The Calderstones: six monoliths decorated with rock art


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of The Calderstones: six monoliths decorated with rock art
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Liverpool (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 40402 87622

Reasons for Designation

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'. 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 (2800-c.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 symbols. 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 exhibiting a significant group of designs will normally be identified as nationally important.

Despite being moved from their original location and context as elements of a Neolithic chambered tomb, the prehistoric rock carvings displayed on the Calderstones survive reasonably well. The stones contain good examples of the artwork of that period including unusual `footmark' designs, and will facilitate any further study of the distribution patterns and development of prehistoric rock carvings.


The monument is known as the Calderstones, a group of six decorated sandstone monoliths thought originally to have formed part of a Neolithic chambered tomb constructed approximately 4,000 years ago. These stones have been removed from their original context and are now arranged in a circle and located in the vestibule of Harthill Greenhouses in Calderstones Park. They display an abundance of prehistoric rock carvings and were closely examined by Forde-Johnston in 1954 after their removal from an earlier location close to the entrance to Calderstones Park where they had been erected for display in 1845. They were erected in their present location in 1964 and placed in a random order.

Upon entering the greenhouse vestibule the nearest stone is Forde-Johnston's stone B. It measures about 2m long by 1.5m wide with a maximum thickness of about 0.5m. There are markings on the front face and both edges which include spirals, concentric circles, arcs, cup marks, footprints, a Bronze Age axe, and a cross considered to have been carved at a much later date than the prehistoric artwork. Moving clockwise the next stone is Forde-Johnston's stone E which measures 1.5m long by 1m wide and about 0.6m thick. On the front face are spirals and concentric circles, while on the rear face are concentric circles and footprints, plus a Maltese cross generally attributed to the medieval period. Stone C is the largest and measures nearly 3m long by 2m wide and 0.27m thick. On the front face are spirals, cup marks and a circle; on the rear face there is a group of four concentric circles and numerous cup marks. Stone D measures about 5m long and 1m wide. It displays cup and ring marks and a triangle on the front face, and seven 19th century carvings of the outlines of boots on the rear face. Stone A measures approximately 2.5m in height and about 1m in width. On the front face are concentric circles, parallel lines and two footmarks, while on the rear face there are concentric circles and spirals. The final stone, stone F, measures about 1m long and 0.75m wide and is decorated on its rear face only with a sun or wheel motif. After examining the prehistoric artwork Forde-Johnston concluded that the spirals, concentric circles, cup and ring marks, arcs and parallel lines identified on the Calderstones are also found at chambered tombs in Ireland, Anglesey and west Wales, while the footmarks have connections with tombs in Brittany.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Forde-Johnston, , Megalithic Art in the NW of Britain - The Calderstones, Liverpool, (1957), 20-39
'Merseyside Archaeological Society' in The Calderstones - a Prehistoric tomb in Liverpool, (), 1-40


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

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