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Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle, associated cursus and prehistoric enclosure

A Scheduled Monument in Hunsonby, Cumbria

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.7284 / 54°43'42"N

Longitude: -2.6693 / 2°40'9"W

OS Eastings: 356991.150441

OS Northings: 537246.947936

OS Grid: NY569372

Mapcode National: GBR 9FSR.WS

Mapcode Global: WH80Z.ZF10

Entry Name: Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle, associated cursus and prehistoric enclosure

Scheduled Date: 18 August 1882

Last Amended: 8 March 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007866

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23663

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Hunsonby

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Addingham St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle

Details

The monument is the stone circle known as Long Meg and Her Daughters, together
with an associated cursus or linear earthwork to the west of the stone circle,
and a prehistoric enclosure to the north. It is located on the edge of a wide
sandstone terrace above the east bank of the River Eden. The monument includes
an oval enclosure of stones with an outlying stone known as Long Meg to the
south west. The cursus and prehistoric enclosure have been identified from
cropmarks visible in aerial photographs which clearly show the infilled
ditches of these two monuments, neither of which are visible at ground level.
The stone circle includes 69 large stones, some standing and some fallen,
which are granitic glacial erratics arranged in a slight oval flattened to the
north. The stones enclose an area measuring approximately 109m east-west by
94m north-south. An entrance at the south west side of the circle has two
stones outside the main circle forming a portal or doorway into the
circle. A short distance beyond the entrance is Long Meg, an outlying monolith
of red sandstone 3.4m tall aligned from the centre of the circle on the
mid-winter sunset. It is decorated with cup and ring marks - a relief
sculpture produced by pecking and considered to be a form of religious
symbolism - together with numerous other motifs including spirals, concentric
circles, ovoids and curved lines.
Immediately to the north of the stone circle, and partly overlain by Longmeg
Farm, aerial photographs have identified the infilled ditch of a roughly
circular enclosure measuring some 210m north-south by 200m east-west. At the
point where the stone circle and the enclosure virtually touch, the stone
circle has been flattened slightly in shape suggesting that the enclosure was
already in existence and the stones arranged so as not to disturb this earlier
feature.
To the west of the stone circle aerial photographs have identified two
infilled ditches of a cursus running for approximately 600m from the cliff
above the River Eden to the entrance on the south western side of the stone
circle. The ditches are virtually parallel and c.40m-50m apart. The western
end of the cursus is terminated by an oblique ditch also visible on aerial
photographs. The eastern end is less clear; the northern ditch appears to run
to the edge of the stone circle, the southern ditch, however, cannot be traced
quite this far on existing aerial photographs but it is reasonable to assume
that it also continues at least to the stone circle.
The designs of the rock art depicted on Long Meg, together with dating
evidence from other stone circles and cursuses suggest use of this monument as
a religious or ritual gathering point from the Late Neolithic to the Early
Bronze Age, c.2400 - 1000 BC.
Antiquarian reports indicate that two round cairns were located within the
stone circle in the 17th century, and local tradition states that bones
were also found.
The surface of the road to Longmeg Farm and the track beyond the farm, and all
walls, fences, gateposts, field boundaries and telegraph poles are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is
included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 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 designed and
laid out carefully, 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. Large irregular
stone circles comprise a ring of at least 20 stone uprights. The diameters of
surviving examples range between 20 and 40 metres, although it is known that
larger examples, now destroyed, formerly existed. The stone uprights of this
type of circle tend to be more closely spaced than in other types of circle
and the height and positioning of uprights also appears not to have been as
important. They are widely distributed throughout England although in the
south they are confined largely to the west. Of the 250 or so stone circles
identified in England only 45 examples of large irregular circles are known.
As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric
ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops and standing stones in
many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England
where its most common form of decoration is the 'cup and ring' marking where
expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked into the surface of the rock.
These cups may be surrounded by one or more 'rings'. Single pecked lines
extending from the cup through the rings may also exist, providing the design
with a 'tail'. Other shapes and patterns also occur, but are less frequent.
Carvings may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas
of rock surface. They date to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (2800
- 500 BC) and provide one of the most important insights into prehistoric
'art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be
interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. Frequently they are found close to
contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable
stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated in burial mounds.
A cursus is an enormously elongated linear earthwork ranging from about 250m
to 5.6km in length and whose proportions are such that the long axis is more
than ten times the short axis. The sides are generally defined by a bank and
external ditch, with the ditch usually varying between 1.5m - 4m wide and 0.6m
- 2m deep, and banks anything from 1.5m - 3m high. The terminals are either
round ended or square ended. Access to the interior was restricted and
commonly occurs near one end of the long sides but may also be found in the
centre of the long side or at both ends. The two long sides run roughly
parallel and may incorporate or be spatially associated with other classes of
prehistoric monument. The function of a cursus is not known, although they are
presumed to be ritual/ceremonial monuments of the Middle and Late Neolithic
date (3300 - 2500 BC). Around 40 cursuses are currently known in England and
these are widely scattered across central and eastern parts of the country. On
present evidence this class of monument must be regarded as being very rare
nationally.
Prehistoric enclosures are plots of land usually enclosed by stone walls or
banks of stone and earth in upland areas, and banks of earth with an external
ditch in lowland areas. Many date to the Bronze Age (c.2000 - 500 BC) though
earlier and later examples also exist. They were constructed as stock pens or
as protected areas for crop growing and were sometimes subdivided to
accommodate animal shelters and hut circle settlements. The size and form of
enclosures may therefore vary considerably, depending on their particular
function. Their variation in form, longevity and relationship to other
monument classes provide important information on the diversity of social
organisation and farming practices among prehistoric communities. Taken
individually Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle, the cursus, and the
prehistoric enclosure are each of major archaeological importance. The stone
circle is the largest irregular stone circle in Cumbria and is considered, on
the basis of its form, to belong to an early period in the tradition of stone
circle construction. The outlying stone, Long Meg, displays a well preserved
and complex arrangement of prehistoric rock art. The cursus is the only known
example of this class of monument in north west England, and the prehistoric
enclosure is considered, on the basis of the arrangement of stones in the
adjacent stone circle, to predate the circle and thus represents a rare
survival of a Neolithic enclosure. Taken collectively the site represents a
unique combination of spatially associated monuments of the Late Neolithic -
Early Bronze Age date. This association suggests that use of these individual
monuments probably overlapped for at least some of their respective periods of
use and attests to the importance of this area as a major gathering point for
the wider populace for religious, ritual and ceremonial purposes during many
centuries.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Cumbrian Prehistoric Rock Art: Symbols, Monument & Landscapes, (1992), 7-13
Stuckley, W, Itinerarium Curiosum, (1776), 47
Stuckley, W, Itinerarium Curiosum, (1776), 47
Crawford, O G S, 'Antiquity' in Notes and News: Long Meg, , Vol. 8, (), 328-9
Crawford, O G S, 'Antiquity' in Notes and News: Long Meg, , Vol. 8, (), 328-9
Crawford, O G S, 'Antiquity' in Notes and News: Long Meg, , Vol. 8, (), 328-9
Other
AP , Cumbria County Council, Long Meg and Her Daughters,
AP , Cumbria County Council, Long Meg and Her Daughters,
AP , Cumbria County Council, Long Meg and Her Daughters,
AP , Cumbria County Council, Long Meg and Her Daughters,
AP , Cumbria County Council, Long Meg and Her Daughters,
AP , Cumbria County Council, Long Meg and Her Daughters,
AP No. CCC 2514,15, Cumbria County Council, Long Meg,
AP No. CCC 2514,18, Cumbria County Council, Long Meg,
AP No. CCC 2522,21, Cumbria County Council, Long Meg,
AP No. XPI 2517,5, Cumbria County Council, Long Meg,
Bowman, A., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Large Irregular Stone Circles, (1990)
Darvill, T., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Cursus, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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