This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Round cairn cemetery on Holystone Common

List entry Number: 1011400


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: Northumberland

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Harbottle


Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 22-Jan-1964

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Mar-1994

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 20957

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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.

Selected Sources

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

National Grid Reference: NT 95248 02082


© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1011400 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 21-Aug-2018 at 04:53:34.

End of official listing