Southern ring cairn on Coldsmouth Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009530

Date first listed: 19-Jan-1968

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Southern ring cairn on Coldsmouth Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Kilham


National Grid Reference: NT 85702 28177


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

Reasons for Designation

A ring cairn is a prehistoric ritual monument comprising a circular bank of stones up to 20m in diameter surrounding a hollow central area. The bank may be kerbed on the inside, and sometimes on the outside as well, with small uprights or laid boulders. Ring cairns are found mainly in upland areas of England and are mostly discovered and authenticated by fieldwork and ground level survey, although a few are large enough to be visible on aerial photographs. They often occur in pairs or small groups of up to four examples. Occasionally they lie within round barrow cemeteries. Ring cairns are interpreted as ritual monuments of Early and Middle Bronze Age date. The exact nature of the rituals concerned is not fully understood, but excavation has revealed pits, some containing burials and others containing charcoal and pottery, taken to indicate feasting activities associated with the burial rituals. Many areas of upland have not yet been surveyed in detail and the number of ring cairns in England is not accurately known. However, available evidence indicates a population of between 250 and 500 examples. As a relatively rare class of monument exhibiting considerable variation in form, all positively identified examples retaining significant archaeological deposits are considered worthy of preservation.

The southern cairn on Coldsmouth Hill is a well preserved example of a ring cairn. The stone ring bank and interior circles are virtually intact and, together with the central cist, clearly show the structure of a ring cairn. It is one of a series of dispersed burial mounds which occupy prominent positions in a direct line southwards from Coldsmouth Hill to Maddie's Well. As such, it will contribute significantly towards a fuller understanding of the funerary landscape of the Bronze Age.


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


This monument includes a large Bronze Age burial cairn situated at the south end of the summit of Coldsmouth Hill. Two concentric rings of stone enclose a horseshoe shaped arc of stones which surrounded a central burial. The monument is the southernmost of two ring cairns on the top of the hill. The ground falls away steeply on all sides, affording extensive views to the north, east and west. The outer ring of stones and boulders has a diameter of 16m by 15m, is 4m wide and up to 0.5m high and partly covered with turf. The inner ring comprises a single circle of boulders, just under 15m in diameter, with three particularly large stones in the south west circuit. An inner band of stones, 5m in diameter and 1m wide, forms a semicircle round the north east side, with the open side facing to the west. In the centre of the cairn is a pit cut into the rock to form a burial cist. The pit measures 1.4m by 1.47m and is 0.5m deep. Excavations carried out in 1929 revealed that the pit had originally contained the remains of a cremated human body and a flint tool. The excavations also discovered a second cist 2.5m to the south west which contained dark soil and charcoal. This cist apparently lies beneath the three large stones in the south west sector of the middle circle. Two modern walkers' cairns, up to 2m high, are situated on the cairn on the north east and south west sides.

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: 24585

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hewat Craw, J, 'Hist Berwick Natur Club' in , , Vol. 27, (1931), 379-384

End of official listing