Round barrow and 20th century Royal Observer Corps post on Beacon Hill, known as the site of Hinderwell Beacon


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016956

Date first listed: 15-Apr-1980

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Oct-1999


Ordnance survey map of Round barrow and 20th century Royal Observer Corps post on Beacon Hill, known as the site of Hinderwell Beacon
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Hinderwell


National Grid Reference: NZ 79330 17811


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

Reasons for Designation

Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus of burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving examples recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of Britain, including the Wessex area where it is often possible to classify them more closely, for example as bowl or bell barrows. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Despite disturbance, significant information about the original form of the round barrow on Beacon Hill and the burials placed within it will be preserved. Evidence for earlier land use will also survive beneath the barrow mound. It is the only one of the original group of three to survive as a visible monument. 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'. Pecked lines or grooves can also exist in isolation from cup and ring decoration. 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 into 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 normally will be identified as nationally important. The barrow on Beacon Hill is one of several which include decorated cup-marked stones, distributed along the northern and eastern periphery of the North York Moors. As such it can be dated to the last part of the Neolithic period or Early Bronze Age, earlier than many similar barrows found on the central moorland. It is notable for the very large number of marked stones recorded from the barrow mound. Royal Observer Corps (ROC) posts are a network of military sites largely established during the second World War for aircraft identification, tracking and reporting. During the Cold War in the early 1950s, the network of ROC posts was reorganised into territorially based groups within which there were clusters of three or four posts situated between six and ten miles apart. These provided coordinated reports on visual observation of low flying aircraft. Two new structure types were introduced in 1952, known as Orlit posts. Each consisted of a rectangular box made of pre-cast concrete measuring 3.1m by 2.03m, with a removable cover to provide protection when not in use. Some were constructed at ground level and others were elevated 1.83m above the ground on four pre-cast concrete legs. Ministry of Defence records indicate that 413 Orlit posts were constructed in England. In the mid-1950s it was decided that the ROC posts should also have a role in monitoring nuclear fallout and a new structure was introduced for this purpose. These were underground installations consisting of a rectangular chamber constructed from reinforced concrete, measuring internally 5.8m by 2.6m and 2.3m high. Inside, these posts included accommodation for four men who might be required to remain within for up to a week. Entry was by means of a ladder descending from an above ground hatch positioned at one end of the structure. At the opposite end to the entry hatch each structure had an air vent which also extended above ground level. Between 1957 and 1965, 985 underground posts were built in England, some of them replacing Orlit posts and earlier structures, others built alongside them. In 1965 the role of the ROC in visual observation and aircraft reporting ended and all above ground posts were closed. The remaining underground nuclear monitoring posts were closed in 1991 after the end of the Cold War. This ROC post on Beacon Hill has not been disturbed since it was closed in 1991 and is an excellently preserved example of an important Cold War defensive feature. The successive uses of the monument as barrow, beacon and bunker illustrate the changing importance of this prominent coastal location for ritual and defensive purposes over a period of about 4000 years.


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


The monument includes a round barrow situated in a prominent hilltop position above the cliffs at Port Mulgrave, and a 20th century Royal Observer Corps (ROC) post. The barrow has an earth and stone mound standing up to 4m high. It has a maximum diameter of 15m, although this has been reduced east-west by ploughing. The barrow was originally surrounded by a kerb of stones which defined the barrow and supported the mound. However, over the years many of these stones have been taken away or buried by soil slipping off the mound, although two are still visible on the south side and one on the north west. The barrow was partly excavated in 1920. As well as seven cremation burials, about 300 worked stones were recovered from the matrix of the mound, many of them decorated with cup marks. The mound is disturbed on the north west side by the infilling of the past excavations, and in the centre by two sub- rectangular hollows caused by the removal of a small building. On the south west side there is an Ordnance Survey triangulation point. The barrow was originally one of three, two of which have been destroyed by ploughing. Place name evidence indicates that the barrow was reused as a beacon in the medieval or early post-medieval periods. The ROC post lies immediately adjacent to the barrow mound on the north west side. It is an underground nuclear monitoring post which is visible as a low earthen mound measuring 10m north west to south east by 7m north east to south west and standing up to 0.7m high. It has an entrance hatch at the north west end and an air vent at the south east end, both standing above the surface of the mound. The post was originally established in 1936 but the present structure was constructed in 1960 to replace a ground level Orlit post built in 1952. The post was closed in 1991 following the end of the Cold War. A fence line runs in a north east to south west direction to the north west of the ROC post. All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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.

Legacy System number: 32024

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dobinson, C, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England Volume 11 and appendices: The Cold War, (1998), 174-318
Smith, M J B, Excavated Bronze Age Burial Mounds of Durham and N' land., (1994), 81-82
Spratt, D A , 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology in North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1993)

End of official listing