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
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
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.
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
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
The modern sheep bield and the fence are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.