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Sunkenkirk Stone Circle, 230m south east of Swinside

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Sunkenkirk Stone Circle, 230m south east of Swinside

List entry Number: 1007226


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Millom Without

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 03-Jul-1933

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM - OCN

UID: CU 100

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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 designed and laid out carefully, 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. Large irregular stone circles comprise a ring of at least 20 stone uprights. The diameters of surviving examples range between 20 and 40 metres, although it is known that larger examples, now destroyed, formerly existed. The stone uprights of this type of circle tend to be more closely spaced than in other types of circle and the height and positioning of uprights also appears not to have been as important. They are widely distributed throughout England although in the south they are confined largely to the west. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England only 45 examples of large irregular circles are known. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation. Sunkenkirk Stone Circle, 230m south east of Swinside is a well-preserved and excellent example of a rare monument type. The value of the monument is not only held in its above ground structural form, but also in its below ground archaeological deposits contained within features such as stone sockets and infilled pits. The monument lies within a dramatic landscape setting, typical of many stone circles, and it provides important insight into the character of Neolithic/Bronze Age cosmology and ritual practice.


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The monument includes the standing and earthwork remains of a stone circle of Neolithic/Bronze Age date, situated on level ground on a wide east facing slope overlooking Black Beck. The stone circle, known as both Sunkenkirk Stone Circle and Swinside Stone Circle, measures approximately 28.7m in diameter with at least 55 stones closely set in a near perfect circle. The stones vary in height from 1.5m to nearly 3m with approximately half of the stones standing with the rest recumbent. Two portal stones slightly outlying from the circle on the south east side mark the location of an entrance into the circle and there are further gaps between the stones on the east and south west sides.

SOURCES PastScape Monument No:-37229 NMR:- SD18NE5 Lake District National Park HER:- 3977

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details

National Grid Reference: SD 17169 88173


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This copy shows the entry on 20-Sep-2018 at 02:37:09.

End of official listing