Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Cairnfield south of Straighthead Gill, Burnmoor

A Scheduled Monument in Wasdale, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.4391 / 54°26'20"N

Longitude: -3.265 / 3°15'53"W

OS Eastings: 318053.515613

OS Northings: 505590.496105

OS Grid: NY180055

Mapcode National: GBR 5KM3.YG

Mapcode Global: WH70X.TPF8

Entry Name: Cairnfield south of Straighthead Gill, Burnmoor

Scheduled Date: 18 July 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008535

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23696

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Wasdale

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Wasdale Head St Olaf

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a cairnfield located on an east facing hillslope south
of Straighthead Gill. It lies at the northern end of a large area of open
moorland known as Burnmoor which contains an abundance of prehistoric remains.
The cairnfield includes 40 cairns, one irregular spread of stones and one
short length of stone wall. The majority of the cairns are circular and range
between 1.5m - 5.3m in diameter and 0.05m - 0.4m high. Of the remaining
cairns four are sub-circular and measure between 4.5m - 10m long by 3.1m -
5.6m wide, one is ovoid and measures 4.9m long by 2.9m wide, and one is
elongated and measures 8.2m long by 3.3m wide. The short length of wall lies
at the extreme western end of the cairnfield and measures 13.5m long by 1m
wide and 0.1m high. The irregular spread of stones measures approximately 10m
long by 6m wide and has a short 'tail' at its western end. The wall and stone
spread are interpreted as further elements of the field system represented by
the cairnfield.

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

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one
another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone
cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture,
and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots.
However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without
excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials.
Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (from c.3400 BC),
although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance
which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze
Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the size,
content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the
development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain
information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the
prehistoric period.

The cairnfield south of Straighthead Gill survives well. It is a primary type
of cairnfield, that is one demonstrating the initial phase of prehistoric land
clearance only. The cairnfield appears not to have been modified by later use
and hence survives in its original form. It therefore represents the earliest
stage of human management of the landscape. It contrasts markedly with the
developed types of cairnfield found elsewhere on Burnmoor and illustrates the
diversity within the cairnfield class of monument and the differing
prehistoric land management strategies. The cairnfield lies close to other
prehistoric monuments on Burnmoor and thus indicates the importance of this
area in prehistoric times and the diversity of monument classes to be found

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Leech, R H, The Lake District National Park Survey - Burnmoor, (1992), 1-4
Raymond,F., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Cairnfields, (1987)
To Robinson,K.D. MPPFW, Quartermaine, J, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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