Ancient Monuments

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Cairn group 330m south-east of Bellshiel Law

A Scheduled Monument in Rochester, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3032 / 55°18'11"N

Longitude: -2.2939 / 2°17'38"W

OS Eastings: 381437.334293

OS Northings: 601054.774328

OS Grid: NT814010

Mapcode National: GBR D7F3.5R

Mapcode Global: WH8ZD.QYVV

Entry Name: Cairn group 330m south-east of Bellshiel Law

Scheduled Date: 18 March 1965

Last Amended: 15 March 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011404

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20933

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 discrete group of six cairns situated on a south-
facing slope below the crest of a ridge. The cairns are visible as low grassy
mounds measuring between 0.3m and 0.5m across and between 0.2m to 0.7m in
height. One cairn, more substantial than the others, is irregularly shaped and
measures 11.5m east to west by 8.0m and stands 0.7m high. This cairn was
excavated in 1935 revealing it to be surrounded by a stone kerb and containing
an entrance passage of large stones. A flint implement was uncovered on the
natural soil beneath the cairn. Historic accounts suggest that there were
formerly more round cairns but some were destroyed for road metal earlier this

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.

Despite some damage caused by stone robbing, the Bellshiel Law cairn group
survives reasonably well. The individual cairns retain significant
archaeological deposits and the areas between, where further flat graves may
exist, are undisturbed. Valuable evidence relating to the construction of
the cemetery and the nature and duration of its use will survive. Information
on the relationship of this site with the adjacent Neolithic long barrow will
also survive.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Newbigin, N, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 4 ser 13' in Excavations on a long and round cairn on Bellshiel law, (1936), 306-308
NT 80 SW 08,

Source: Historic England

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