Cairnfield including ring cairn and cup and ring marked rocks 500m north west of Snook Bank


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NU 12639 05405

Reasons for Designation

Prehistoric rock art is found on natural 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 and ring' marking where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked 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 of 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. Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated in burial mounds. Around 800 examples of prehistoric rock-art have been recorded in England. This is unlikely to be a realistic reflection of the number carved in prehistory. Many will have been overgrown or destroyed in activities such as quarrying. All positively identified prehistoric rock art sites exhibiting a significant group of designs will normally be identified as nationally important.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, however, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials. Clarance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (c.3400BC) and continued into the later Bronze Age (up to 700BC). 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. A ring cairn is a prehistoric ritual monument comprising a circular bank of stones up to 20m in diameter surrounding a central hollow area. They are found mainly in upland areas and often occur in pairs or small groups. They date to the Early and Middle Bronze Age and are interpreted as ritual monuments. The exact nature of the rituals concerned is not fully understood, but excavation has revealed pits, some containing burials and others containing charcoal and pottery, taken to indicate feasting activities associated with burial rituals. As a rare monument class all positively identified ring cairns are identified as nationally important. The cairnfield and cup and ring marked rocks at Snook Bank survive in a good state of preservation. It is clear that at least some of the cairns had a funerary purpose and that the site retains significant features associated with ritual activity involving the burial of the dead. In addition the site preserves a rare and clearly defined relationship between cairns and rock art.


The monument includes an extensive cairnfield of Bronze Age date which includes a ring cairn and a group of cup and ring decorated rocks. The site is situated on a fell sandstone ridge on the south slope of Glantlees Hill. It commands extensive views to the south, east and north west. The outcropping sandstone is decorated with a series of incised cup and ring mark decorations. The decorated outcrop is approximately 40m by 15m in area. The decorations are mostly single cups, but there are also single and double rings, basin cups and grooves. Some of the rock art has clearly been removed by later quarrying activity and a number of voids are visible in the rock face where stone for millstones has been removed. In addition to the rock outcrop, a number of boulders and some smaller blocks are decorated with rock art; many of these are closely associated with individual cairns within the cairnfield and appear to act as markers for the cairns. The cairnfield forms two clusters, one concentration lies on the flatter hilltop and a second is clustered on the slope around the sandstone outcrop; within this second cluster is a discrete group of six round cairns which appear to be focused around a ring cairn. A total of 29 cairns have been identified; their mounds range in size from 11.2m to 2.5m in diameter and up to a maximum height of 0.75m. A number of the cairns have clearly visible kerbstones and one of the cairns has the remains of a stone cist visible within the centre of the mound. One of the cairns at the eastern end of the distribution has a cup marked stone with a raised central boss incorporated within it. At least 10 cairns are located adjacent to cup marked boulders. The largest cairn within the group lies close to the western edge of the cairnfield and is connected to a length of prehistoric walling. This walling is 17.4m long, up to 2m wide and 0.35m high and may mark the western boundary of the cairnfield. At the south eastern extent of the cairnfield, the ring cairn lies below the sandstone escarpment. It consists of a stone ring 1m wide and up to 8.5m in diameter, the inner kerb stones are clearly visible and there may be an entrance to the south east. Three small cairns mark out a triangular area to the north of the ring cairn, and a further three cairns situated on false crests to the north of these form a visual link with the main cairnfield. Two of these cairns have cup and ring marked boulders placed immediately adjacent to them. A row of early 19th century boundary stones lie within the southern end of the monument. They are listed Grade II but are also included in the scheduling as any works on them might disturb archaeological remains.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland Volume 2, (1992), 48-51
Van Hoeck, M, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Rock Art at Millstone Burn, Northumberland, , Vol. XIX, (1991), 7-24
Northumberland County Council & Newcastle Unit, Glantlees Farm Archaeological Survey, 1996, unpublished farm survey
Northumberland County Council & Newcastle Unit, Glantlees Farm Archaeological Survey, 1996, unpublished farm survey


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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