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Prehistoric cairnfield, hut circle settlement, field system, funerary cairn, and a medieval shieling on Birkby Fell west of Devoke Water

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: Prehistoric cairnfield, hut circle settlement, field system, funerary cairn, and a medieval shieling on Birkby Fell west of Devoke Water

List entry Number: 1019551

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: 16-Jan-1963

Date of most recent amendment: 05-Jan-2001

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32870

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.

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. The prehistoric cairnfield, hut circle settlement, associated field system and funerary cairn on Birkby Fell west of Devoke Water 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 represent evidence of long term management and exploitation of this area in prehistoric times. Additionally the medieval shieling will contribute to our understanding of settlement patterns and the economy during the medieval period. Overall the monument is a good example of a landscape within which evidence of human exploitation is visible through a range of remarkably well-preserved monuments dating to the prehistoric 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 prehistoric cairnfield within which is a hut circle settlement, consisting of the remains of three stone hut circles, an associated field system, a funerary cairn, and a medieval shieling. It is located on a prominent low rise on Birkby Fell to the west of Devoke Water and represents evidence of the Bronze Age and medieval exploitation of this landscape. The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD15029690 and includes over 140 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 0.7m high. The circular cairns measure between 1m to 7.8m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 4.3m to 13m long by 2.2m to 8m wide. Towards the south eastern end of the cairnfield, overlooking the western shore of Devoke Water, are the remains of the three stone hut cirles which collectively form the hut circle settlement. The southern of the three is built against a stone bank or wall and has an entrance in its eastern side, the western hut circle has an entrance in its north eastern side, whilst the entrance to the eastern hut circle is currently masked by tumble. A field system associated with the cairnfield and hut circle settlement is centred at approximately SD15039688 and consists of numerous short lengths of stone banking or wall and a number of 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. At SD15129689, at the highest point of the monument, there is a prehistoric funerary cairn measuring 14.7m in diameter and 0.9m high. The cairn is visible from a considerable distance and is defined by a stone kerb around its edge, but it has suffered minor disturbance by having a small modern shelter erected at its centre. Medieval use of this area is attested by the remains of a shieling centred at SD15189694. It consists of the lower courses of a single-roomed stone-walled rectangular structure measuring approximately 12m long by 7m wide with an entrance at the centre of its western side. 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.

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
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 60-73
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 60-73
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 60-73
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 60-73
Leech, R, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Settlement And Groups Of Small Cairns On Birkby And Birker Fells, , Vol. LXXXIII, (1983), 15-23
Leech, R, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Settlement And Groups Of Small Cairns On Birkby And Birker Fells, , Vol. LXXXIII, (1983), 15-23
Leech, R, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Settlement And Groups Of Small Cairns On Birkby And Birker Fells, , Vol. LXXXIII, (1983), 15-23

National Grid Reference: SD 15018 96903

Map

Map
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Nov-2017 at 01:27:49.

End of official listing