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Barnscar prehistoric cairnfield, two hut circle settlements, field systems, funerary cairns, and a Romano-British farmstead, trackway and field system

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Barnscar prehistoric cairnfield, two hut circle settlements, field systems, funerary cairns, and a Romano-British farmstead, trackway and field system

List entry Number: 1019427

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Muncaster

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 26-Aug-1924

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Nov-2000

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32861

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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.

In Cumbria several distinctive types of native settlement dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small, non-defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. In many areas they were of stone construction, although in the coastal lowlands timber-built variants were also common. These farmsteads were being built and used by non-Roman natives throughout the Roman occupation and their origins lie in settlement forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. These farmsteads are common throughout the uplands where they frequently survive as well-preserved earthworks. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important. A coaxial field system is a group of fields arranged on a single prevailing axis of orientation. They were constructed and used over a long period of time extending from the middle of the second millennium BC through until the early millennium AD and vary enormously in size with the largest extending to almost 10,000ha. Less than 50 coaxial field systems have been recorded in England, however, further survey work and analysis of aerial photographs is likely to result in a substantial increase in numbers. They provide important information on the development of land use during the prehistoric and Romano-British periods. Shielings were small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or marshland. These huts reflect a system called transhumance, whereby stock was moved in spring from lowland pasture around the permanently occupied farms to communal upland grazing during the warmer summer months. Settlement patterns reflecting transhumance are known from the Bronze Age, however, the construction of herdsmens huts in a form distinctive from the normal dwelling houses of farms only appears from the early medieval period onwards (about 450 AD). Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practices here. Those examples which survive well and help illustrate medieval land use in an area are considered to be nationally important. Barnscar prehistoric cairnfield, hut circle settlements, associated field systems and funerary cairns survive well and form part of a large area of well-preserved prehistoric landscape extending along the fellsides of south-west Cumbria. The monument contains a complex and diverse group of prehistoric monument classes and together these provide evidence of long term management and exploitation of this area in prehistoric times. Additionally a Romano-British farmstead and an associated field system and trackway also survive well and will facilitate any further study of Romano-British settlement patterns in the area. Similarly the medieval shieling will contribute to our understanding of settlement patterns and the 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 remarkably well-preserved monuments dating to the prehistoric, Romano-British and medieval periods.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a large prehistoric cairnfield within which are two prehistoric hut circle settlements each with an associated field system, 15 prehistoric funerary cairns, a Romano-British farmstead with an associated field system and trackway, and a medieval shieling. It is located on the flat-topped ridge of a broad raised terrace between the steep craggy peaks of Birkby Fell to the east and the steep-sided Esk valley to the north west, and represents evidence of the Bronze Age, Romano-British and medieval exploitation of this landscape. The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD13489584 and includes about 600 clearance cairns and a few short lengths of stone banking. In the southern part of this cairnfield, centred at approximately SD13499576, is a prehistoric hut circle settlement consisting of a three-sided stone-banked enclosure within which there is a relatively level area that would have provided a platform upon which a hut or huts would have stood and within which the occupants of the settlement would have lived. Surrounding the settlement is a complex associated field system consisting of numerous small fields or plots. These fields are bounded by stone banks or cairn alignments which are interpreted as representing the line of old field boundaries in which sporadic patches of stone clearance were piled against a fence or hedge. The fields are relatively stone-free, flat and well-drained, and are interpreted as prehistoric fields which were deliberately cleared of stone in order to render the ground usuable for agricultural cultivation or stock enclosure. In the north western part of the cairnfield, at SD13389610, there is a second prehistoric hut circle settlement and associated field system. It consists of a single stone hut circle with six small fields or plots either adjacent or in the vicinity. Three other large irregularly-shaped fields with boundaries defined by cairn alignments and each containing land virtually bereft of stone exist within the cairnfield. Also within the cairnfield are 15 cairns which have been subjected to limited investigation, either by Lord Muncaster in 1885, or by persons unknown at an earlier date. Lord Muncaster's investigations found cinerary urns, fragments of pottery and burnt bones consistent with Bronze Age funerary practices known from sites excavated elsewhere in Cumbria. Some of the finds here at Barnscar were later replaced in the cairns. Centred at approximately SD13279591, on top of a gentle spur extending from the western side of the Branscar ridge, is a Romano-British farmstead complex consisting of three enclosure groups arranged in a radial pattern to form an integral, semi-enclosed farmstead. Each of the three enclosure groups comprises one or two large, irregularly-shaped stock enclosures with associated hut structures. The main northern enclosure of this group is sub-divided into two by a low stone bank. There is an entrance on its south west side which is flanked by two hut circles. The central enclosure of the group is irregularly shaped and has no obvious entrance. Immediately to its south are the disturbed remains of a hut circle. The southern of the three enclosure groups comprises two enclosures which were both accessed by a single entrance on the south west side. The larger of these two sub-enclosures has a hut circle on its south east side with an entrance leading from it directly into the enclosure. Two other hut circles lie on the western and northern sides of the enclosure group but both have entrances which are not accessible from the adjacent sub-enclosures. Also within the farmstead complex are two other features interpreted as the foundations of hut circles. Limited excavation of this farmstead complex in the late 1950s produced a Romano-British brooch. Associated with this farmstead is a coaxial field system centred at approximately SD13459590. This field system partly overlies the earlier prehistoric cairnfield and part of the southern of the two prehistoric field systems. It represents a major reorganisation of the landscape during the Romano-British period (the first to early sixth centuries AD) as the small irregular fields of the prehistoric period were superseded by parallel field boundaries formed by stone walls and banks which divided the land into a series of strips at right angles to the contours. The field system consists of a series of very long, well-defined stone walls or banks, oriented along the ridge in an ENE-WSW direction. In the centre of this field system is a pair of prominent stone banks which define the edges of a trackway through the field system. This track is aligned with a similar prominent bank defining a track around the eastern side of the Romano-British farmstead. This suggests that the two lengths of trackway were originally part of a single trackway which served the farmstead and was thus a contemporary feature. Medieval use of the Barnscar area is attested by the remains of a shieling which partly overlies the northern of the three enclosure groups which form the Romano-British farmstead. It consists of the lower courses of a single-roomed stone-walled rectangular structure measuring approximately 9m by 4m. Pollen cores taken from the sediments of nearby Devoke Water have revealed the changing vegetational history of this area over the last 5000 years and show episodes of forest clearance and a development of grassland during the prehistoric period. During one of these episodes most trees were cut down and were soon replaced by extensive grassland. The clearance is associated with the Bronze Age on the basis of its similarity to a clearance episode from Seathwaite Tarn 9km to the east, which has been scientifically dated to around 1000 BC. The next phase of clearance has been dated to between 70-330 AD and is associated with cereal pollen, which would imply that upland cultivation was taking place at this time. The prehistoric remains at Barnscar represent either sporadic or transient occupation over a long period. Sporadic occupation is then attested by the Romano-British farmstead and the medieval shieling.

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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Barnscar Survey Catalogue, (1988)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 32-50
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 32-50
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 32-50

National Grid Reference: SD 13499 95928

Map

Map
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End of official listing