Ancient Monuments

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Prehistoric cairnfield and associated field system 730m ENE of Birkerthwaite

A Scheduled Monument in Eskdale, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.3745 / 54°22'28"N

Longitude: -3.2544 / 3°15'15"W

OS Eastings: 318608.696771

OS Northings: 498385.475715

OS Grid: SD186983

Mapcode National: GBR 5KQV.6N

Mapcode Global: WH719.Z9FT

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield and associated field system 730m ENE of Birkerthwaite

Scheduled Date: 5 January 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019616

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32890

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 and associated field system,
located on undulating ground north of Smallstone Beck 730m ENE of
Birkerthwaite. It represents Bronze Age exploitation of this landscape and
includes over 40 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 1m high. The
circular cairns measure between 2.2m and 6m in diameter while the oval-shaped
cairns measure between 2.7m and 8.8m long by 2.4m and 6.9m wide.
The cairns are predominantly arranged in two groups: One group of ten is
centred towards the north eastern end of the monument at approximately
SD18789854. The larger group is centred towards the south western end of the
monument at approximately SD18579835. Associated with this latter group of
clearance cairns is a field system consisting of a small stone-walled
enclosure about 13m in diameter, together with an alignment of clearance
cairns, which are considered to represent the line of an old field boundary in
which sporadic patches of stone clearance were piled against a fence or hedge.
To the south west of this cairn alignment there is a cairn-free area
considered to be the site of an old field plot. Elsewhere within the
cairnfield there are other cairn-free areas which may also represent the sites
of old fields.

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 730m ENE of
Birkerthwaite survives 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)
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
Cherry, J , 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Cairns In The Birker Fell And Ulpha Fell Area, , Vol. LXI, (1961), 7-15

Source: Historic England

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