Stone circle and cairnfield on Harland Moor, 375m south west of Park Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019599

Date first listed: 24-Nov-2000


Ordnance survey map of Stone circle and cairnfield on Harland Moor, 375m south west of Park Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Ryedale (District Authority)

Parish: Farndale West


National Grid Reference: SE 67529 92554


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

Reasons for Designation

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were carefully designed and laid out, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. A small stone circle comprises a regular or irregular ring of between 7 and 16 stones with a diameter of between 4 and 20 metres. They are widespread throughout England although clusters are found on Dartmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, in the Peak District and in the uplands of Cumbria and Northumberland. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England, over 100 are examples of small stone circles. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone cleared from the surrounding land surface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials. Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (from c.3400 BC), although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the size, content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period. Stone circles are particularly rare on the North York Moors. The example on Harland Moor is well preserved and the survival of an adjacent cairnfield adds to its importance.


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


The monument includes buried and earthwork remains of a prehistoric stone circle, marked as a cairn on the 1:10,000 map, and an adjacent area of prehistoric clearance cairns. It forms one of two core areas of extensive prehistoric remains which extend across Harland Moor. A second, larger core area, which forms a separate monument, lies centred 700m to the south. The stone circle is formed by a low stoney bank up to 3m-4m wide and around 0.5m high, topped by at least 11 large, typically edge set boulders. The circle, approximately 18m in diameter, is in fact slightly `D'-shaped with a flattened north east side. This straight side might be the result of later disturbance as the area is cut through north west to south east by a number of hollowed track ways, one of which passes through the circle. The stones are all over 0.5m across, and are irregular in both shape and spacing. In general the larger stones are sited on the southern side, with the largest of all measuring 2m by 0.8m by 0.7m high. In the south eastern part of the circle there is a 3m diameter, 1m deep hollow which is considered to be a medieval iron ore pit. Several further such pits lie beyond the monument to both the east and west. An area 10m wide beyond the edge of the stone circle is also included in the monument. This is designed to include any outlying prehistoric pits and ditches surviving as infilled features which excavation elsewhere has shown to frequently survive. The stone circle is sited on fairly level ground on top of a north west to south east ridge which drops away very gently to the south but more steeply to the north east. The monument also includes a cairnfield represented by a scatter of at least ten clearance cairns which mainly extend to the south, down slope from the stone circle, with one lying 15m to the west. These are typically around 3m-4m in diameter and up to 0.5m high. Most are fairly irregular, but one or two of the larger cairns appear to be more carefully constructed. Similar examples elsewhere have been excavated and have been shown to contain human cremation burials. There does not appear to be any obvious patterning in the distribution of the cairns.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 32712

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
McDonnell, J, A History of Helmsley Rievaulx and District, (1963), indexed

End of official listing