Unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and round cairn cemetery on Harland Moor north west of Harland Beck House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019600

Date first listed: 24-Nov-2000


Ordnance survey map of Unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and round cairn cemetery on Harland Moor north west of Harland Beck House
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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 67623 91844


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

Reasons for Designation

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can only be identified by the artificial earthwork platforms created as level stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or indicated by groups of clearance cairns. Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but it is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the Early Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of enclosed and defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. Consisting largely of clearance cairns, with stone cleared from the surrounding land to improve its use for agriculture, they frequently also include funerary cairns, 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. Some cairnfields can be further defined as forming field systems of various types, incorporating banks, lynchets, walls and/or ditches. Some excavated examples have also demonstrated evidence for fences and unbanked hedges which will not show as upstanding earthworks, only surviving as buried remains. An irregular aggregate field system is one where the field plots are set out with a lack of conformity in either orientation or overall arrangement. Plots are typically irregular in shape and vary in size from less than 0.1ha up to about 3ha in area. Round cairn cemeteries also date to the Bronze Age, comprising of groups of stoney mounds constructed to cover single or multiple burials. Contemporary or later `flat' graves without covering mounds may lie between individual cairns. Most cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time and they can exhibit considerable diversity of burial rite, plan and form, and many are also associated with clearance cairns. Round cairn cemeteries occur throughout most of upland Britain; their distribution pattern complements that of contemporary lowland earthen round barrows. Standing stones are prehistoric ritual or ceremonial monuments with dates ranging from the Late Neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age for the few excavated examples. They comprise of single or paired upright orthostatic slabs, ranging from under 1m to over 6m when erect. They are often sighted close to other types of monument. Where excavated, associated sub-surface features have included stone cists, stone settings and various pits filled with earth containing human bone, cremations, flints and pottery. Similar deposits have been found in the excavated sockets for standing stones which range considerably in depth. Standing stones have functioned as markers for route ways, territories, graves, or meeting points, but their accompanying features show that they also bore a ritual function. The wide range of prehistoric remains on Harland Moor will retain important information that will provide insights into the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. The rare survival of hut circles are of particular importance.


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


The monument includes earthwork and associated buried remains of a prehistoric unenclosed hut circle settlement including at least three hut circles, a field system incorporating low banks, lynchets and a cairnfield of clearance cairns, at least two standing stones and a number of larger cairns identified as being funerary round cairns. The monument also includes a World War II dug- out. The monument forms one of two core areas of prehistoric remains that are spread across Harland Moor. A second core area, including a stone circle and a cairnfield, lies centred 700m to the north. The monument lies on a south facing slope above Harland Beck and extends from the drystone field wall and road to the east to just beyond the line of a watercourse around 450m to the west. A small sample of the features are identified on the 1:10,000 map, including a cairn towards the south eastern part of the monument. This is one of a group of at least seven large cairns within 100m of the example marked. They are typically around 8m in diameter and 0.7m high with fairly regular outlines and profiles. At least some of these are considered to be funerary round cairns rather than simple field clearance cairns, and will typically include remains of human cremation burials. Some of these cairns show evidence of excavation in the past with central hollows. Also approximately depicted on the map is one of the hut circles which lies just over 200m to the north east. This is particularly well-preserved as a stoney bank enclosing a circular area around 11m across. On the south side there is a narrow gap flanked by a pair of upright stone slabs forming a doorway. This looks directly out towards a standing stone just to the south. This stone, which is also marked on the map, is one of an irregular north-south line of stones thought to have been used to mark a previous boundary. However, with its well-weathered top and position relative to the hut circle and two others recorded close by, it is considered to be a prehistoric standing stone. To the ENE of the hut circle, close to the drystone field wall, there is cairn just over 1m high with another hut circle built into its south eastern side. This hut circle is smaller than the first, but also appears to have a south facing doorway. The next stone marked on the 1:10,000 map, 220m to the north, is also thought to be a prehistoric standing stone. This stands at the north western corner of a small sub-square enclosure approximately 15m across formed by a low irregular bank. Towards its north eastern corner there are the stoney earthworks of a small structure around 4m across. This enclosure is one element of a field system that extends to the west which is mainly formed by a scatter of clearance cairns, but also include low irregular banks and lynchets, some of which can be seen to form small enclosures. In form this field system can be defined as an irregular aggregate field system, with irregular plots defined by lines of clearance cairns, banks and lynchets. On the first edition Ordnance Survey 25inch map, 26 of the generally larger cairns are mapped across an area 150m north-south, extending 350m west of the sub-square enclosure and the stone that is marked on the 1:10,000 map. These cairns are labelled as Tumuli, the term used by the Ordnance Survey for prehistoric burial mounds. Although these cairns are now considered to be clearance cairns forming a cairnfield, at least some of them will typically include human cremation burials. This part of the cairnfield includes in excess of 50 cairns typically ranging in size from around 2m across and less than 0.5m high to 10m in diameter and over 1m high. Most of the ones marked by the Ordnance Survey are around 6m to 8m in diameter, but there is one that is nearly 15m across. The associated banks are generally less than 0.3m high and are easily masked by vegetation. They often incorporate cairns that rise above the general level of the bank. The cairns are not evenly spaced and show little evidence of patterning in their distribution. To the south of this area the cairns tend to become larger and more widely spaced. Further sections of bank have been noted in this general area in the past, but are thought to be now obscured by vegetation. Some of these cairns are considered to be outliers of the round cairn cemetery centred in the south eastern part of the monument. The World War II dug-out lies about 50m north west of the northern end of the drystone wall that forms the eastern boundary of the monument. It is believed to have been constructed by the Home Guard in 1941. In form it is a sharp-sided, flat-bottomed circular pit dug down into the sand underlying the peat, with the spoil forming an unconsolidated earthwork ring around its top. Wall lines defining the southern and part of the eastern boundaries of the monument lie immediately outside the protected area.

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: 34696

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing