Towtop Kirk early Christian enclosure


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011591

Date first listed: 08-Dec-1938

Date of most recent amendment: 23-Aug-1993


Ordnance survey map of Towtop Kirk early Christian enclosure
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Eden (District Authority)

Parish: Bampton

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: NY 49320 17927


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

Reasons for Designation

Towtop Kirk is a rare example in Cumbria of an early Christian enclosure. Sites associated with the early church of the 6th to 8th centuries AD take a variety of forms. A common theme is the use of a circular enclosure to define a sanctified area. Larger circular enclosures were constructed to form the bounds of monastic sites. Smaller enclosures were created to define burial grounds or to surround small chapels or hermitages. At Towtop the presence of a building within the enclosure indicates its likely use as an early chapel site or as the residence of a hermit. Burials may have been placed around the buildings; although further excavation would be needed to confirm this. Early Christian enclosures are not common monument types as it took a long time for Christianity to gain widespread support and acceptance throughout the countryside. They rarely survive well because frequently the continued use of a site as a focus for religious activity led to the disturbance of early remains during later re-building and related activities. All examples which do survive substantially intact and undisturbed will be identified as nationally important. The Towtop example survives well; excavation has confirmed the survival of further buried remains, including artefactual evidence.


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


The monument is Towtop Kirk early Christian enclosure. It is located south of Cawdale Beck at the end of a north-easterly projection of gradually descending open fell known as Hause End. It includes an irregular circular-shaped enclosure approximately 40m in diameter which is surrounded by a low turf-covered bank of piled small stones up to 3.5m wide and 0.75m high. There is a narrow entrance on the western side of the enclosure with a small rectangular mound on its inner side. In the centre are the turf-covered foundations of a horseshoe-shaped building with an internal diameter of c.6.5m. Immediately to the east of this are faint traces of a circular bank 17m in diameter which is connected to the outer rampart by a slight causeway on its eastern side. In the centre of this bank is a low mound 2m in diameter and 0.1m high. North-west of the central building are the fallen stones of a peat drying platform of later date. Limited excavation in 1902 found that the central building was paved with flat stones laid in clay and the peat drying platform was sited on an earlier building similarly paved with flat stones. Evidence of Christian use of the site came from a stone bearing a rudely cut cross found here; this apparently being confirmed by the 'kirk' element of the traditional name for the site.

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: 22544

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Collingwood, W G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser., , Vol. III, (1903), 265
Ordnance Survey Card Index, Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey Card Index,
RCHME, Westmorland, (1936)

End of official listing