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Cairnfield and field systems on Saltergate Moor, immediately north of Nab Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Lockton, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.3488 / 54°20'55"N

Longitude: -0.6743 / 0°40'27"W

OS Eastings: 486270.401027

OS Northings: 495617.073697

OS Grid: SE862956

Mapcode National: GBR RLQ4.TV

Mapcode Global: WHGBH.MY4J

Entry Name: Cairnfield and field systems on Saltergate Moor, immediately north of Nab Farm

Scheduled Date: 15 April 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021237

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35904

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Lockton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Lockton St Giles

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes the extensive earthwork and buried remains of a
cairnfield and a regular aggregate field system which are situated on
gentle south and south west facing slopes on the southern fringe of the
North York Moors. Also included are a stone alignment and elements of a
post-medieval field system. The monument lies on sandstone moorland, at
the foot of the northern escarpment of the Tabular Hills.

The cairnfield consists of at least 58 cairns, largely distributed in
several concentrations between the 230m and 250m contours, with a few
outliers at the extreme southern and eastern edges of the monument. Most
of the cairns are well-defined sub-circular mounds constructed from small
and medium sized stones, although some are more elongated in shape, or
constructed from larger stones and small boulders. They vary in size from
2m to 5m in diameter, with most at the smaller end of the range, and they
stand between 0.3m and 0.5m high, with the larger cairns up to 0.7m high.
The majority are field clearance cairns which are the result of clearing
the ground to prepare for agriculture, but some of the larger cairns are
thought to have been used as burial mounds. Interspersed between the
cairns there are fragments of ditches, walling and field banks. These vary
from shallow depressions 0.8m-1m wide and 0.2m-0.4m deep to lines of
tumbled stone and banks of earth and stone, which are up to 2m wide and
0.3m high. They are interpreted as part of the field systems which were in
use with the clearance cairns. Some of the banks and wall lines contain
orthostats, or earthfast stones, and there are at least four single
isolated orthostats within the cairnfield. These stand up to 0.6m high. At
the south eastern edge of the cairnfield, some of the cairns and banks
were modified during the post-medieval period by the addition of larger
stones and boulders which now cover the prehistoric features; in this area
there are also a number of irregular banks and heaps of boulders which
originated with post-medieval clearance.

Associated with the cairnfield, at its north eastern edge, there is a
stone alignment. It is visible as three earthfast sandstone boulders set
in a straight line oriented SSW-NNE. The northern stone stands 0.8m high
and measures 1m by 0.25m in section, tapering to 0.4m wide at the top. It
has its long axis oriented east-west and is leaning to the south. The
central stone lies 19m away and leans to the east. It is 0.8m high and
measures 0.8m by 0.25m in section with its long axis oriented in the
direction of the alignment. The southern stone is situated 52m from the
central stone with its long axis oriented north west-south east. It is 1m
high and measures 1.5m by 0.3m in section, tapering to 0.5m wide at the
top. Each of the stones has a cluster of smaller stones set into the
ground surface around the base. Associated with the three stones are two
cairns, to the west of the northern stone and to the east of the central
stone, and a fourth stone which lies 20m to the south east of the southern
stone. The fourth stone is 0.8m high and measures 1.2m by 0.2m in section
with its long axis oriented east-west. The regular aggregate field system
lies to the north of the cairnfield. It survives as a series of earth and
stone banks which are generally oriented north west-south east along the
contours. The banks are 2m-3m wide and stand up to 0.6m high, and most
have ditches alongside them, 1.5m-2m wide and up to 0.6m deep. Some of
the banks at the western edge of the field system incorporate small field
clearance cairns. The banks define the southern and western edges of
sub-rectangular fields or enclosures measuring 40m-50m across, which have
rounded corners at the south; the northern and eastern edges of the fields
are not visible amongst the dense vegetation, but will survive as low
earthworks and buried features. There are also a number of boundaries
within the field system which consist of a ditch with no visible bank
alongside it. These run largely down the slope in an approximate north
east - south west direction and measure 1m-1.5m across and are 0.2m-0.4m
deep. The difference in character of the boundaries across the field
system is interpreted as an indication that the field system developed
over time as a product of several phases of use.

Fragments of a post-medieval field system are superimposed upon the
prehistoric field system and cairnfield, and incorporate some elements of
the earlier features. These include an irregular boundary which curves in
an approximate east-west direction at the southern edge of the prehistoric
cairnfield, and marks the northern limit of post-medieval agricultural
clearance associated with the Nab Farm farmstead to the south. This
boundary is visible as a shallow ditch which has intermittent banks on
either side, constructed partly from prehistoric bank and cairn fragments.
To the north of this boundary, a number of fragmentary shallow ditches
follow a straight course in approximate north-south or east-west
alignments and these are considered to be the partial layout of
post-medieval fields which were never fully enclosed and brought into use.
Over the years both the cairnfield and the field systems have become
embedded in blanket peat. This has partly masked some of the earthworks,
making them less pronounced, and has buried other features which will
survive between the visible remains.

The monument is surrounded by many more remains from the prehistoric
period, which include a number of similar field systems and cairnfields as
well as ritual and funerary monuments.

The modern boundary fences at the edges of the monument are not included
in the scheduling.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.
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 period.

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to
the end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha
and comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same
direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right
angles to one another. Individual fields generally fall within the
0.1ha-3.2ha range and can be square, rectangular, long and narrow,
triangular or polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various
forms (including drystone walls or reaves, orthostats, earth and rubble
banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and lynchets) and follow straight
or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include
entrances and trackways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which
people utilised the fields over the years have been identified in some
cases. These are usually situated close to or within the field system.

The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition
for land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are
thought to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the
common occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although
rotation may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Regular
aggregate field systems occur widely and have been recorded in south
western and south eastern England, East Anglia, Cheshire, Cumbria,
Nottinghamshire, North and South Yorkshire and Durham. They represent a
coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time and can
thus provide important information about developments in agricultural
practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social,
cultural and environmental change over several centuries. Those which
survive well and/or which can be positively linked to associated
settlements are considered to merit protection.

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.

The North York Moors is an area which has an abundance of prehistoric
remains particularly within moorland landscapes where they have not been
disturbed by more recent agricultural activity. These are evidence for the
widespread exploitation of these uplands throughout prehistory. Saltergate
Moor is one such landscape which has remains dating to the Bronze and Iron
Ages, as well as evidence for the later, post-medieval re-use of the
prehistoric features. The cairnfield and field systems on Saltergate Moor,
immediately north of Nab Farm, are in a good state of preservation.
Significant information about their date and form will survive. Valuable
evidence for the nature of Bronze and Iron Age agriculture, the
contemporary environment and earlier land use will be preserved between
and beneath the cairns and field banks, and within the lowest ditch fills.
The relationships between components of different date will add greatly to
our understanding of the sequence of development and change, and
continuity of land use during the prehistoric period. The association with
the stone alignment will provide evidence for the relationship between
agricultural and ritual practice.

The monument is situated close to a number of other field systems and
cairnfields, including the much more extensive concentration of sites on
Levisham Moor 4.5km to the south west. Associations such as this
contribute to our understanding of prehistoric landscape exploitation and
the distribution of prehistoric activity across the landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 22-24
Waughman, M, Nab Farm Survey, (2003)
Waughman, M, Nab Farm Survey, (2003)

Source: Historic England

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