Round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011400

Date first listed: 22-Jan-1964

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Mar-1994


Ordnance survey map of Round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Harbottle


National Grid Reference: NT 95248 02082


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

Reasons for Designation

Round cairn cemeteries date to the Bronze Age. They comprise groups of cairns sited in close proximity to one another and take the form of stone mounds constructed to cover single or multiple burials. Contemporary or later `flat' graves may lie between individual cairns. Most cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time and they can exhibit considerable diversity of burial rite, plan and form. Occasionally they are associated with earlier long cairns. They may also be associated with clearance cairns - heaps of stones cleared from the adjacent ground surface to improve its quality for agricultural activities; these were also being constructed during the Bronze Age, although some examples are of later date. It may be impossible without excavation to distinguish between some burial and clearance cairns. Round cairn cemeteries occur throughout most of upland Britain; their distribution pattern complements that of contemporary lowland earthen round barrows. Often occupying prominent locations they are a major historic element in the modern landscape. Their diversity and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving or partly-surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

The round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common survives well. Partial excavations have confirmed that individual cairns had a complex history of use, each being used for multiple burials. Similar evidence will survive within the unexcavated cairns.


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


The monument includes a group of cairns situated on Holystone Common. There are at least 20 cairns of different sizes, ranging from 3m to 19m in diameter. They are mainly visible as circular and elongated turf and heather covered mounds of between 0.3m and 1.3m high. Five of the mounds are more prominent and substantial than the others: these large examples led to the cemetery becoming known as 'The Five Barrows'. Two of the larger ones were partially excavated in the 19th century by Canon Greenwell when several cremated bodies and a stone coffin were recovered in addition to several decorated and plain Bronze Age pots, flint pieces and fragments of burnt bone pins. It is evident from the excavation accounts that each round cairn covered several bodies including both adults and children. The two fence lines which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included.

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: 20957

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Greenwell, W , British Barrows, (1877), 426-8
No. 663,

End of official listing