Concentric stone circle on Birkrigg Common


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Concentric stone circle on Birkrigg Common
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Lakeland (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 29232 73964

Reasons for Designation

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1240 BC). It is clear that they were carefully designed and laid out, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. Concentric stone circles comprise an arrangement of two or more stone rings set within one another. The diameter of the outer ring may vary between 20 and 330 metres, this ring comprising between 20 and 97 stones. They occur in clusters in Wiltshire, Derbyshire and Cumbria with outliers in North Yorkshire and Dartmoor. The best and most complex examples of this type are Stonehenge and Avebury. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England only 15 are of this type. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Despite limited excavations of the monument during the early years of the 20th century, the concentric stone circle on Birkrigg Common survives reasonably well and remains a good example of this class of monument.


The monument includes a concentric stone circle, known locally as the Druid's Circle, which is located on a relatively flat piece of land on the south east side of Birkrigg Common from where there are extensive views south and east across Morecambe Bay. The inner ring of stones has a diameter of 8.5m and consists of 12 stones of Carboniferous limestone with heights varying between 0.3m to 0.9m. The outer ring has a diameter of about 24m and consists of 20 stones placed very irregularly, some of which are low and partly turf covered. Limited excavation within the inner circle in 1911 found an upper and lower pavement of cobbles. Below the lower pavement five cremations were discovered; three of which lay in shallow pits, one of which lay on a third layer of cobbles, and one of which was covered by an inverted urn measuring 13.4cm high. Further limited excavation ten years later, this time in the area between the inner and outer circles, found three objects considered by the excavator to have been used for ceremonial purposes. These comprised a pear-shaped piece of stone thought to have been a pestle for grinding pigments, an oyster-shaped stone with a handle on one side and a carefully flaked out central depression which was thought to have been used as a palate for colours, and a piece of red ochre which was possibly used for pigment.

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.

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Books and journals
Waterhouse, J, The Stones Circles of Cumbria, (1986), 35-8
'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Prehistoric Pottery from Furness, , Vol. LXX, (1970), 2-3
Committee of the North Lonsdale Field Club, , 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Rept on Further Excavations Carried Out on Druids Circle Birkrig, , Vol. XXII, (1922), 346-52
Gelderd, Rev C, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Rept On The Excavations Carried Out At The Druids Circle Birkrig, , Vol. XII, (1912), 262-75
Bowman, A., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Concentric Stone Circles, (1990)
FMW Report, Capstick, B, Stone Circle on Birkrigg Common, (1990)


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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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