Ancient Monuments

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Hethpool stone circles

A Scheduled Monument in Kirknewton, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.5441 / 55°32'38"N

Longitude: -2.1716 / 2°10'17"W

OS Eastings: 389266.558204

OS Northings: 627834.94655

OS Grid: NT892278

Mapcode National: GBR F48B.NF

Mapcode Global: WH9ZF.MX36

Entry Name: Hethpool stone circles

Scheduled Date: 21 December 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010332

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24584

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

Details

This monument includes two stone circles located on a gravel river terrace at
the head of the College Valley. The visible stones form a ruinous circle to
the south whilst a group of outlying stones lie to the north. At least seven
stones are recumbent. A further six stones associated with the northern group
have been located below ground by probing. The evidence thus acquired suggests
that the monument originally took the form of two closely spaced stone
circles.
The maximum height of the stones is 1m and several of them exhibit small chock
stones wedged around their bases in order to keep them upright. This would
suggest that they are still in their original position. The southern circle
has a diameter of 61m by 42.7m with an average interval of 16m-20m between
each stone, including those found by probing. The northern group measures
about 60m by 45m.
The whole site is overlain by ridge and furrow, indicating that this field has
been ploughed in medieval times. It was during this period that many of the
stones may have been disturbed.

MAP EXTRACT
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 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 regular
stone circles comprise an arrangement of between one and three rings of from
20 to 30 upright stones. The diameters of these circles range between 20 and
30 metres. They are presently known only in upland contexts, the majority
being located in Devon and Cornwall or Cumbria. Of the 250 or so stone circles
identified in England only 28 are examples of this type. As a rare monument
type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all
surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

This monument is the only known example of this large regular type of stone
circle in Northumberland and it is extremely rare to find such sites in the
north of England. Furthermore, although this site has not been accurately
dated, its style suggests that it is an early form of stone circle. Late
Neolithic monuments are rare nationally and this site along with examples of
henges in the Milfield Basin only four miles away will provide evidence of
social organisation and religion in this area in the transition period between
the Late Neolithic and the Bronze Age.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Topping, P, 'Northern Archaeology' in Hethpool Stone Circle, (1981), 3-10
Topping, P, 'Northern Archaeology' in Hethpool Stone Circle, (1981), 3-10

Source: Historic England

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