Giant's Grave standing stones, Kirksanton


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009486

Date first listed: 14-May-1986

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Oct-1994


Ordnance survey map of Giant's Grave standing stones, Kirksanton
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland (District Authority)

Parish: Whicham

National Grid Reference: SD 13615 81103


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

Reasons for Designation

Standing stones are prehistoric ritual or ceremonial monuments with dates ranging from the Late Neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age for the few excavated examples. They comprise single or paired upright orthostatic slabs, ranging from under lm to over 6m high where still erect. They are often conspicuously sited and close to other contemporary monument classes. They can be accompanied by various features: many occur in or on the edge of round barrows, and where excavated, associated subsurface features have included stone cists, stone settings, and various pits and hollows filled in with earth containing human bone, cremations, charcoal, flints, pots and pot sherds. Similar deposits have been found in excavated sockets for standing stones, which range considerably in depth. Several standing stones also bear cup and ring marks. Standing stones may have functioned as markers for routeways, territories, graves, or meeting points, but their accompanying features show they also bore a ritual function and that they form one of several ritual monument classes of their period that often contain a deposit of cremation and domestic debris as an integral component. No national survey of standing stones has been undertaken, and estimates range from 50 to 250 extant examples, widely distributed throughout England but with concentrations in Cornwall, the North Yorkshire Moors, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the Cotswolds. Standing stones are important as nationally rare monuments, with a high longevity and demonstrating the diversity of ritual practices in the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age. Consequently all undisturbed standing stones and those which represent the main range of types and locations would normally be considered to be of national importance.

Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops and standing stones in many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England where its 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 period (2800 - 500 BC) and provide one of the most important insights into prehistoric `rock 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. The Giant's Grave standing stones survive well and are a rare survival in Cumbria of a paired example of this class of monument displaying prehistoric rock art. They are located on the coastal plain immediately below an area of upland containing an assortment of prehistoric monuments including stone circles, a funerary cairn, a stone avenue and a stone alignment, and thus indicate the importance of this area in prehistoric times and the diversity of monument classes to be found here.


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


The monument includes two standing stones known as the Giant's Grave located in pasture on the coastal plain of west Cumbria a short distance north of Kirksanton village. The stones are both unhewn granite and stand approximately 4.7m apart. The eastern stone measures 3.05m high and, on its inner face, possesses evidence of prehistoric rock art in the form of a cup mark, or deliberately cut circular depression, about 0.08m in diameter and 0.04m deep. The western stone stands 2.43m high and has two small cup marks on its south face. An antiquarian report of 1794 describes the site as being a small tumulus or burial mound upon which the two stones were erected. A post and wire fence on the monument's south eastern side is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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: 23737

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Cumbrian Prehistoric Rock Art: Symbols, Monument & Landscapes, (1992), 41
Bowman, A, MPP Single Monument Class Description - Standing Stones, (1990)
Hutchinson, (1794)
SMR No. 1472, Cumbria SMR, Giant's Graves Standing Stones, Kirksanton, (1985)

End of official listing