Ancient Monuments

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Concentric stone circle on Birkrigg Common

A Scheduled Monument in Urswick, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.1566 / 54°9'23"N

Longitude: -3.0852 / 3°5'6"W

OS Eastings: 329231.628476

OS Northings: 473964.238143

OS Grid: SD292739

Mapcode National: GBR 6NWC.WQ

Mapcode Global: WH72C.LS2C

Entry Name: Concentric stone circle on Birkrigg Common

Scheduled Date: 10 September 1962

Last Amended: 31 August 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013501

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27658

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Urswick

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria


The monument includes a concentric stone circle, known locally as the Druid's
Circle, which is located on a relatively flat piece of land on the south east
side of Birkrigg Common from where there are extensive views south and east
across Morecambe Bay. The inner ring of stones has a diameter of 8.5m and
consists of 12 stones of Carboniferous limestone with heights varying
between 0.3m to 0.9m. The outer ring has a diameter of about 24m and consists
of 20 stones placed very irregularly, some of which are low and partly
turf covered. Limited excavation within the inner circle in 1911 found an
upper and lower pavement of cobbles. Below the lower pavement five cremations
were discovered; three of which lay in shallow pits, one of which lay on a
third layer of cobbles, and one of which was covered by an inverted urn
measuring 13.4cm high. Further limited excavation ten years later, this time
in the area between the inner and outer circles, found three objects
considered by the excavator to have been used for ceremonial purposes. These
comprised a pear-shaped piece of stone thought to have been a pestle for
grinding pigments, an oyster-shaped stone with a handle on one side and a
carefully flaked out central depression which was thought to have been used as
a palate for colours, and a piece of red ochre which was possibly used for

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

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by
earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones
may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating
out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close
to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout
England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular
clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the
Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may
be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern.
Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the
Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1240 BC). It is clear that they were carefully
designed and laid out, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the
heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully
understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but
it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies
that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided
a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead.
Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the
passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of
stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at
midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles
throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some
form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. Concentric stone
circles comprise an arrangement of two or more stone rings set within one
another. The diameter of the outer ring may vary between 20 and 330 metres,
this ring comprising between 20 and 97 stones. They occur in clusters in
Wiltshire, Derbyshire and Cumbria with outliers in North Yorkshire and
Dartmoor. The best and most complex examples of this type are Stonehenge and
Avebury. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England only 15 are of
this type. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into
prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of

Despite limited excavations of the monument during the early years of the
20th century, the concentric stone circle on Birkrigg Common survives
reasonably well and remains a good example of this class of monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Waterhouse, J, The Stones Circles of Cumbria, (1986), 35-8
'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Prehistoric Pottery from Furness, , Vol. LXX, (1970), 2-3
Committee of the North Lonsdale Field Club, , 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Rept on Further Excavations Carried Out on Druids Circle Birkrig, , Vol. XXII, (1922), 346-52
Gelderd, Rev C, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Rept On The Excavations Carried Out At The Druids Circle Birkrig, , Vol. XII, (1912), 262-75
Bowman, A., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Concentric Stone Circles, (1990)
FMW Report, Capstick, B, Stone Circle on Birkrigg Common, (1990)

Source: Historic England

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