Large irregular stone circle and a round cairn on Dean Moor


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014588

Date first listed: 26-Aug-1924

Date of most recent amendment: 01-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Large irregular stone circle and a round cairn on Dean Moor
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Allerdale (District Authority)

Parish: Dean

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland (District Authority)

Parish: Distington

National Grid Reference: NY 03992 22346


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

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.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and laid out carefully, 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. Large irregular stone circles comprise a ring of at least 20 stone uprights. The diameters of surviving examples range between 20 and 40 metres, although it is known that larger examples, now destroyed, formerly existed. The stone uprights of this type of circle tend to be more closely spaced than in other types of circle and the height and positioning of uprights also appears not to have been as important. They are widely distributed throughout England although in the south they are confined largely to the west. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England only 45 examples of large irregular circles are known. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined compartments called cists. The considerable variation in form and longevity of cairns provides important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. Despite disturbance to the western side of the monument by the presence of a plantation during the early part of the 20th century, the large irregular stone circle and a round cairn on Dean Moor survives reasonably well. It will contribute to the study of the ceremonial function and date of large irregular stone circles and is a rare example of this class of monument to contain a funerary cairn.


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


The monument includes a large irregular stone circle, within which there is a round cairn, located on Dean Moor. It is situated close to the highest point of the moor and there are extensive views in all directions from the circle. The circle includes 15 sandstone boulders, several of which have fallen and are partly or totally buried in the soft wet earth. The stones are set in an oval arrangement measuring 32.8m east-west by 25.9m north-south. The tallest stone stands 0.95m high and has been incorporated into a drystone wall which crosses the monument, however, a partly buried fallen stone on the northern side of the circle measures 1.4m and would have been the tallest stone when erect. A little to the west of the circle's centre there is a round cairn measuring c.6.7m in diameter and up to 0.2m high. Limited excavation of the cairn during the 1920s found that it had been carefully constructed and incorporated several large flat stone slabs. A drystone wall and a post and wire fence crossing the monument are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included. The upstanding stone which forms part of the circle and which is now incorporated within the wall is included in the scheduling.

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: 27707

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Burl, A, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, (1976)
Waterhouse, J, The Stones Circles of Cumbria, (1986), 71-3
Waterhouse, J, The Stones Circles of Cumbria, (1986), 71-3
Mason, J R, Valentine, H, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Studfold Gate Circle And The Parallel Trenches At Dean, , Vol. XXV, (1924), 268-9
Mason, J R, Valentine, H, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Studfold Gate Circle and the Parallel Trenches at Dean, , Vol. XXV, (1925), 268-9
SMR No 3048, Cumbria SMR, Dean Moor Stone Circle, (1985)

End of official listing