Ancient Monuments

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Prehistoric cairnfield 420m south east of the triangulation pillar on Rough Crag

A Scheduled Monument in Eskdale, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.366 / 54°21'57"N

Longitude: -3.2878 / 3°17'15"W

OS Eastings: 316425.64878

OS Northings: 497481.115172

OS Grid: SD164974

Mapcode National: GBR 5KHY.0P

Mapcode Global: WH719.GJMB

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield 420m south east of the triangulation pillar on Rough Crag

Scheduled Date: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019553

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32880

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Eskdale

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Eskdale St Catherine

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a prehistoric cairnfield located on the southern slopes
of Rough Crag 420m south east of the summit. It represents Bronze Age
exploitation of this landscape and includes over 40 circular and oval-shaped
clearance cairns up to 0.6m high which are scattered in two distinct groups
separated by a flatter area of ground. The circular cairns measure between
1.7m to 5m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 5.6m to
7.8m long by 3.4m wide.
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
evidence 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 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.
The prehistoric cairnfield 420m south east of the triangulation pillar on
Rough Crag 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 the monument represents evidence of long term management and
exploitation of this area in prehistoric times.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 60-73
Leech, R, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Settlement And Groups Of Small Cairns On Birkby And Birker Fells, , Vol. LXXX111, (1983), 15-23

Source: Historic England

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