Ancient Monuments

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Prehistoric cairnfield and enclosure 750m west of Barnscar settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Muncaster, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.3501 / 54°21'0"N

Longitude: -3.3472 / 3°20'49"W

OS Eastings: 312530.914071

OS Northings: 495782.951483

OS Grid: SD125957

Mapcode National: GBR 5L24.4D

Mapcode Global: WH718.KX9K

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield and enclosure 750m west of Barnscar settlement

Scheduled Date: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019424

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32858

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Muncaster

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Muncaster St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a prehistoric cairnfield and associated enclosure
located on gently-sloping ground 750m west of Barnscar settlement. It
represents Bronze Age exploitation of this landscape and includes five short
lengths of stone bank, 49 oval-shaped clearance cairns and a small, oval-
shaped stock enclosure with an entrance on the north western side and a
slightly sunken interior. The clearance cairns measure between 1.5m to 6m long
by 1m to 5m wide and up to 1.1m high. Pollen cores taken from the sediments of
nearby Devoke Water have revealed the changing vegetational history of this
area over the last 5,000 years and show episodes of forest clearance and a
development of grassland during the prehistoric period. During one of these
episodes most trees were cut down and were soon replaced by extensive
grassland. This clearance is associated with the Bronze Age on the basis of
its similarity to a clearance episode from Seathwaite Tarn 9km to the east,
which has been scientifically dated to around 1000 BC.

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

The Cumbrian uplands comprise large areas of remote mountainous terrain, much
of which is largely open fellside. As a result of archaeological surveys
between 1980 and 1990 within the Lake District National Park, these fells have
become one of the best recorded upland areas in England. On the open fells
there is sufficient well preserved and understood evidence over extensive
areas for human exploitation of these uplands from the Neolithic to the post-
medieval period. On the enclosed land and within forestry the archaeological
remains are fragmentary, but they survive sufficiently well to show that human
activity extended beyond the confines of the open fells. Bronze Age activity
accounts for the most extensive use of the area, and evidence for it includes
some of the largest and best preserved field systems and cairn fields in
England, as well as settlement sites, numerous burial monuments, stone circles
and other ceremonial remains. Taken together, their remains can provide a
detailed insight into life in the later prehistoric period. Of additional
importance is the well-preserved and often visible relationship between the
remains of earlier and later periods, since this provides an understanding of
changes in land use through time. Because of their rarity in a national
context, excellent state of preservation and inter-connections, most
prehistoric monuments on the Lake District fells will 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 pattern can be seen to define field plots.
They were constructed from the Neolithic period (from about 3400 BC) although
the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which
began during the 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.
Within the upland landscape of Cumbria there are many discrete plots of land,
or enclosures, enclosed by stone walls or banks of stone and earth, most of
which date to the Bronze Age. They were constructed as stock pens or as
protected areas for crop growing. Their size and form may therefore vary
depending upon their function. Their variation in form, longevity and relation
to other monument classes provide important information on the diversity of
social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.
The prehistoric cairnfield and enclosure 750m west of Barnscar settlement
survives reasonably well and forms part of a large area of well-preserved
prehistoric landscape extending along the fellsides of south west Cumbria. In
conjunction with a wide range of other prehistoric remains in the vicinity it
represents evidence of long term management and exploitation of this area in
prehistoric times.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 32-48

Source: Historic England

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