The Goatstones stone circle, 280m south west of Ravensheugh Crags


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of The Goatstones stone circle, 280m south west of Ravensheugh Crags
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 82934 74714

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. A four-poster stone circle is a rectangular or sub-rectangular setting of four or five stones, which are, or were once, upright. The corner stones of the rectangle usually lie on the perimeter of a circle. They are confined to high ground, clustered on Exmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland, Cumbria and West Yorkshire with outliers in Shropshire and Derbyshire. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England only 22 are examples of four-posters. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

The four poster stone circle near Ravensheugh Crags is very well preserved. Additionally, it is the only recorded example to bear cup marks. The re-use of an earlier burial monument is unusual. Study of the site will provide information on changing burial and ritual practices in the later prehistoric period.


The monument includes the remains of a four poster stone circle situated on a small knoll at the south west end of Ravensheugh Crags. It is formed of four squat stones set in a 4m square. The stones are graded in height, the tallest on the WSW side being 0.8m high and the smallest on the ESE side is 0.4m high. The latter stone is decorated with cup marks or small depressions pecked out of the rock, a well known form of prehistoric rock art in Northumberland. There are 13 cup marks arranged on the flat top of the stone and they range in size from 4cm to 8cm in diameter. Within the circle there are traces of a low mound; this is thought to be the remains of a stone cairn which predates the construction of the stone circle and by analogy elsewhere may have covered Bronze Age burials.

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:
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Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Northumberland's Prehistoric Rock Carvings: A Mystery Explained , (1983), 54 244
Burl, A, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, (1977)
NY 87 NW 16,


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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