Ancient Monuments

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Large irregular stone circle and a round cairn on Dean Moor

A Scheduled Monument in Distington, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.5872 / 54°35'13"N

Longitude: -3.4872 / 3°29'13"W

OS Eastings: 303992.046621

OS Northings: 522346.173644

OS Grid: NY039223

Mapcode National: GBR 4H2D.VD

Mapcode Global: WH5YX.DYPS

Entry Name: Large irregular stone circle and a round cairn on Dean Moor

Scheduled Date: 26 August 1924

Last Amended: 1 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014588

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27707

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Distington

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Distington Holy Spirit

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a large irregular stone circle, within which there is a
round cairn, located on Dean Moor. It is situated close to the highest point
of the moor and there are extensive views in all directions from the circle.
The circle includes 15 sandstone boulders, several of which have fallen and
are partly or totally buried in the soft wet earth. The stones are set in an
oval arrangement measuring 32.8m east-west by 25.9m north-south. The tallest
stone stands 0.95m high and has been incorporated into a drystone wall which
crosses the monument, however, a partly buried fallen stone on the northern
side of the circle measures 1.4m and would have been the tallest stone when
erect. A little to the west of the circle's centre there is a round cairn
measuring c.6.7m in diameter and up to 0.2m high. Limited excavation of the
cairn during the 1920s found that it had been carefully constructed and
incorporated several large flat stone slabs.
A drystone wall and a post and wire fence crossing the monument are excluded
from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included. The
upstanding stone which forms part of the circle and which is now incorporated
within the wall is included in the scheduling.

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.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and
laid out carefully, 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. Large irregular
stone circles comprise a ring of at least 20 stone uprights. The diameters of
surviving examples range between 20 and 40 metres, although it is known that
larger examples, now destroyed, formerly existed. The stone uprights of this
type of circle tend to be more closely spaced than in other types of circle
and the height and positioning of uprights also appears not to have been as
important. They are widely distributed throughout England although in the
south they are confined largely to the west. Of the 250 or so stone circles
identified in England only 45 examples of large irregular circles are known.
As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric
ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age
(c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or
multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined
compartments called cists. The considerable variation in form and longevity of
cairns provides important information on the diversity of beliefs and social
organisation amongst early prehistoric communities.
Despite disturbance to the western side of the monument by the presence of a
plantation during the early part of the 20th century, the large irregular
stone circle and a round cairn on Dean Moor survives reasonably well. It will
contribute to the study of the ceremonial function and date of large irregular
stone circles and is a rare example of this class of monument to contain a
funerary cairn.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burl, A, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, (1976)
Waterhouse, J, The Stones Circles of Cumbria, (1986), 71-3
Waterhouse, J, The Stones Circles of Cumbria, (1986), 71-3
Mason, J R, Valentine, H, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Studfold Gate Circle And The Parallel Trenches At Dean, , Vol. XXV, (1924), 268-9
Mason, J R, Valentine, H, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Studfold Gate Circle and the Parallel Trenches at Dean, , Vol. XXV, (1925), 268-9
SMR No 3048, Cumbria SMR, Dean Moor Stone Circle, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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