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Prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and hut circle east of Water Crag

A Scheduled Monument in Eskdale, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.3649 / 54°21'53"N

Longitude: -3.3002 / 3°18'0"W

OS Eastings: 315615.545489

OS Northings: 497381.25243

OS Grid: SD156973

Mapcode National: GBR 5KDZ.91

Mapcode Global: WH719.8KQ3

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and hut circle east of Water Crag

Scheduled Date: 16 January 1963

Last Amended: 5 January 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019980

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32878

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 the earthworks and buried remains of a prehistoric
cairnfield, associated field system and a hut circle. It is located to the
east of Water Crag, on the plateau between Water Crag and Rough Crag, extends
downslope southwards towards Devoke Water, and represents evidence of the
Bronze Age exploitation of this landscape.
The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD15629738 and includes
over 120 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 0.7m high. The
circular cairns measure between 2.2m to 6.9m in diameter while the oval-shaped
cairns measure between 3.4m to 9.1m long by 1.9m to 6.4m wide. The western
extent of the cairnfield is marked by a short length of stone banking together
with the crags below the summit of Water Crag. A field system associated with
the cairnfield consists of a curvilinear enclosure centred at approximately
SD15589726. Elsewhere within the cairnfield a number of cairn-free areas may
indicate the former site of small field plots. On the north western side of
the cairnfield, in a sheltered position at SD15489754, there is a platform
containing the remains of a hut circle 4.7m in diameter.
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. This 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.

The prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and hut circle east
of Water Crag 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)
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. LXXXIII, (1983), 15-23

Source: Historic England

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