Ancient Monuments

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Giants' Graves, four pillow mounds 300m south east of White Brackens House

A Scheduled Monument in Wharton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.4344 / 54°26'3"N

Longitude: -2.3426 / 2°20'33"W

OS Eastings: 377871.333256

OS Northings: 504382.314181

OS Grid: NY778043

Mapcode National: GBR DK25.M5

Mapcode Global: WH93M.ZSMX

Entry Name: Giants' Graves, four pillow mounds 300m south east of White Brackens House

Scheduled Date: 10 November 1964

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007225

English Heritage Legacy ID: CU 99

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Wharton

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Kirkby Stephen with Mallerstang and Crosby Garrett with Soulby

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument, which falls in to four areas, includes the remains of four medieval pillow mounds situated near the summit of Round Hill overlooking the River Eden. The pillow mounds, known as Giants' Graves, are sub-rectangular and have an average height of 0.75m with the most northerly example being just over 13m by 5m, orientated north to south with a slight ridged crest and a continuous surrounding ditch with a width of nearly 2m and a depth of 0.2m. Immediately to the south is a pair of pillow mounds which are also orientated north to south, being about 5m wide and surrounded by continuous ditches, however the mound to the west is just over 8m long, and that to the eastern one of the pair is about 12.5m long. The fourth mound of the group lies to the south east, is about 12.5m long by just over 5m wide and is orientated east to west.

PastScape Monument No:- 14766
Cumbria HER:- 2662

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction of rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries, which were intended to centralise the colony and make catching the animals easier, whether using nets, ferrets or dogs. The mounds vary in design although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into the underlying subsoil or bedrock. A typical warren may contain between one and forty pillow mounds or rabbit buries and occupy an area up to c.600ha. Many warrens were enclosed by a bank, hedge or wall intended to contain and protect the stock. Other features associated with the warren include vermin traps (usually a dead-fall mechanism within a small tunnel), and more rarely traps for the warren stock (known in Yorkshire as `types') which could contain the animals unharmed and allow for selective culling. Early warrens were mostly associated with the higher levels of society; however, they gradually spread in popularity so that by the 16th and 17th centuries they were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the country. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining in the face of 19th and 20th century changes in agricultural practice, and the onset of myxomatosis. Warrens are found in all parts of England, the earliest examples lying in the southern part of the country. Approximately 1,000 - 2,000 examples are known nationally with concentrations in upland areas, on heathland and in coastal zones. The profits from a successfully managed warren could, however, be considerable and many areas in lowland England were set aside for warrens at the expense of agricultural land. Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement, deer parks, field systems and fishponds. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and ecclesiastical estates. All well preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of protection. A sample of well-preserved sites of later date will also merit protection.
Giants' Graves, the four pillow mounds south east of White Brackens House are good examples of their class and are preserved in good condition. The monument provides insight into the character of subsistence during the medieval period and will contain archaeological deposits relating to its construction, use and abandonment.

Source: Historic England

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