Cairnfield, enclosures, boulder walling, hollow way and carved rocks towards edge of Snowden Carr centred at 370m south east of Crag House


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Cairnfield, enclosures, boulder walling, hollow way and carved rocks towards edge of Snowden Carr centred at 370m south east of Crag House
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Harrogate (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 17832 51283

Reasons for Designation

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 on occasion their distribution pattern 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 from 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 associations of cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period.

Prehistoric field systems in the north of England take a variety of forms. Regular and irregular types of prehistoric field system are widespread throughout the Pennine Range. Regular field systems with rectilinear fields bounded by low rubble banks are particularly typical of the Craven area. The dating of these is often uncertain, but they are considered to date from the Iron Age or Romano-British periods. Closer dating may be provided by their relationships to other classes of monument which were in use for shorter, known, periods of time. In the uplands of northern England a wide variety of prehistoric enclosures may be found. These range from relatively large, regular enclosures with earth and stone banks, to smaller, irregular areas enclosed by boulder walls. Most are dated to the Bronze Age, Iron Age, or early Romano-British period (2000 BC-AD 200). The larger regular enclosures tend to be dated towards the latter part of this period, and the smaller, irregular enclosures towards the former part. Their variation in form, longevity, and relationship to other monument classes provides important information on the diversity of social organistion and land use among the prehistoric communities. 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.500 BC) 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 exhibiting a significant group of designs will normally be identified as nationally important. Medieval lead smelters include a range of features known from field or documentary evidence. The commonest type is the bole or bale, a wind-draughted smelting fire located on an exposed hilltop or crest. Documentary evidence from Derbyshire suggests that this may have consisted of a rectangular or circular stone structure, open on one side, within which a large fire was constructed, using blocks of wood at the base and smaller wood interleaved with ore above. Boles used wind to provide a draught, and were located on exposed summits or ridges, normally facing south west. The slags produced by the bole retained considerable quantities of lead and could be resmelted at a higher temperature in a smaller enclosed hearth. This could happen close to the bole site, but often the slag was removed for resmelting at another site. The lead-rich slags left by medieval bole smelting were often taken for resmelting in water-powered slag hearths in the post-medieval period. Boles are found on exposed sites in and around the Pennine lead-mining fields. The majority of sites are known from place-name evidence only; scatters of slag or visibly contaminated ground are unusual, and sites retaining informative slag distributions, intact tips, or visible structural features are rare. This monument includes a cairnfield, both regular and irregular enclosures, a number of carved rocks, and lines of boulder walling and an associated hollow way which may form part of a field system. Together, these features form a major part of the prehistoric landscape on Snowden Carr. The form of the`Tree of Life' rock carving is unique. In addition, the monument contains a scatter of slag typical in character, and location, of medieval bole smelting sites.


The monument includes a cairnfield and associated concentration of prehistoric features. Included in the area are a large sub-rectangular enclosure, two smaller enclosures, at least 17 cairns of various sizes, several lengths of boulder walling, a hollow way, and at least 17 carved rocks. There is also a bare patch of ground on which lumps of lead slag survive. This was produced by medieval or earlier lead smelting. This concentration of prehistoric features is situated towards the north east edge of Snowden Carr, and measures c.426m x c.155m. The cairns occur throughout the area and range in size from an elongated cairn 17m x 7m down to cairns c.4m in diameter. The cairns are best preserved in the north western part of the area. The large sub-rectangular enclosure has an earth and stone bank c.3m wide and c.0.6m high. The bank is double on the east side of the enclosure. The two smaller enclosures have rubble banks 1m-2m wide and up to c.0.6m high. They are more irregular in shape than the large enclosure. The boulder walling consists of a number of approximately linear rubble banks 1m-2m wide. It is concentrated in the area immediately north west of the large enclosure, and in the area to its south. The boulder walls are interpreted as part of a field system contemporary with the large enclosure. The hollow way is located within the southern group of boulder walls and may be contemporary with them. The carved rocks are concentrated to the south of the large enclosure, and on the ridge to its west. The carvings vary from the extremely complex, such as that known as the Tree of Life, to carvings consisting of only one cup mark. The Tree of Life rock has a complex design of c.15 cups connected to a multi-branched groove which resembles a tree. Most of the carvings are on well-embedded glacial boulders. Two are on small rocks in a cairn and one is on a boulder incorporated into boulder walling. The bare patch with the lead slag is on the crest of the ridge, west of the large enclosure, in a situation typical of medieval smelting hearths known as boles or bale hills.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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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.

End of official listing

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