Ancient Monuments

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Oval Cairn at Gospel Hillocks, Cowdale

A Scheduled Monument in King Sterndale, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.2403 / 53°14'25"N

Longitude: -1.8722 / 1°52'19"W

OS Eastings: 408625.567208

OS Northings: 371486.075479

OS Grid: SK086714

Mapcode National: GBR HZCZ.G4

Mapcode Global: WHCCY.6TQ8

Entry Name: Oval Cairn at Gospel Hillocks, Cowdale

Scheduled Date: 4 January 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012481

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13209

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: King Sterndale

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Buxton with Burbage and King Sterndale

Church of England Diocese: Derby


One of two cairns at Gospel Hillocks, lying c.100m apart. Measuring 28m x
18.5m and oriented east-west, it is badly mutilated by past excavation and
stone robbing, and varies in height from 0.3m to 0.8m. A Neolithic date is
indicated by its shape and by the polished flint axe found during excavations
in the nineteenth century. This was associated with three inhumation burials
located on a limestone slab and several jet "buttons". In addition, a stone
cist was discovered, containing a further two inhumations, fragments of Beaker
pottery and flint flakes. This indicates the cairn was being reused into the
early Bronze Age.

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

Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle
Neolithic periods, with the majority of dated monuments belonging to the later
part of the range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds of
roughly elliptical plan, usually delimited by quarry ditches. These ditches
can vary from paired "banana-shaped" ditches flanking the mound to "U-shaped"
or unbroken oval ditches nearly or wholly encircling it. Along with the long
barrows, oval barrows represent the burial places of Britain's early farming
communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving
visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, oval barrows have
produced two distinct types of burial rite: communal burials of groups of
individuals, including adults and children, laid directly on the ground
surface before the barrow was built; and burials of one or two adults interred
in a grave pit centrally placed beneath the barrow mound. Certain sites
provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow
and, consequently, it is probable that they may have acted as important ritual
sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as
the filling of the ditches around oval barrows often contains deliberately
placed deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity
may have taken place at the barrow subsequent to its construction. Oval
barrows are very rare nationally, with less than 50 recorded examples in
England. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as
earthworks, and due to their rarity, their considerable age and their
longevity as a monument type, all oval barrows are considered to be nationally

Gospel Hillocks oval cairn is a rare and important example of its class in an
upland context, being part of the rich Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape of
the Peak District and associated in particular with Gospel Hillocks round
cairn. Although partially excavated in the nineteenth century, a significant
proportion of undisturbed deposits still exist. These would provide evidence
of the monument's construction and the burials placed in it.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Abercromby, J, Bronze Age Pottery of the British Isles, (1912), 26
Ward, J, 'Proc. Soc. Antiquities' in Proc. Soc. Antiquities (Volume 17), , Vol. 17, (1899), 310-12
Plus plans, Barnatt, J, Peak District Barrow Survey (Derbys Arch Advisory Committee), (1989)

Source: Historic England

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