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Burnt mound, cairnfield and bloomery at Eel Beck, 480m south of Blackmea Crag, Holwick Fell

A Scheduled Monument in Holwick, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.6312 / 54°37'52"N

Longitude: -2.1637 / 2°9'49"W

OS Eastings: 389530.991936

OS Northings: 526244.773849

OS Grid: NY895262

Mapcode National: GBR FGBW.CM

Mapcode Global: WHB3W.QVWH

Entry Name: Burnt mound, cairnfield and bloomery at Eel Beck, 480m south of Blackmea Crag, Holwick Fell

Scheduled Date: 14 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017122

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33488

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Holwick

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes a burnt mound with an associated small cairnfield and
enclosure, and a medieval bloomery iron smelting site on the upper Eel Beck,
Holwick Fell.
The burnt mound is on the north bank of the beck, at a sharp bend. It is
visible as a low crescent-shaped mound 7.5m by 6m.
Overlooking the burnt mound, south of Eel Beck, is the small cairnfield. This
consists of three cairns up to 4m in diameter and about 0.5m high. The
enclosure is a little east of the cairns. It is an oval 14m long and 9m wide.
Although its function is uncertain, it is thought to be contemporary with the
cairnfield. The enclosure walls consist of rubble banks, about 1m wide and
0.3m high. The bloomery is between the cairnfield and Eel Beck. It is visible
as a conspicuous grass covered heap of iron slag, 12m by 8m, and about 1m
high. The site of the bloomery hearth is not visible as a surface feature, but
is probably located in the level area south of the slag heap.

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

A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt (fire-crazed) stones, ash and
charcoal, usually sited next to a river or lake. On excavation, some form of
trough or basin capable of holding water is normally found in close
association with the mound. The size of the mound can vary considerably; small
examples may be under 0.5m high and less than 10m in diameter, larger examples
may exceed 3m in height and be 35m in diameter. The shape of the mound ranges
from circular to crescentic. The associated trough or basin may be found
within the body of the mound or, more usually, immediately adjacent to it. At
sites which are crescentic in shape the trough is normally found within the
`arms' of the crescent and the mound has the appearance of having developed
around it.
The main phase of use of burnt mounds spans the Early, Middle and Late Bronze
Age, a period of around 1000 years. The function of the mounds has been a
matter of some debate, but it appears that cooking, using heated stones to
boil water in a trough or tank, is the most likely use. Some excavated sites
have revealed several phases of construction, indicating that individual sites
were used more than once.
Burnt mounds are found widely scattered throughout the British Isles, with
around 100 examples identified in England. As a rare monument type which
provides an insight into life in the Bronze Age, all well-preserved examples
will normally be identified as nationally important.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one
another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone
cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture,
and on occasion their distribution can be seen to define field plots. However,
funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without excavation
it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials. Fragments of
stone walls defining field boundaries or enclosures may also be found within
cairnfields. Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (from
3400 BC), although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field
clearance which began during the early Bronze Age and continued into the later
Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the
size, content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on
the development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also
retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during
the prehistoric period.
Primitive iron-smelting sites can date from the Iron Age to the end of the
medieval period (500 BC-AD 1500). The evidence for early iron smelting often
consists of a heap of iron rich slag. Medieval iron smelting sites are
frequently found near streams and are known as bloomeries. In the bloomeries
iron ore was fired to about to about 1200 degrees Centigrade, using charcoal
as fuel. This caused a chemical reaction, producing a mass of iron called a
bloom, which was then hammered to remove any residual slag. Bloomeries were
usually located close to a source of wood for charcoal making. The charcoal
used in bloomeries was made by burning wood with a limited supply of air. This
was done by stacking the wood either in a pit or on a platform, and by
limiting the air supply by covering the stack with earth and turf. Until about
1450 charcoal was made in pits; around that time charcoal making evolved into
a large scale process and charcoal was made in larger quantities, on
The burnt mound, cairnfield and enclosure at Eel Beck, 480m south of Blackmea
Crag Sike, Holwick Fell survive well. Together, they form part of the wider
prehistoric landscape in Upper Teesdale which includes burnt mounds,
cairnfields, burial cairns, settlements, enclosures and field systems. The
medieval bloomery forms an important part of the medieval iron industry in the
area and will make a significant contribution to the study of medieval iron

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Laurie, T, Burnt mounds, (1999)
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 143
cairnfield at Eel Beck, Laurie, T, Carnfield, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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