Ancient Monuments

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Prehistoric cairnfield and associated field system south west of Birkby Fell, 750m north east of The Knott

A Scheduled Monument in Muncaster, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.3512 / 54°21'4"N

Longitude: -3.3229 / 3°19'22"W

OS Eastings: 314114.34337

OS Northings: 495883.407823

OS Grid: SD141958

Mapcode National: GBR 5L73.DZ

Mapcode Global: WH718.XWVN

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield and associated field system south west of Birkby Fell, 750m north east of The Knott

Scheduled Date: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019432

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32867

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 field system
located on unenclosed moorland south west of Birkby Fell, 750m north east of
The Knott. It represents Bronze Age exploitation of this landscape and
includes a small number of short lengths of stone bank and over 60 oval-shaped
clearance cairns measuring between 1.2m to 9.2m long by 1m to 8.2m wide and up
to 0.7m high. The associated prehistoric field system consists of two fields
or plots bounded by alignments of cairns. These cairn alignments are
interpreted as representing the line of old field boundaries in which sporadic
patches of stone clearance were piled against a fence or hedge. Both 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.
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 with extensive grassland. This clearance is associated with
the Bronze Age on the basis of its similarity to a clearance episode from
Seathwiate 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.

The prehistoric cairnfield and associated field system south west of Birkby
Fell, 750m north east of The Knott survives well and forms part of a 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 the monument provides 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), 32-50
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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