Akeld : Iron Age (700 BC – AD 70)
Although Akeld Township is richer in sites of postulated Bronze Age date than other study areas close by (see the comparable discussions for Kirknewton / Westnewton and Kilham villages), conversely, it is poorer in Iron Age sites.
The hillfort at Glead's Cleugh or Gleadscleugh (NT 949290) and the defended settlement at Harehope Hill (NT 959289) are likely to have been in existence by the mid-first millennium BC. Cheviot hillforts are far smaller in size than those in the southern English counties, and their construction would not have required such major mobilisation of manpower. However, hillforts and defended settlements are present in considerable numbers; this clearly suggests that a large, permanently settled population was well-established on the Cheviot uplands and in the Glen and College valleys by this time.
The promontory fort at Glead's Cleugh (NT 959289), is strongly situated on a spur of Akeld Hill overlooking the Akeld Burn valley, protected by double ramparts, with steep slopes on three sides. It does not command the highest point in the locality, but is overlooked by both Akeld Hill and White Law. Although this may simply be because these higher points presented a less suitable defensive position, other explanations might be considered.
Recent survey work undertaken by English Heritage at West Hill (NT 909295) and St Gregory's Hill (NT 916297), Kirknewton, suggests that defensive criteria may sometimes have been secondary to considerations of status and prestige (Oswald and McOmish, 2002, 30). The irregular ramparts at Harehope Hill (NT 959289), though concealed from the lower ground, do not occupy a defensive position, something that does not support the classification of this work as a "defended settlement", and adds weight to the suspicion that many hilltop enclosure sites of the first millennium BC are not primarily defensive.
The remains of stone founded huts and scooped occupation platforms at both Harehope Hill and Glead's Cleugh indicates that at some time they certainly served as settlements, though such remains are not necessarily contemporary with the construction of the ramparts (e.g., St Gregory's Hill, ibid, 14). The small interior area of most Cheviot hill forts indicates that they cannot have supported any sizeable population, and many may simply have been defended farmsteads (Oswald et al), though the poorly defended examples, such as Harehope hill, rather stretch this interpretation.
In all likelihood, there is no single explanation for all so-called hillforts in the cheviots; they may have served as animal enclosures, market places or trading stations, defensive enclosures, community centres and places of worship. Only detailed work, such as that recently undertaken by English Heritage as part of the "Discovering Our Hillfort Heritage" project, has the potential to understand this very complex situation.