Ancient Monuments

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Small stone circle on Swarth Fell

A Scheduled Monument in Martindale, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.5641 / 54°33'50"N

Longitude: -2.841 / 2°50'27"W

OS Eastings: 345715.263692

OS Northings: 519085.814043

OS Grid: NY457190

Mapcode National: GBR 8HLN.QP

Mapcode Global: WH81P.BJCY

Entry Name: Small stone circle on Swarth Fell

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Last Amended: 24 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007357

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22546

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Martindale

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Pooley Bridge St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument is a small stone circle on Swarth Fell. It is situated in an
isolated location in a natural hollow close to the head of Swarth Beck and
includes a slightly oval arrangement of approximately 81 fallen stones with
an external diameter of 20m by 17m. The stones are closely spaced except on
the western side where large gaps suggest many others may have been removed.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by
earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones
may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating
out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close
to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout
England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular
clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the
Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may
be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern.
Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the
Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were carefully
designed and laid out, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the
heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully
understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but
it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies
that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided
a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead.
Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the
passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of
stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at
midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles
throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some
form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. A small stone
circle comprises a regular or irregular ring of between 7 and 16 stones with a
diameter of between 4 and 20 metres. They are widespread throughout England
although clusters are found on Dartmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, in the
Peak District and in the uplands of Cumbria and Northumberland. Of the 250 or
so stone circles identified in England, over 100 are examples of small stone
circles. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into
prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of

Despite the loss of some stones on the monument's western side the small stone
circle on Swarth Fell survives reasonably well. It is the highest small stone
circle in the country and possessess an exceptionally large number of
component stones, making it an unusual example of this class of monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Wainwright, A, A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, (1957), 7
Bowman, A., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Small Stone Circles, (1990)
RCHME, Westmorland, (1936)
SMR No. 1596, Cumbria SMR, Swarthbeck Gill, (1985)
Title: Lake District 1": 1 mile
Source Date: 1981
Tourist Map
Title: Penrith, Keswick and Ambleside area 1:50000
Source Date: 1988
Landranger 90
Title: The English Lakes North Eastern Area 1:25,000
Source Date: 1989
Outdoor Leisure 5

Source: Historic England

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