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Barnscar prehistoric cairnfield, two hut circle settlements, field systems, funerary cairns, and a Romano-British farmstead, trackway and field system

A Scheduled Monument in Muncaster, Cumbria

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.3515 / 54°21'5"N

Longitude: -3.3324 / 3°19'56"W

OS Eastings: 313497.262586

OS Northings: 495927.274353

OS Grid: SD134959

Mapcode National: GBR 5L53.BW

Mapcode Global: WH718.SWBF

Entry Name: Barnscar prehistoric cairnfield, two hut circle settlements, field systems, funerary cairns, and a Romano-British farmstead, trackway and field system

Scheduled Date: 26 August 1924

Last Amended: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019427

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32861

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

Details

The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a large prehistoric
cairnfield within which are two prehistoric hut circle settlements each with
an associated field system, 15 prehistoric funerary cairns, a Romano-British
farmstead with an associated field system and trackway, and a medieval
shieling. It is located on the flat-topped ridge of a broad raised terrace
between the steep craggy peaks of Birkby Fell to the east and the steep-sided
Esk valley to the north west, and represents evidence of the Bronze Age,
Romano-British and medieval exploitation of this landscape.
The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD13489584 and includes
about 600 clearance cairns and a few short lengths of stone banking. In the
southern part of this cairnfield, centred at approximately SD13499576, is a
prehistoric hut circle settlement consisting of a three-sided stone-banked
enclosure within which there is a relatively level area that would have
provided a platform upon which a hut or huts would have stood and within which
the occupants of the settlement would have lived. Surrounding the settlement
is a complex associated field system consisting of numerous small fields or
plots. These fields are bounded by stone banks or cairn alignments which are
interpreted as representing the line of old field boundaries in which sporadic
patches of stone clearance were piled against a fence or hedge. The fields are
relatively stone-free, flat and well-drained, and are interpreted as
prehistoric fields which were deliberately cleared of stone in order to render
the ground usuable for agricultural cultivation or stock enclosure. In the
north western part of the cairnfield, at SD13389610, there is a second
prehistoric hut circle settlement and associated field system. It consists of
a single stone hut circle with six small fields or plots either adjacent or in
the vicinity. Three other large irregularly-shaped fields with boundaries
defined by cairn alignments and each containing land virtually bereft of stone
exist within the cairnfield. Also within the cairnfield are 15 cairns which
have been subjected to limited investigation, either by Lord Muncaster in
1885, or by persons unknown at an earlier date. Lord Muncaster's
investigations found cinerary urns, fragments of pottery and burnt bones
consistent with Bronze Age funerary practices known from sites excavated
elsewhere in Cumbria. Some of the finds here at Barnscar were later replaced
in the cairns.
Centred at approximately SD13279591, on top of a gentle spur extending from
the western side of the Branscar ridge, is a Romano-British farmstead complex
consisting of three enclosure groups arranged in a radial pattern to form an
integral, semi-enclosed farmstead. Each of the three enclosure groups
comprises one or two large, irregularly-shaped stock enclosures with
associated hut structures. The main northern enclosure of this group is
sub-divided into two by a low stone bank. There is an entrance on its south
west side which is flanked by two hut circles. The central enclosure of the
group is irregularly shaped and has no obvious entrance. Immediately to its
south are the disturbed remains of a hut circle. The southern of the three
enclosure groups comprises two enclosures which were both accessed by a single
entrance on the south west side. The larger of these two
sub-enclosures has a hut circle on its south east side with an entrance
leading from it directly into the enclosure. Two other hut circles lie on the
western and northern sides of the enclosure group but both have entrances
which are not accessible from the adjacent sub-enclosures. Also within the
farmstead complex are two other features interpreted as the foundations of hut
circles. Limited excavation of this farmstead complex in the late 1950s
produced a Romano-British brooch.
Associated with this farmstead is a coaxial field system centred at
approximately SD13459590. This field system partly overlies the earlier
prehistoric cairnfield and part of the southern of the two prehistoric field
systems. It represents a major reorganisation of the landscape during the
Romano-British period (the first to early sixth centuries AD) as the small
irregular fields of the prehistoric period were superseded by parallel field
boundaries formed by stone walls and banks which divided the land into a
series of strips at right angles to the contours. The field system consists of
a series of very long, well-defined stone walls or banks, oriented along the
ridge in an ENE-WSW direction. In the centre of this field system is a pair of
prominent stone banks which define the edges of a trackway through the field
system. This track is aligned with a similar prominent bank defining a track
around the eastern side of the Romano-British farmstead. This suggests that
the two lengths of trackway were originally part of a single trackway which
served the farmstead and was thus a contemporary feature.
Medieval use of the Barnscar area is attested by the remains of a shieling
which partly overlies the northern of the three enclosure groups which form
the Romano-British farmstead. It consists of the lower courses of a
single-roomed stone-walled rectangular structure measuring approximately 9m by
4m.
Pollen cores taken from the sediments of nearby Devoke Water have revealed the
changing vegetational history of this area over the last 5000 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. The 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 next phase of clearance has been dated to between 70-330 AD and
is associated with cereal pollen, which would imply that upland cultivation
was taking place at this time. The prehistoric remains at Barnscar represent
either sporadic or transient occupation over a long period. Sporadic
occupation is then attested by the Romano-British farmstead and the medieval
shieling.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

In Cumbria several distinctive types of native settlement dating to the Roman
period have been identified. The majority were small, non-defensive, enclosed
homesteads or farms. In many areas they were of stone construction, although
in the coastal lowlands timber-built variants were also common. These
farmsteads were being built and used by non-Roman natives throughout the Roman
occupation and their origins lie in settlement forms developed before the
arrival of the Romans. These farmsteads are common throughout the uplands
where they frequently survive as well-preserved earthworks. All homestead
sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as
nationally important.
A coaxial field system is a group of fields arranged on a single prevailing
axis of orientation. They were constructed and used over a long period of time
extending from the middle of the second millennium BC through until the early
millennium AD and vary enormously in size with the largest extending to almost
10,000ha. Less than 50 coaxial field systems have been recorded in England,
however, further survey work and analysis of aerial photographs is likely to
result in a substantial increase in numbers. They provide important
information on the development of land use during the prehistoric and
Romano-British periods.
Shielings were small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide
shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or
marshland. These huts reflect a system called transhumance, whereby stock was
moved in spring from lowland pasture around the permanently occupied farms to
communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns
reflecting transhumance are known from the Bronze Age, however, the
construction of herdsmens huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling
houses of farms only appears from the early medieval period onwards (about 450
AD). Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent
the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practices here. Those
examples which survive well and help illustrate medieval land use in an area
are considered to be nationally important.
Barnscar prehistoric cairnfield, hut circle settlements, associated field
systems and funerary cairns survive well and form part of a large area of
well-preserved prehistoric landscape extending along the fellsides of
south-west Cumbria. The monument contains a complex and diverse group of
prehistoric monument classes and together these provide evidence of long
term management and exploitation of this area in prehistoric times.
Additionally a Romano-British farmstead and an associated field system and
trackway also survive well and will facilitate any further study of
Romano-British settlement patterns in the area. Similarly the medieval
shieling will contribute to our understanding of settlement patterns and the
economy during the medieval period. Overall the monument is a rare example of
a landscape within which evidence of human exploitation is visible through a
range of remarkably well-preserved monuments dating to the prehistoric,
Romano-British and medieval periods.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
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), 32-50
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 32-50
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 32-50

Source: Historic England

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