Oval Cairn at Gospel Hillocks, Cowdale


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012481

Date first listed: 04-Jan-1991


Ordnance survey map of Oval Cairn at Gospel Hillocks, Cowdale
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Derbyshire

District: High Peak (District Authority)

Parish: King Sterndale

National Park: PEAK DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: SK 08627 71485


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

Reasons for Designation

Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle Neolithic periods, with the majority of dated monuments belonging to the later part of the range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds of roughly elliptical plan, usually delimited by quarry ditches. These ditches can vary from paired "banana-shaped" ditches flanking the mound to "U-shaped" or unbroken oval ditches nearly or wholly encircling it. Along with the long barrows, oval barrows represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, oval barrows have produced two distinct types of burial rite: communal burials of groups of individuals, including adults and children, laid directly on the ground surface before the barrow was built; and burials of one or two adults interred in a grave pit centrally placed beneath the barrow mound. Certain sites provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow and, consequently, it is probable that they may have acted as important ritual sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as the filling of the ditches around oval barrows often contains deliberately placed deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity may have taken place at the barrow subsequent to its construction. Oval barrows are very rare nationally, with less than 50 recorded examples in England. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as earthworks, and due to their rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all oval barrows are considered to be nationally important.

Gospel Hillocks oval cairn is a rare and important example of its class in an upland context, being part of the rich Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape of the Peak District and associated in particular with Gospel Hillocks round cairn. Although partially excavated in the nineteenth century, a significant proportion of undisturbed deposits still exist. These would provide evidence of the monument's construction and the burials placed in it.


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


One of two cairns at Gospel Hillocks, lying c.100m apart. Measuring 28m x 18.5m and oriented east-west, it is badly mutilated by past excavation and stone robbing, and varies in height from 0.3m to 0.8m. A Neolithic date is indicated by its shape and by the polished flint axe found during excavations in the nineteenth century. This was associated with three inhumation burials located on a limestone slab and several jet "buttons". In addition, a stone cist was discovered, containing a further two inhumations, fragments of Beaker pottery and flint flakes. This indicates the cairn was being reused into the early Bronze Age.

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: 13209

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Abercromby, J, Bronze Age Pottery of the British Isles, (1912), 26
Ward, J, 'Proc. Soc. Antiquities' in Proc. Soc. Antiquities (Volume 17), , Vol. 17, (1899), 310-12
Plus plans, Barnatt, J, Peak District Barrow Survey (Derbys Arch Advisory Committee), (1989)

End of official listing