Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Northern ring cairn on Coldsmouth Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5479 / 55°32'52"N

Longitude: -2.2276 / 2°13'39"W

OS Eastings: 385735.854851

OS Northings: 628270.934265

OS Grid: NT857282

Mapcode National: GBR D4W9.J1

Mapcode Global: WH9ZD.RTF7

Entry Name: Northern ring cairn on Coldsmouth Hill

Scheduled Date: 19 January 1968

Last Amended: 24 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009531

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24586

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Kirknewton

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Kirknewton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


This monument includes a large Bronze Age burial cairn situated at the north
end of the summit of Coldsmouth Hill. Two concentric stone banks enclose
a horseshoe shaped arc of stones. At the centre of the cairn is a sunken stone
box, or cist, which contained a cremation. The monument is the northernmost of
two ring cairns on the top of the hill. The ground falls away steeply on all
sides, affording extensive views to the north, east and west.
The outer ring is formed by a bank of unbonded stones and boulders 15m, in
diameter, 4m wide and up to 0.5m high. It is partly covered with turf. Within
it is an inner ring of loose stones and boulders, 10m in diameter. A third
inner ring, open to the north west, surrounds a central stone cist. The cist
consists of stone slabs set on edge and sunk into the ground to form a stone
box, 0.4m by 0.5m, and 0.3m deep. Excavations carried out in 1929 revealed
that this contained cremated bone; a flint saw and a bronze dagger were found
A modern cairn, c.2m high, is situated on the outer bank of the cairn on the
east side.

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

A ring cairn is a prehistoric ritual monument comprising a circular bank of
stones up to 20m in diameter surrounding a hollow central area. The bank may
be kerbed on the inside, and sometimes on the outside as well, with small
uprights or laid boulders. Ring cairns are found mainly in upland areas of
England and are mostly discovered and authenticated by fieldwork and ground
level survey, although a few are large enough to be visible on aerial
photographs. They often occur in pairs or small groups of up to four examples.
Occasionally they lie within round barrow cemeteries. Ring cairns are
interpreted as ritual monuments of Early and Middle Bronze Age date. The exact
nature of the rituals concerned is not fully understood, but excavation has
revealed pits, some containing burials and others containing charcoal and
pottery, taken to indicate feasting activities associated with the burial
rituals. Many areas of upland have not yet been surveyed in detail and the
number of ring cairns in England is not accurately known. However, available
evidence indicates a population of between 250 and 500 examples. As a
relatively rare class of monument exhibiting considerable variation in form,
all positively identified examples retaining significant archaeological
deposits are considered worthy of preservation.

The northern cairn on Coldsmouth Hill is a well preserved example of a ring
cairn. The stone ring bank and interior stone settings are virtually intact
and, together with the central cist, clearly show the structure of a ring
cairn. It is one of a series of dispersed burial mounds which occupy prominent
positions in a direct line from Coldsmouth Hill to Maddie's Well. As such, it
will contribute significantly towards a fuller understanding of the funerary
landscape of the Bronze Age.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hewat Craw, J, 'Hist Berwick Natur Club' in , , Vol. 27, (1931), 379-384

Source: Historic England

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