Great Grassoms prehistoric cairnfield, four funerary cairns, two medieval dispersed settlements and associated field systems on Bootle Fell


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017065

Date first listed: 29-Oct-1999


Ordnance survey map of Great Grassoms prehistoric cairnfield, four funerary cairns, two medieval dispersed settlements and associated field systems on Bootle Fell
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland (District Authority)

Parish: Bootle

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: SD 13314 88398


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

Reasons for Designation

The Cumbrian uplands comprise large areas of remote mountainous terrain, much of which is largely open fellside. As a result of archaeological surveys between 1980 and 1990 within the Lake District National Park, these fells have become one of the best recorded upland areas in England. On the open fells there is sufficient well preserved and understood evidence over extensive areas for human exploitation of these uplands from the Neolithic to the post- medieval period. On the enclosed land and within forestry the archaeological remains are fragmentary, but they survive sufficiently well to show that human activity extended beyond the confines of the open fells. Bronze Age activity accounts for the most extensive use of the area, and evidence for it includes some of the largest and best preserved field systems and cairn fields in England, as well as settlement sites, numerous burial monuments, stone circles and other ceremonial remains. Taken together, their remains can provide a detailed insight into life in the later prehistoric period. Of additional importance is the well-preserved and often visible relationship between the remains of earlier and later periods, since this provides an understanding of changes in land use through time. Because of their rarity in a national context, excellent state of preservation and inter-connections, most prehistoric monuments on the Lake District fells will be identified as nationally important.

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size, and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Cumbria-Solway sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area characterised by dispersed hamlets and farmsteads, but with some larger nucleated settlements in well-defined agriculturally favoured areas, established after the Norman Conquest. Traces of seasonal settlements, or shielings, dominate the high, wet and windy uplands, where surrounding communities grazed their livestock during the summer months. The Lake District local region is characterised by a series of mountain blocks separated by deep valleys, providing great variation in local terrain. Settlement is sparse, but villages and hamlets occasionally appear in the valleys. Higher up, beyond the head-dyke, are traces of medieval and earlier settlements in farmlands since abandoned. In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or principal) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to shared common land or road systems. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region, but where they survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used for building, the outline of building foundations may still be clearly visible. Communal areas of the settlement frequently include features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South Eastern Province and Northern and Western Province of England. They are found in upland and also in some lowland areas. Where found their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest. Medieval enclosed field systems comprise fields defined and enclosed by a physical boundary. These boundaries can take various forms including walls, hedges, earth and stone banks and ditches. Component features common to most enclosed field systems include ridge and furrow and lynchets. The development of enclosed field systems during the medieval period was a response to population pressure and expansion onto marginal land, and the extent and morphology of these field systems resulted from the nature of the topography and social and economic constraints such as the size of the population they were intended to support. The majority of enclosed field systems are thought to have been used for pasture but others contained cultivated ground. Some continued in use throughout the post-medieval period and are a major feature of the modern landscape. They occur widely throughout England with a tendancy towards upland areas associated with largely dispersed settlement patterns. Medieval enclosed field systems offer good opportunities for understanding medieval rural economy and provide valuable evidence regarding the morphology of field systems, their extent and distribution. Great Grassoms prehistoric cairnfield and four funerary cairns on Bootle Fell survive well and form part of a large area of well-preserved prehistoric landscape extending along the fellsides of south west Cumbria. In conjunction with a wide range of other prehistoric monuments in the vicinity it represents evidence of long term management and exploitation of this area in prehistoric times. Additionally the two medieval dispersed settlements and associated enclosed field systems also survive well and will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of settlement and economy during the medieval period. Overall the monument is a rare example of a landscape within which evidence of human exploitation is visible through a range of well-preserved monuments dating to the prehistoric and medieval periods.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Great Grassoms prehistoric field system, four funerary cairns, two medieval dispersed settlements and associated enclosed field systems. It is located on a moderately graded spur of moorland on the slopes of Bootle Fell, bordered by Cockley Beck to the north and Grassoms Beck to the east, and represents evidence for the prehistoric and medieval exploitation of this landscape. The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD13168830 and includes 16 clearance cairns measuring between 2.4m-8.7m long by 1.9m-7.6m wide and up to 0.4m high, together with a short length of stone banking. Within this cairnfield are four oval shaped funerary cairns measuring between 7.5m-10.6m long by 6.5m-8m wide and up to 0.45m high; the westernmost of these funerary cairns has traces of a stone kerb around its perimeter. At SD13408846, approximately 130m south west of the confluence of Crookley Back and Grassoms Beck, there are the lower courses of a three roomed stone built or stone and timber built farmhouse which formed part of one of the two medieval dispersed settlements at Great Grassoms. The building measures 18m by 7m and has two entrances leading into its northern room. To the north west of the farmhouse there is a rectilinear enclosure measuring 26m by 13m which is bordered by well defined stone banks. Access to the enclosure is by an entrance at its south west corner. The downslope bank of the enclosure has a lynchet-like profile resulting from soil slippage and this is interpreted as indicating that ploughing has taken place and that the enclosure was used for cultivation. A field system associated with this settlement consists of two fields: an irregularly shaped field to the east and a larger sub-rectangular field to the west. The eastern field is bordered by regular, prominent stone banks with a gap or entrance at the northern end. The land within is undulating, poorly drained and contains occasional surface stone, and the field is considered to have served a pastoral rather than an arable function and was probably used to contain stock. The larger western field is bordered by a large bank and ditch which converges with the stone bank of the eastern field south of the farmhouse, while Crookley Beck forms the field's boundary on the northern side. The ditch is on the outside of the bank and together they present a greater obstacle to animals outside the field than those within it; thus the boundary would appear to have been designed to repel rather than contain animals. Internally the land has a uniform gradient, is well drained, and is more conducive to cultivation than the eastern field. A short distance higher up the hillside, at SD13568837, lies the second of the two medieval dispersed settlements. It is similar in layout to the other settlement although its house and fields are larger. This settlement consists of the lower courses of a two roomed stone built or stone and timber built farmhouse measuring 24m by 9m with a single entrance leading into the western room. To the north west of the farmhouse there is a rectangular enclosure similar to that adjacent to the other farmhouse. Although the downslope bank of this enclosure does not have a lynchet-like profile suggesting cultivation, it is more likely to have served an arable rather than a pastoral function because it is defined by a bank with an external ditch, which presents a greater obstacle to stock from outside and thus implies an intention to exclude stock. Two large banks and ditches extend north and south west from the farmhouse and form the outer boundaries of two large fields separated by a low stone wall which together comprise the field system associated with this settlement. The eastern field has a large gap in its boundary at the northern end close to Grassoms Beck and as such a gap is inappropriate for the containment of stock, the field may have been used for arable cultivation. It contains well drained land with a uniform low to moderate slope which is in contrast to the western field where the slope is markedly steeper. These two medieval dispersed settlements are located on exposed, relatively high land and such terrain is traditionally associated with pastoralism. There is evidence, however, that some of the fields or small enclosures were used for cultivation, thus indicating that a mixed economy was undertaken here. The settlements are similar in type and are considered to be approximately contemporary. Although they were probably not built at exactly the same time it is not immediately obvious which is the earlier. There is a possibility that despite their different forms they were part of an integral, broadly contemporary field system. There are two medieval documentary sources which refer to Grassoms. The earliest comes from the register of the Priory of St Bees dated 1252 and suggests that the land of `Gresholmes' was of some value and was therefore probably in agricultural use at that time. The second reference comes from the Millom Courtbook within which are details of a rental of 1510. This rental notes a tenement called `Gresholmys' which was owned by the lords of Millom who `shepherd remains on that place and guards the sheep.'

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: 32832

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 2-15
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 2-15
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)
Quartermaine, J, Bootle Fell Survey Catalogue, (1987)

End of official listing