Prehistoric settlement, two burnt mounds and a burial cairn on the north bank of Blackmea Crag Sike, 570m south west of Middle Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017127

Date first listed: 14-Dec-1999


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric settlement, two burnt mounds and a burial cairn on the north bank of Blackmea Crag Sike, 570m south west of Middle Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Holwick

National Grid Reference: NY 90049 26644


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

Reasons for Designation

A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt (fire-crazed) stones, ash and charcoal, usually sited next to a river or lake. On excavation, some form of trough or basin capable of holding water is normally found in close association with the mound. The size of the mound can vary considerably; small examples may be under 0.5m high and less than 10m in diameter, larger examples may exceed 3m in height and be 35m in diameter. The shape of the mound ranges from circular to crescentic. The associated trough or basin may be found within the body of the mound or, more usually, immediately adjacent to it. At sites which are crescentic in shape the trough is normally found within the `arms' of the crescent and the mound has the appearance of having developed around it. The main phase of use of burnt mounds spans the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age, a period of around 1000 years. The function of the mounds has been a matter of some debate, but it appears that cooking, using heated stones to boil water in a trough or tank, is the most likely use. Some excavated sites have revealed several phases of construction, indicating that individual sites were used more than once. Burnt mounds are found widely scattered throughout the British Isles, with around 100 examples identified in England. As a rare monument type which provides an insight into life in the Bronze Age, all well-preserved examples will normally be identified as nationally important.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (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. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are the stone equivalent of the earthern round barrows of the lowlands. Their considerable variation in form, and their longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Recognisable settlement remains from the Late Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age (2500-1300 BC) are very rare. Most sites of this date with recognisable structures lie in the Highland Zone of Britain. Several such sites include evidence for rectangular buildings. In Lowland Zone settlement evidence for this period mainly consists of pits, hearths, and scatters of occupation debris. The settlement is likely to have been occupied in the Late Neolithic period, but the association with burnt mounds suggests that occupation of the site continued into the Bronze Age. It belongs to a period for which recognisable settlement remains are very rare. The prehistoric settlement, the burnt mounds and the burial cairn on the north bank of Blackmea Crag Sike, 570m south west of Middle Farm survive well. They form part of a wider prehistoric landscape in Upper Teesdale. This includes evidence of Bronze Age settlement, burnt mounds, cairns and Roman period native settlements and field systems.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric settlement, two burnt mounds and a burial cairn. It lies on level, boggy ground north of Blackmea Crag Sike, above Holwick Scars. The settlement consists of a complex of rubble banked enclosures, three small clearance cairns and a rectangular structure which may be a building. The enclosure walls vary from slight stony crests to substantial rubble banks up to 3m wide and 0.5m high. They form a complex of irregular enclosures bounded by Blackmea Crag Sike in the south and east, and extending just beyond a modern fence in the west. At the east end of the site one of the enclosure banks is overlain by a burnt mound. The small clearance cairns are between 4m and 6m in diameter and about 0.3m high. Two of them are connected to lengths of enclosure walling. The rectangular structure is 12m by 7m, with walls 1.5m wide and 0.3m high. This structure may be a building. The northern of the two burnt mounds is on the west bank of Blackmea Crag Sike, at the east end of the settlement, and overlies one of the enclosure walls. It is visible as a grassed over heap of burnt stone 10m in diameter and about 1m high. Partial excavation of the mound in 1955 produced the butt of a polished stone axe. The excavations were abandoned at an early stage. The southern burnt mound lies south of the settlement enclosures, on the north bank of the sike. It is visible as a low, crescent-shaped, grass covered mound of burnt stone at the edge of the sike. The mound is 9m by 9m and about 0.3m high. The north western arm of the crescent is broader than the other one and has a well defined circular hollow, 2m in diameter. Another hollow between the arms of the crescent marks the site of the trough. The burial cairn lies outside the settlement enclosures at their north eastern extremity. It survives as a circular stone bank 9m in diameter and 0.3m high, around a central hollow. The present form of the cairn is the result of stone robbing for drystone walling in the past. The settlement and the burnt mounds are on land which is predominantly damp and boggy. As a result there is good potential for the survival of organic remains. The modern sheep bield and the fence are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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: 33494

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Laurie, T, Burnt mounds, (1999)
Coggins, D, 'Upper Teesdale the archaeology of a North Pennine Valley' in Upper Teesdale The Archaeology Of A North Pennine Valley, , Vol. 150, (1986), 119

End of official listing