Ancient Monuments

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Kirkhead Cave

A Scheduled Monument in Lower Allithwaite, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.1731 / 54°10'23"N

Longitude: -2.9344 / 2°56'3"W

OS Eastings: 339100.029431

OS Northings: 475659.883

OS Grid: SD391756

Mapcode National: GBR 7NY5.HT

Mapcode Global: WH83K.WCVP

Entry Name: Kirkhead Cave

Scheduled Date: 8 December 1975

Last Amended: 18 March 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012117

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13444

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Lower Allithwaite

Built-Up Area: Grange-over-Sands

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Allithwaite St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


Kirkhead Cave is situated in a fault-scarp cliffline on the W side of
Kirkhead Hill, a headland of Carboniferous Limestone on the N shore of
Morecambe Bay. The cave consists of a single large phreatic chamber
c.13m long x 7m at its widest point. Outside the entrance is a raised
level platform consisting largely of spoil from past excavations,
delimited by a steep talus slope to the W. During excavations
undertaken by Ashmead in the 1960's ten Late Upper Palaeolithic flints
were found close to the top of deposits of laminated silty clays towards
the rear of the cave. An antler boss of a large-deer dated 10,700+/-200
BP (Before Present) was found above and close to the flints and other
faunal material was discovered nearby. A further 13 flints were found
in association with faunal material and a bone implement immediately
outside the cave entrance in laminated silty-clays. Remains of a
stalagmite floor can be found within the cave, deposits overlying the
floor contained Bronze Age and later finds.
There are considerable areas of undisturbed deposits both inside the
cave and outside the entrance beneath the spoil accumulation. The
deposits inside the cave are protected by a terramat covering overlain
by a layer of Shap blue granite.
The monument includes all the deposits inside the cave, and outside the
cave it includes an area of 15m radius from the mouth of the cave.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters provide some of the earliest evidence of
human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 10,000 years ago. The
sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the
north and west of the country, although examples also exist in the softer
rocks of south-east England. Evidence for human occupation is often located
near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms.
The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or
were places where material naturally accumulated from the outside. Because of
the special conditions of deposition and preservation, organic and other
fragile materials often survive well and in stratigraphic association. Caves
and rock shelters are therefore of major importance for understanding this
period. Due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their
longevity as a monument type, all examples with good survival of deposits are
considered to be nationally important.

Kirkhead Cave, one of only three known Palaeolithic caves in Cumbria,
has provided artifactual and faunal remains from contexts both inside
and outside the cave. Large areas within the cave and much of the
platform beneath its covering of spoil contain undisturbed areas of
deposits containing further archaeological and palaeoenvironmental

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barber, H, Furness and Cartmel Notes. Ulverston, (1894)
Jackson, J W, Notes on the Bone Caves of Grange and District, (1909)
Ashmead, P, Wood, R H, 'North-West Speleology' in Second Report On Excavations At Kirkhead Cavern, , Vol., (1974)
Barber, H, 'Arch. Journ.' in Memoir On The Bone Caves Of Grange And District, , Vol. 25, (1868)
Gale, S, Hunt, C O, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in The Stratigraphy Of Kirkhead Cave, An Upper Palaeolithic Site, , Vol. 51, (1985)
Gale, S J, Hunt, C O, Southgate, G A, 'Archaeometry' in Kirkhead Cave: Biostratigraphy and Magnetostratigraphy, , Vol. 26,pt.2, ()
Smith, H, 'Trans. Lancs. and Chesh. Hist. Soc' in The Limestone Caves of Craven and their Ancient Inhabitants, , Vol. 17, (1865)
Jacobi, R.M., Conversation with RNEB and SNC, (1986)

Source: Historic England

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