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Medieval shielings at Great Cove, 2.68km south of Low Gillerthwaite

A Scheduled Monument in Ennerdale and Kinniside, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.4911 / 54°29'28"N

Longitude: -3.3247 / 3°19'29"W

OS Eastings: 314286.570321

OS Northings: 511451.957724

OS Grid: NY142114

Mapcode National: GBR 5J7H.0T

Mapcode Global: WH70P.WCZW

Entry Name: Medieval shielings at Great Cove, 2.68km south of Low Gillerthwaite

Scheduled Date: 5 April 2013

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1408243

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Ennerdale and Kinniside

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Lamplugh St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


A settlement of medieval shielings located at Great Cove on the northern slope of Haycock.

Source: Historic England


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of a group of medieval shielings located high on the fellside at Great Cove 2.68km south of Low Gillerthwaite. The group consists of four single-celled structures, one three-celled structure, a two-celled structure with adjacent wall and enclosures, and a complex structure of one, two and three cells all linked by a connecting wall. All are built with drystone walls and some utilise large boulders or bedrock in their construction.

The shieling at NY14361141 is a single-celled sub-rectangular structure measuring 6m long by 4.6m wide with boulder and bedrock walls up to 0.7m high.

The shieling at NY14351142 is a single-celled rectangular structure measuring 10.5m long by 8.5m wide with boulder and bedrock walls up to 1m high.

The shieling at NY14331142 is a single-celled sub-circular structure measuring a maximum of 6.7m long by 6.3m wide with boulder walls up to 1.3m high. It has a possible entrance in its south side.

The shieling at NY14311142 is a three-celled structure measuring up to 24m long by 10m wide with boulder and bedrock walls up to 1m high. The east cell has a possible hearth in the north wall, the central cell has a small sub-division towards its north end, and the west cell is considerably smaller than the other cells.

The shieling at NY14281144 is a two-celled structure measuring about 10m by 8m with boulder walls up to 0.7m high. There is an entrance in the western cell while the back wall of the eastern cell is formed by bedrock which rises to the rear of the shieling. A drystone wall runs from the south east corner of the shieling and passes in front of and along the east of the shieling as though providing a storage area. On slightly higher ground immediately above the shieling there is a circular drystone enclosure about 4m in diameter with an entrance, and between this and the shieling there is an small, deep oval-shaped drystone-walled enclosure which appears to have been enhanced into a shelter in recent times.

The shielings at NY14251147 form a complex arrangement consisting of a three-celled structure measuring 17.3m long by 8.5m wide that is partly built into the hillslope with boulder and bedrock walls up to 0.6m high. A drystone wall runs from the south west corner of this shieling and curves round to the east along the top edge of a low slope eventually terminating above a two-celled shieling measuring 18m by 8m that is also partly built into the hillslope with boulder and bedrock walls up to up to 1m high. The larger cell of this shieling has two possible hearths built into the wall against the hillslope. A drystone wall runs from the north-east corner of this shieling and terminates at a sub-circular structure measuring about 3m in diameter with walls up to 0.5m high.

The shieling at NY14221147 is a sub-rectangular structure measuring 9m by 8m with boulder walls up to 0.8m high. Internally it has a stone-lined sunken feature measuring 1.4m by 1m and about 0.5m deep that is interpreted as a small well or storage facility.

It is considered that local medieval landowners, as well as establishing the valley-bottom vaccaries within their holdings, would also have sold summer grazing rights on the fells to the peasant communities. It is this summer grazing pattern of stock movement, or transhumance, which was expanded to allow peasant settlement in the uplands of the area during the population growth of the 13th and early 14th centuries, but may have occurred in earlier periods. The high valley sides means that these areas were still too remote for local pasture thus they became the subject of transhumant pasture by the establishment of these shielings here at Great Cove. It is not known who occupied these shielings, but they may potentially have been the peasant community centred on Gillerthwaite or Woundell Beck or both, although this cannot be confirmed. There is certainly considerable scope for these shielings to be associated with the valley-bottom vaccaries and indeed the natural route down the hillside leads directly to the Woundell Beck medieval settlement.

Extent of scheduling
The scheduling includes the upstanding and buried remains of a group of medieval shielings centred 2.68km south of Low Gillerthwaite together with the archaeologically sensitive ground between the shielings as surveyed by Oxford Archaeology North in 2003. The boundary of protection runs 10m beyond the outer edge of the outermost shielings on the monument's north, west, south and south east sides and completes a circuit of the monument by running along the west bank of Deep Gill on the monument's north east side.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

This settlement of medieval shielings at Great Cove 2.68km south of Low Gillerthwaite is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: they survive particularly well and contain a range of features;
* Potential: the relatively undisturbed nature of these buildings increases the likelihood for the survival of artefactual and environmental evidence. Additionally the shielings here have the potential for increasing our understanding of medieval transhumance;
* Group Value: these shielings would appear to be associated with other contemporary medieval settlements in the Ennerdale Valley;
* Documentation: our understanding of these shielings and their contribution to settlement in Ennerdale is significantly enhanced by the publication of these finds in 1986 and subsequent archaeological surveys between 1995-97 and in 2003.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Fletcher, W, 'Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society' in A Settlement in Deep Gill, Ennerdale, (1986)
Lancaster University Archaeological Unit, Ennerdale Forest, Cumbria. Archaeological Survey. Final Report, March 1998,
Oxford Archaeology North, Ennerdale, West Cumbria. Historic Landscape Survey, November 2003,

Source: Historic England

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