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Cup marked rocks and cairnfield at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of Folly Head

A Scheduled Monument in Eggleston, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.6049 / 54°36'17"N

Longitude: -1.9792 / 1°58'44"W

OS Eastings: 401442.78691

OS Northings: 523302.322402

OS Grid: NZ014233

Mapcode National: GBR GHM6.91

Mapcode Global: WHB45.KJR5

Entry Name: Cup marked rocks and cairnfield at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of Folly Head

Scheduled Date: 22 December 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021114

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35956

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Eggleston

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Barnard Castle with Whorlton

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes seven carved rocks and a cairnfield on the top of a
ridge at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of Folly Head. Four additional
carved rocks are known within Stobgreen Plantation, which lies to the
north west; these are the subject of a separate scheduling.

The cainfield consists of at least 14 cairns. These occur on both sides of
the wall separating Folly Top from Barnard Castle Allotment. The cairns
vary in size and condition. The largest is a large burial cairn 16m in
diameter and 0.3m high. The diameter of this cairn suggests that it may
once have been substantial, however much of the stone has been removed for
walling. The remainder of the cairns are between 10m and 3m in diameter,
and up to 0.6m high. Most are undisturbed, but the centres of a few
closest to the wall are dished because of the removal of stone for

The carved rocks are closely associated with the cairnfield, and occur on
both sides of the wall between Folly Top and Barnard Castle Allotment at
NZ0135823292, NZ0133723274, NZ0150023324, NZ0150123309, NZ0150823310,
NZ0150323308, and NZ0153423294. The carvings on all the rocks consist of
cup marks; these are joined in pairs by short grooves on two of the rocks.
The rocks are mostly or completely covered by turf, and their positions
are marked by loose stones which have been placed on top of them. The
carvings are unusually fresh because they have been covered by turf for
most of the last 4000 years.

The drystone wall is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath it is included.

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

Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops in many areas of upland
Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland,
Durham and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the
`cup and ring' marking where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked
into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more
`rings'. Single pecked lines extending from the cup through the `rings' may
also exist, providing the design with a `tail'. Pecked lines or grooves can
also exist in isolation from cup and ring decoration. Other shapes and
patterns also occur, but are less frequent. Carvings may occur singly, in
small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. They date to the
Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (c.2800-500 BC) and provide one of our
most important insights into prehistoric `art'. The exact meaning of the
designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious
Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the
symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or
incorporated in burial mounds. Around 800 examples of prehistoric rock-art
have been recorded in England. This is unlikely to be a realistic reflection
of the number carved in prehistory. Many will have been overgrown or destroyed
in activities such as quarrying. All positively identified prehistoric rock
art sites will normally 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 land surface to improve its use for
agriculture, and on occasion their distribution can be seen to define
field plots. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated,
although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns
contain burials. Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic
period (from c.3400 BC), although the majority of examples appear to be
the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age
and continued into the later 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

The cup marked rocks and cairnfield at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of
Folly Head survive well. They provide important evidence of the links
between Bronze Age agricultural practice, burial, and belief systems. They
form an important part of a wider distribution of cairnfields, carved
rocks, and prehistoric burials in the plantations, allotments, and commons
north east of Eggleston, and form part of the prehistoric landscape of the
North Peninnes.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Laurie, T, Prehistoric Rock Art in County Durham, Swaledale and Wensleydale, (1998), 84
Brown, P, Carved Rocks and cairns at Bracken Heads,

Source: Historic England

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