Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common

A Scheduled Monument in Harbottle, Northumberland

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 55.3123 / 55°18'44"N

Longitude: -2.0765 / 2°4'35"W

OS Eastings: 395238.989663

OS Northings: 602027.091458

OS Grid: NT952020

Mapcode National: GBR F7Y0.7H

Mapcode Global: WHB0N.2QFW

Entry Name: Round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common

Scheduled Date: 22 January 1964

Last Amended: 9 March 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011400

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20957

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Harbottle

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a group of cairns situated on Holystone Common. There
are at least 20 cairns of different sizes, ranging from 3m to 19m in diameter.
They are mainly visible as circular and elongated turf and heather covered
mounds of between 0.3m and 1.3m high. Five of the mounds are more prominent
and substantial than the others: these large examples led to the cemetery
becoming known as 'The Five Barrows'. Two of the larger ones were partially
excavated in the 19th century by Canon Greenwell when several cremated bodies
and a stone coffin were recovered in addition to several decorated and plain
Bronze Age pots, flint pieces and fragments of burnt bone pins. It is evident
from the excavation accounts that each round cairn covered several bodies
including both adults and children. The two fence lines which cross the
monument are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is

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

Round cairn cemeteries date to the Bronze Age. They comprise groups of cairns
sited in close proximity to one another and take the form of stone mounds
constructed to cover single or multiple burials. Contemporary or later `flat'
graves may lie between individual cairns. Most cemeteries developed over a
considerable period of time and they can exhibit considerable diversity of
burial rite, plan and form. Occasionally they are associated with earlier long
cairns. They may also be associated with clearance cairns - heaps of stones
cleared from the adjacent ground surface to improve its quality for
agricultural activities; these were also being constructed during the Bronze
Age, although some examples are of later date. It may be impossible without
excavation to distinguish between some burial and clearance cairns. Round
cairn cemeteries occur throughout most of upland Britain; their distribution
pattern complements that of contemporary lowland earthen round barrows. Often
occupying prominent locations they are a major historic element in the modern
landscape. Their diversity and longevity as a monument type provide important
information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early
prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period
and a substantial proportion of surviving or partly-surviving examples are
considered worthy of preservation.

The round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common survives well. Partial
excavations have confirmed that individual cairns had a complex history of
use, each being used for multiple burials. Similar evidence will survive
within the unexcavated cairns.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Greenwell, W , British Barrows, (1877), 426-8
No. 663,

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.