Small stone circle on Swarth Fell
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1007357
Date first listed: 30-Nov-1925
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jul-1995
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Eden (District Authority)
National Park: LAKE DISTRICT
National Grid Reference: NY 45715 19086
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 carefully
designed and laid out, 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. A small stone
circle comprises a regular or irregular ring of between 7 and 16 stones with a
diameter of between 4 and 20 metres. They are widespread throughout England
although clusters are found on Dartmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, in the
Peak District and in the uplands of Cumbria and Northumberland. Of the 250 or
so stone circles identified in England, over 100 are examples of small stone
circles. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into
prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of
Despite the loss of some stones on the monument's western side the small stone circle on Swarth Fell survives reasonably well. It is the highest small stone circle in the country and possessess an exceptionally large number of component stones, making it an unusual example of this class of monument.
The monument is a small stone circle on Swarth Fell. It is situated in an
isolated location in a natural hollow close to the head of Swarth Beck and
includes a slightly oval arrangement of approximately 81 fallen stones with
an external diameter of 20m by 17m. The stones are closely spaced except on
the western side where large gaps suggest many others may have been removed.
MAP EXTRACT 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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 22546
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Wainwright, A, A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, (1957), 7
Bowman, A., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Small Stone Circles, (1990)
RCHME, Westmorland, (1936)
SMR No. 1596, Cumbria SMR, Swarthbeck Gill, (1985)
Title: Lake District 1": 1 mile Source Date: 1981 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Tourist Map
Title: Penrith, Keswick and Ambleside area 1:50000 Source Date: 1988 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Landranger 90
Title: The English Lakes North Eastern Area 1:25,000 Source Date: 1989 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Outdoor Leisure 5
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.
End of official listing