Cairnfield with rubble banks and carved rocks above Stead Crag


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011751

Date first listed: 20-Jun-1995


Ordnance survey map of Cairnfield with rubble banks and carved rocks above Stead Crag
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Bradford (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Burley

District: Bradford (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Ilkley

National Grid Reference: SE 13766 45894

Reasons for Designation

Rombalds Moor is an eastern outlier of the main Pennine range lying between the valleys of the Wharfe and the Aire. The bulk of this area of 90 sq km of rough moorland lies over 200m above sea level. The moor is particularly rich in remains of prehistoric activity. The most numerous relics are the rock carvings which can be found on many of the boulders and outcrops scattered across the moor. Burial monuments, stone circles and a range of enclosed settlements are also known. Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture, and occasionally their distribution can be seen to define field plots. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials. Clearance cairns were constructed during the Neolithic period (from c.3400 BC), although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the size, content and association of cairnfields provide important information on the development and associations of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period.

Prehistoric rock carving is found on natural boulders and rock outcrops in many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland, Durham, and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the `cup' marking, where small cup-like hollows are worked 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 periods (2800-c.500BC) and provide one our most important insights into prehistoric `art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. All positively identified prehistoric rock carvings sites will normally be identified as nationally important. This cairnfield survives well and displays many of the features typical of this type of monument. The presence of carved rocks within the cairnfield may be evidence of a link between rock carvings and other prehistoric features, or continuing use of the same area.


The monument includes a cairnfield 500m x 100m stretching from a low hill overlooking Green Crag Slack in the west to the eastern end of Stead Crag. It contains a minimum of 52 cairns, five carved rocks, and a number of rubble banks. The cairns are subcircular in shape and mainly in the range of 1m-5m in diameter. Most are composed of small to medium sized rounded stones. In a small number of cases these are piled against large earthfast boulders. The disturbed remains of a single, much larger cairn survive at the top of a low hill at the north western end of the cairnfield. This large, robbed cairn is c.15m in diameter and c.0.5m high. Although the surface remains are now badly damaged, this is almost certainly a burial cairn. The rubble banks in this cairnfield are mainly short and curved or undergo frequent changes of direction. They are closely associated with the cairns, often having a cairn at one or both ends, or along their length, particularly at corners. They are identified as field boundaries within which the ground was cleared of stone for agricultural purposes, the cleared stone having been placed to form the associated clearance cairns. The five carved rocks are widely distributed in the cairnfield and have carvings in the cup and ring tradition ranging from a single cup mark to much more complex designs consisting of cups, grooves and rings.

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: 25309

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hedges, J D (ed), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, (1986), 101
Hedges, J D (ed), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, (1986), 49
Hedges, J D (ed), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, (1986), 49
Hedges, J D (ed), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, (1986), 49
Hedges, J D (ed), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, (1986), 101
Hedges, J D (ed), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, (1986), 103

End of official listing