leat. The treatments included oak bark off-cuts from sawmills, lasted some time and were very smelly. Creation of the leather would allow it to be shaped and last a long time - as items such as shoes and belts. The wet mouldings of leather, (called cuir bouilli), would harden when dry.

Tap slag

Slag that is 'tapped' from a bloomery furnace. This is carried out during smelting so as to allow the long continuance of the operation. It cools to a solid slag with marked flow lines. 'Tapping' of bloomeries has been carried out since the Roman period - before Iron Age smelting formed other slag, called hearth bottoms, removed at the completion of every short smelting.


A method of transmitting a signal quickly prior to the introduction of radios and telephones. This allow a signal to be sent containing more information than possible with a beacon - perhaps being a flashing light or an device with arms - through the use of a code. Telegraphs were used alongside railway lines.

Temporary camp

This may be a camped erected in wartime by an army, (see marching camp), or as a practice exercise in peacetime. They may have had buildings erected in them - but might have been only used for a night as a mass of tents for the unit, be it Roman legion or cohort, or later Post-Medieval army.


A parcel of land.


Field or area of ground where washed new cloth is stretched out to dry.


See cultivation terrace. Can also be rows of houses - built cheaply and simply as part of pit villages in the Industrial Revolution.


A four-drachma coin of Ancient Greece. This was made of Silver (Ag).

Threshing machine; Threshing Barn

Threshing was the separation of the grain of a crop from the unwanted (for humans) material called straw. Originally this was done by hand - but in the Agricultural Revolution was mechanised when the Scot Andrew Meikle of East Linton in 1786AD developed a machine. (There had been others - though these were unreliable). This machinery was housed in a threshing barn taking up most of one end of the building on two floors. The corn was fed in at the first floor level and rollers with grid-like brushes on separated the grain from the straw. The grain passed through the grid - so the straw was picked up by the brushes.

At the ground floor level the grain was bagged up for the millstones, the straw taken to the straw barn. This machinery was powered by water so specific gathering ponds, leats and sluices were built - where the ground allowed, as in the very northwest of Northumberland, as at West Moneylaws, Carham of the 1850s and Low Middleton, Middleton, constructed in the 1860s. Elsewhere, on the flatter and drier Northumbrian coastal plain gin-gangs and stationary steam engines were used, though possible wind seems not to have been used short of experiment and at Chollerton Steading (Northumberland).

Such threshing machines were common by 1797AD, and were in general usuage according to Bailey and Culley (see Agricultural Revolution). The Belford parish registers records in 1790AD that Several threshing machines'have been erected in this and neighbouring parishes'The contrivance is very ingenious, but threatens to hurt the poor; three or four men, or women, in this way being able to thresh as much corn as twelve in the common way. Sometimes these many were deliberately destroyed because they took work away from people - this happened in the Midlands, 1830-1832AD .
By 1840AD such machines were universal - either using water or steam. The use of steam power was popular near the coast, where there were many small seams of coal. The equipment could be employed in other tasks as well, using belts from the main wheels however they were powered.

Threshing mill

A watermill where there are only threshing machines.

Tile works; Tileworks; Tilery

sometimes called a tilery
A factory or site where tiles are made. Clays might be extracted on this site, crushed and moulded to shape, dried and then fired. These may have kilns. These could be associated with brickworks, and/or part of a country estate.

Tithe barn

A map drawn to show what was exempt from the tithe payment (levied at a tenth of profits made) to the church. Church and monastic granges were exempt from paying tithes in the Medieval period.

Tithe map

Tithes, (in theory 10% of a persons income) were taxes paid to support the priest of the parish church. Under the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, tithes could be turned into a rent charge. In villages where this happened a survey of the land was carried out and a large scale detailed plan was drawn up showing every house and area of land. Each plot was individually numbered.
These maps are often the earliest detailed map we have of a village and are of great use to archaeologists and historians.


A small section of bank and ditch that was designed like a clavicula to break up an assault on the entrance of a Roman marching camp. The size of the bank and ditch matched the width of the entrance to be defended. (There may be some sub-period based differences to the clavicula defence).


Individual building plots in a Medieval village or town. Where these survive as an earthwork there is a house platform and an enclosure marking the allotment-type garden area. Extended tofts can be called burgage plots.

Toll House; Tollhouse; Toll booth; Tollbooth

Toll houses stood on toll roads. The tolls, or fees, which travellers on the road had to pay, were collected here. The toll collector lived in the house, and there was often a gate across the road to stop people travelling without paying.

Toll Road

sometimes called turnpikes
Before the 18th century, each parish looked after its own roads. However, in the 18th century the amount of traffic increased as part of the Agricultural Revolution that they could no longer afford this without help. The law was changed so companies could be set up to look after the roads. They made money to look after the roads by charging people a toll to use them. The money was collected at toll houses and a gate, the turnpike, opened to allow further passage. The collected money went to the investors and the maintenance of the road and bridges. The groups who set up and maintained these roads were called Turnpike Trusts. Examples of turnpikes include many roads, still in use, today from the main centres of Newcastle and Durham. From Wooler to Morpeth (A697) was a turnpike - some mileposts remain showing the distance between the towns. At Rimside Moor, near Longframlington, and beyond an 18th-century turnpike, (with its public house), is bypassed at several points - notably Whittingham and Glanton - by a later 1831AD turnpike.

Topographic survey

A topographic survey maps the shape and form of an archaeological site or monument. It will plot the presence of humps and bumps on the ground and transfer them to a map. This has traditionally been done by hand using tape-measures and a simple theodelite (a device for measuring heights and directions). However, today these surveys are usually carried out using complicated electronic equipment.


A piece of jewellery worn about the neck - but isn't loose like a necklace. These are usually made of various metals and either segmented beads (with a flat metal 'collar') or metal wires twisted together. Roman authors refer to them being worn by Iron Age chieftains - the Roman army later adopted these as military decorations, being awards to individuals or groups for bravery. They are sometimes found in hoards as Iron Age ritual, e.g. Snettisham, (East Anglia). The examples from the region include several from Hadrian's Wall at Benwell, Caw Gap and Stanwix (Cumbria). These were probably Romano-British manufactures. Most of the northeast English examples are of Bronze.


See tower house.

Tower house

A fortified house built between the 14th and 17th centuries in counties along the Scottish borders. Some towers were attached to a hall house and others stood alone.
Tower House

Township; Townships

Division made out of parishes and usually administered and supported by a chapel of ease.


A track inlaid into a surface, on which tram cars run for the conveyance of passengers and/or goods or raw materials.


The side arms from a crucifix shaped church which project north and south of the main chancel-nave east-west line.
Diagram of parish church. Copyright Peter Ryder 2003


The practice of moving in order to make use of seasonal resources, such as the summer hill pastures, and then moving back to the lowlands in the winter.


A large fishing boat used out at sea. There are the beached remains of a Polish trawler on Birling Sands, north of Warkworth.

Tree trunk coffin

In prehistoric times coffins were sometimes made from a hollowed out tree-trunk. Examples have been recorded for the Bronze Age - by antiquarians for Wydon Eals, near Haltshistle, and Cartington.

Trial trenches

Often a trial trench is dug to get some idea of the stratigraphy on a site, or even just to see if there is any archaeology present. Such trenches can be dug by hand using shovels, but frequently a machine is brought in to dig a quick trench, which can then be cleaned up and excavated by hand before recording takes place.

Trollope, Robert

Trollope was an architect after first being a brick maker - possibly in the York area. He built several country houses in Northumberland - such as Capheaton. He also built a guildhall for Newcastle - though this has since been modified substantially, (by others such as John Dobson Dobson, John). Further buildings have been said to be built by Trollope - based on the extravagant details of style - though these are uncertain. Trollope was buried at the old Saint Mary's, Gateshead, in a vault designed by himself - reputedly with a statue of himself pointing across the Tyne to the Newcastle guildhall. Trollope spelt his name in various ways, each of which are correct to some degree. The Newcastle guildhall that Trollope designed was topped by a spire - this usually had a nest of crows on, and many poems were written as if from the eyes of these crows - though it was taken down in the end.


Name of the family that occupied the throne of England from 1485 to 1603. It is also used to describe the art and architecture of this period.

Tumuli; Tumulus

Antiquarian term for a barrow - tumulus, and barrows - tumuli. These terms are still occasionally used. They have often been untested by modern excavation techniques.


Specifically the gate across a toll road. However, used as a general term for these roads established by private enterprises of the 17th to 19th centuries, (see under toll road).

Turntable pit

Pit in which a turntable sits for the turning of a railway train or wagon on to a different track, or in a different direction. These were to be found at the end of single-track lines.


A small tower built into part of a fortification's curtain wall. These may be accessed from the ground, through the curtain wall itself if wide enough to admit passage, the ground level or the parapet along the top. These may act as accommodation for small garrisons separated from their main bases elsewhere, or can be used as a place for firing weaponry. Roman examples on Hadrian's Wall are thought to have had two floors of timber - as there are stone steps to act as a ladder base. On the turf-wall sector of Hadrian's Wall these were of timber. These also had hearths and outwards swinging doors. It is thought these acted as a base for eight to ten men, who have garrisoned them on a rotating duty roster. The turrets were (usually) evenly spaced along Hadrian's Wall. These have been numbered, as milecastles, from east to west - for example Turret 26b Brunton is the second turret of after milecastle 26, Blackcarts 29a the first from number 29. Medieval examples might also have their own battlements and loopholes. Latterly, turrets have been used as decorative elements to country houses and as eye catchers on estates.

Post-Medieval military turrets are also noted in the region - though being points were armaments were fired from. These allowed the rotating of guns so as to fire in a number of directions. At the Hartley (Roberts) battery, (Seaton Sluice, Northumberland), the gun turret off a ship being scrapped was used, at the end of World War I to the 1920s - so as to cover the Blyth and Tyne river mouths. (A corresponding turret was built on the other side of the Tyne - the Kitchener Battery, Marsden, to cover the Tyne and Wear approaches). In World War II Hamilton-Pickett turrets were erected on airfields - these were sunk in to the ground, and could be raised to provide machine-gun fire in the event of attack. These were prone to flooding and not widely used.


Tightly bound material, such as animal sinews, used for tying things together in the absence of ropes and wires.

Two-row village

A village in which the houses are arranged in two parallel rows along a central road or street.
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