Ancient Monuments

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Towtop Kirk early Christian enclosure

A Scheduled Monument in Bampton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.554 / 54°33'14"N

Longitude: -2.7851 / 2°47'6"W

OS Eastings: 349320.029062

OS Northings: 517926.59528

OS Grid: NY493179

Mapcode National: GBR 8HZS.T8

Mapcode Global: WH81Q.6S1P

Entry Name: Towtop Kirk early Christian enclosure

Scheduled Date: 8 December 1938

Last Amended: 23 August 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011591

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22544

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Bampton

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Bampton St Patrick

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument is Towtop Kirk early Christian enclosure. It is located south of
Cawdale Beck at the end of a north-easterly projection of gradually descending
open fell known as Hause End. It includes an irregular circular-shaped
enclosure approximately 40m in diameter which is surrounded by a low
turf-covered bank of piled small stones up to 3.5m wide and 0.75m high. There
is a narrow entrance on the western side of the enclosure with a small
rectangular mound on its inner side. In the centre are the turf-covered
foundations of a horseshoe-shaped building with an internal diameter of
c.6.5m. Immediately to the east of this are faint traces of a circular bank
17m in diameter which is connected to the outer rampart by a slight causeway
on its eastern side. In the centre of this bank is a low mound 2m in diameter
and 0.1m high. North-west of the central building are the fallen stones of a
peat drying platform of later date. Limited excavation in 1902 found
that the central building was paved with flat stones laid in clay and the peat
drying platform was sited on an earlier building similarly paved with flat
stones. Evidence of Christian use of the site came from a stone bearing a
rudely cut cross found here; this apparently being confirmed by the 'kirk'
element of the traditional name for the site.

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

Towtop Kirk is a rare example in Cumbria of an early Christian enclosure.
Sites associated with the early church of the 6th to 8th centuries AD take a
variety of forms. A common theme is the use of a circular enclosure to define
a sanctified area. Larger circular enclosures were constructed to form the
bounds of monastic sites. Smaller enclosures were created to define burial
grounds or to surround small chapels or hermitages. At Towtop the presence of
a building within the enclosure indicates its likely use as an early chapel
site or as the residence of a hermit. Burials may have been placed around the
buildings; although further excavation would be needed to confirm this.
Early Christian enclosures are not common monument types as it took a long
time for Christianity to gain widespread support and acceptance throughout the
countryside. They rarely survive well because frequently the continued use of
a site as a focus for religious activity led to the disturbance of early
remains during later re-building and related activities. All examples which do
survive substantially intact and undisturbed will be identified as nationally
The Towtop example survives well; excavation has confirmed the survival of
further buried remains, including artefactual evidence.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Collingwood, W G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser., , Vol. III, (1903), 265
Ordnance Survey Card Index, Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey Card Index,
RCHME, Westmorland, (1936)

Source: Historic England

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