Ancient Monuments

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Stone circle and stone alignment 370m west of Threestoneburn House

A Scheduled Monument in Ilderton, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.4783 / 55°28'41"N

Longitude: -2.0469 / 2°2'48"W

OS Eastings: 397132.376131

OS Northings: 620499.19466

OS Grid: NT971204

Mapcode National: GBR G543.N0

Mapcode Global: WH9ZW.JKHM

Entry Name: Stone circle and stone alignment 370m west of Threestoneburn House

Scheduled Date: 28 November 1932

Last Amended: 20 July 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019922

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34222

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Ilderton

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Ilderton St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a stone circle and a stone alignment of
Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date, situated on a gently sloping promontory
formed by the confluence of the Threestone Burn and one of its minor
tributaries. Before modern afforestation, the situation afforded extensive
views in all directions. The stone circle, which is sub-circular in plan, is
visible as a setting of 16 stones measuring 36m north west to south east by
30m. The stones are of local pink granite and are set on average 5.5m apart.
Four of the sixteen stones on the northern side of the circle remain
upstanding and measure between 0.7m and 1.3m high and are on average 0.6m
wide. Two of the upstanding stones have the remains of packing stones visible
around their bases. The remaining twelve stones are recumbent and two of these
are partially obscured by peat. A larger gap between two of the stones in the
eastern quadrant of the stone circle is thought to be the site of an original
entrance. The stone circle was partially excavated in 1856 when charcoal and a
flint tool were recovered. The excavations also established that the ground
surface upon which the stone circle was constructed was overlain by a thick
layer of peat. Situated some 28m to the north of the stone circle and included
in the scheduling are a further two stones of local granite; the western stone
stands 0.56m high and the eastern one is recumbent. Immediately to the east of
the two outlying stones there is a stone alignment visible as a line of at
least three stones, two of which are almost entirely submerged in the peat,
and set 9m apart measuring 19m in total.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by
earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones
may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating
out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close
to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout
England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular
clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the
Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may
be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern.
Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the
Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were carefully
designed and laid out, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the
heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully
understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but
it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies
that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided
a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead.
Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the
passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of
stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at
midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles
throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some
form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. A small stone
circle comprises a regular or irregular ring of between 7 and 16 stones with a
diameter of between 4 and 20 metres. They are widespread throughout England
although clusters are found on Dartmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, in the
Peak District and in the uplands of Cumbria and Northumberland. Of the 250 or
so stone circles identified in England, over 100 are examples of small stone
circles. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into
prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of

Stone alignments or stone rows consist of upright stones set in a single line,
or in two or more parallel lines up to several hundred metres in length. They
are often sited close to prehistoric burial monuments, such as small cairns
and cists, and to ritual monuments, such as stone circles, and are therefore
considered to have had an important ceremonial function. Stone alignments were
being constructed and used from the Late Neolithic period to the Middle Bronze
Age (c.2500-1000 BC) and provide rare evidence of ceremonial and ritual
practices during these periods. Due to their rarity and longevity as a
monument type, all examples that are not extensively damaged will be
considered worthy of protection.
Although the stone circle west of Threestoneburn House has been subject to
partial excavation, the extent of disturbance is limited and archaeological
deposits survive well. The interior, which is protected by a thick layer of
peat, will provide evidence of the nature of activity at the stone circle. The
stones and their settings will reveal details of the manner and method of
construction. In addition, artefacts found within the circle will provide
evidence for duration of use. Evidence relating to the wider Late
Neolithic/Early Bronze Age environment is also likely to survive in the form
of preserved pollen grains. The survival of an associated stone alignment
enhances the importance of the monument and will add to our knowledge of wider
ritual practice at this time.

Source: Historic England


Archaeological Assessment and Survey, The Archaeological Practice, Threestoneburn Stone Circle, Ilderton, Northumberland, (1988)
Archaeological Assessment and Survey, The Archaeological Practice, Threestoneburn Stone Circle, Ilderton, Northumberland, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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