Ancient Monuments

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Bellshiel Law long cairn

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3043 / 55°18'15"N

Longitude: -2.2958 / 2°17'45"W

OS Eastings: 381315.618393

OS Northings: 601175.026793

OS Grid: NT813011

Mapcode National: GBR D7D3.RC

Mapcode Global: WH8ZD.PYY0

Entry Name: Bellshiel Law long cairn

Scheduled Date: 18 March 1965

Last Amended: 15 March 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009459

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20919

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rochester

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Horsley with Byrness

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a prehistoric long cairn situated 200m south-east of the
summit of Bellshiel Law on the crest of a narrow ridge. The cairn, which is
orientated east-west, measures 109m and varies in width from 8.8m at the
western end to 15m at the broader eastern end. The mound has a maximum height
of 1.6m. The north side of the mound is partially turf-covered but the
remainder of its length consists entirely of bare stone. The cairn was
partially excavated in 1935. Limited exploration at the eastern end uncovered
part of a kerb of boulders around the bottom of the cairn and also showed that
it had been constructed of large stones loosely piled at its centre with
smaller stones embedded in the earth at the sides. A rock-cut pit containing a
used flint tool was interpreted by the excavator as a grave. The excavations
failed to find any evidence for associated ditches or internal divisions
within the cairn. Earlier, in 1912, an iron spearhead discovered in the region
was said to have been found at the long cairn when stones were removed from
the eastern end for road building. It is likely that the spear found its way
through the loose matrix of the cairn and is not associated with the original
use of the monument. A stone-walled enclosure attached to the south side of
the long cairn is a later feature re-using stones from the cairn.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Long barrows were constructed as earthen or drystone mounds with flanking
ditches and acted as funerary monuments during the Early and Middle Neolithic
periods (3400-2400 BC). They represent the burial places of Britain's early
farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments
surviving visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, long barrows
appear to have been used for communal burial, often with only parts of the
human remains having been selected for interment. Certain sites provide
evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow and,
consequently, it is probable that long barrows acted as important ritual sites
for local communities over a considerable period of time. Some 500 long
barrows are recorded in England. As one of the few types of Neolithic
structure to survive as earthworks, and due to their comparative rarity, their
considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all long barrows are
considered to be nationally important.

Bellshiel Law long cairn is one of the few surviving long cairns in
Northumberland and is also one of the earliest field monuments in the county.
It survives well and will add greatly to our understanding of Neolithic
settlement and activity in the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Proc. Soc Antiq. Ncle 4 ser 7' in Proc. Soc Antiq. Ncle 4 ser 7, (1936), 122
Masters, L, 'Between And Beyond The Walls' in The Neolithic Long Cairns of Cumbria and Northumberland, (1984), 54-57
Newbigin, N, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 4 ser 13' in Excavations on a long and round cairn on Bellshiel Law, (1935), 293-308
NT 80 SW 05,

Source: Historic England

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