Thompson's Rigg cairnfield, including a platform cairn, round burial cairns, hollow ways, a standing stone, associated round barrows and a ring cairn


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019629

Date first listed: 19-Jan-1968

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Nov-2000


Ordnance survey map of Thompson's Rigg cairnfield, including a platform cairn, round burial cairns, hollow ways, a standing stone, associated round barrows and a ring cairn
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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: Allerston


National Grid Reference: SE 87998 92570


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

Reasons for Designation

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 landsurface 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.

Round barrows and round cairns,their stone equivalents found in upland areas, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving examples recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of Britain. Platform barrows and cairns are the rarest of the recognised types of round barrow, with fewer than 50 examples recorded nationally. They occur widely across southern England with a marked concentration in East and West Sussex and can occur either in barrow cemeteries (closely-spaced groups of barrows) or singly. This example from the North Yorkshire Moors lies well outside this main distribution and is thus especially rare and unusual. They were constructed as low, flat-topped mounds of earth, often surrounded by a shallow ditch and occasionally crossed by an entrance causeway. None of the known examples stands higher than 1m above ground level, and most are considerably lower than this. Due to their comparative visual insignificance when compared to the larger types of round barrow, few were explored by 19th century antiquarians. As a result, few platform barrows are disturbed by excavation and consequently they remain a poorly understood class of monument. Their importance lies in their potential for illustrating the diversity of beliefs and burial practices in the Bronze Age and, due to their extreme rarity and considerable fragility, all identified platform barrows would normally be considered to be of national importance. Often occupying prominent locations, round barrows and round cairns are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and 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. 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 single or paired upright orthostatic slabs, ranging from under 1m to over 6m high where still erect. They are often conspicuously sited and close to other contemporary monument classes. They can be accompanied by various features: many occur in or on the edges of round barrows, and where excavated, associated sub surface features have included stone cists, stone settings, and various pits and hollows filled in with earth containing human bone, cremations, charcoal, flints and pottery. Similar deposits have been found in excavated sockets for standing stones, which range considerably in depth. Standing stones may have functioned as markers for routeways, territories, graves or meeting points, but their accompanying features show that they also had a ritual function and that they form one of several ritual monument classes of their period which often contain deposits of cremation and domestic debris as an integral part. No national survey of standing stones has been undertaken, and estimates range from 50 to 250 extant examples, widely distributed throughout England but with concentrations in Cornwall, the North York Moors, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the Cotswolds. Standing stones are important as nationally rare monuments, with a high longevity and demonstrating the diversity of ritual practices in the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age. A ring cairn is a prehistoric ritual monument comprising a circular bank of stones surrounding a hollow central area. The bank may be kerbed on the inside, and sometimes on the outside as well, with small uprights or laid boulders. Ring cairns are found mainly in upland areas of England and are interpreted as ritual monuments of early and middle Bronze Age date. The exact nature of the rituals concerned is not fully understood, but excavation has revealed pits, some containing burials and others containing charcoal and pottery, taken to indicate feasting activities associated with the burial rituals. Ring cairns occasionally lie within round barrow cemeteries and in northern England they are often associated with cairnfields. The Thompson's Rigg cairnfield is in a very good state of preservation. Significant information about its form and development will survive. Evidence for the nature of Bronze Age agriculture will be preserved in the old ground surface between the cairns and evidence for earlier land use will be preserved beneath the cairns and field banks. The cairnfield is embedded in peat deposits with some waterlogged areas which will preserve a wider range of environmental evidence than can be found on drier sites. Despite disturbance, evidence for the date and form of the round barrows and round burial cairns and the burials placed within them will be preserved. Significant information about the form of construction and the nature of the rituals associated with the use of the ring cairn and platform cairn will survive. The platform cairn is the only example of this monuments type to have been identified in the area of the North York Moors. The relationships between the cairnfield, the round barrows, round burial cairns, ring cairn, platform cairn and standing stone will provide evidence for the diversity and development of social and ritual practice in the prehistoric period and will offer important scope for the study of the association between agricultural and ritual activity.


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


The monument includes a cairnfield situated across the southern end of the ridge between Grain Slack and Crosscliff Beck, at the foot of the northern scarp edge of the Tabular Hills. Included within the cairnfield there are two round burial cairns, a platform cairn, three parallel hollow ways and a standing stone. Also included are four round barrows, a ring cairn and a cross-ridge boundary to the north of the cairnfield and associated with it. The cairnfield consists of at least 133 well-defined cairns distributed on gentle south and south east facing slopes, largely between the 160m and 180m contours. They are predominantly in three concentrations, one at the northern end of the cairnfield and two, one on either side of the ridge, at the southern end. The cairns are sub-circular mounds constructed from medium-sized stones and small boulders, although there are one or two which are more elongated in shape. Some are built around large erratic boulders. Most are between 3m and 5m in diameter, although there are a few smaller and larger. They stand between 0.3m to 0.6m high. A few cairns have been robbed for stone over the years and are less than 0.3m high. The majority are field clearance cairns which are the result of clearing the ground to improve it for agriculture, but some of the larger cairns were also used as burial mounds. Interspersed between the cairns, especially within the southern two concentrations, there are stretches of walling and field banks, totalling at least 800m in length. These vary from lines of tumbled stone to banks of earth and stone which are 1.5m-2m wide and up to 0.5m high. The longest is 70m in length. These are interpreted as part of the field systems which were in use with the clearance cairns. In a prominent ridge-top position between the northern and southern cairn concentrations there is a platform cairn (NGR SE88269262). This has a flat- topped earth and stone mound which is sub-circular and measures 13m in diameter. A large boulder is incorporated into the centre of the mound. On top of the mound around its perimeter there is a well-defined bank of stone rubble which is up to 3m wide and stands up to 0.6m high above the surrounding ground surface. The southern cairn concentration on the east side of the ridge includes the two round burial cairns, hollow ways and a standing stone. The round burial cairns are at the northern edge of the cairn concentration. The more northerly cairn measures 9m in diameter and the second measures 8m in diameter. Both have stony mounds which stand up to 0.7m high. In the centre of each there is a hollow from part excavation in the past. The spoil from this excavation lies in an irregular heap on the north west side of the more northerly cairn. The standing stone is situated towards the southern edge of this cairn concentration (NGR SE88309221). It measures 0.3-0.9m by 0.4m in section and stands 0.9m high. The three hollow ways are parallel and represent successive use of the same route, which is considered to be later than the cairnfield. One route passes to the immediate south of the southern burial cairn. They run in a south west to north east direction down the steeper slope on the east side of the ridge, towards Grain Beck. The hollow ways are visible as rounded hollows 1m-2m wide and between 0.4m and 1.5m deep. The four round barrows lie to the immediate north of the cairnfield, in a prominent position at the top of the steeper slope down to the valley on the east side of the ridge. One barrow is situated at the northern limit of the cairnfield. This has an earth and stone mound which is 10m in diameter and stands up to 0.6m high. The centre of the mound has been hollowed out by partial excavation in the past. At the north west side three large boulders are visible around the inner edge of the hollowed interior of the mound. These would have formed an interior kerb to define and support the mound. The other three barrows are clustered together about 65m to the north west. These barrows have earth and stone mounds which have hollows and trenches across the centre from partial excavation in the past. The largest mound is 10m in diameter and stands up to 0.4m high. The second mound lies to the north west, measures 8m in diameter and stands up to 0.5m high. The third mound lies to the south west, measures 7m in diameter and stands up to 0.4m high. North of the barrow group and running south west to north east across the ridge there is a boundary. This is visible as an intermittent line of orthostats (boulders set on end vertically in the ground) and tumbled stones and boulders. In places, particularly on the east side of the ridge, a bank of earth and stone has been constructed around the stones. This is up to 2m wide and up to 0.5m high with a ditch on the north west side, up to 2m wide and 0.3m deep. Although this boundary forms part of the post-medieval field boundary system in the area, it is considered to incorporate elements of an earlier construction which had origins in the prehistoric period, contemporary with the cairnfield. The ring cairn is situated on the south eastern side of the cross-ridge boundary on the eastern side of the ridge (NGR SE92919299). This has an annular bank of earth and stone which has an external diameter of 10m. The bank is constructed of earth and stone and is 2m wide and 0.25m high. Within the central area there is a large boulder. The monument is situated in an area where there are many prehistoric monuments, including further cairnfields, burials and ritual sites. The field boundary fences and walls on the east, south and west sides of the monument are not included in the scheduling. The metalled surface of the farm track which runs SSE to NNW through the monument is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

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: 34547

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Harding, A F, Ostoja-Zagorski, J, 'Archaeological Journal' in Prehistoric and Early Medieval Activity on Danby Rigg, N Yorks, , Vol. 151, (1994), 16-97
Hayes, R H, Rutter, J G, 'Transactions of the Scarborough Archaeological and Hist Soc' in The survey of two cairn groups on the North York Moors, , Vol. 3, 18, (1975), 17-19
Spratt, D A , 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology in North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1993)
Spratt, D A, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Orthostatic Field Walls on the North York Moors, , Vol. 60, (1988), 149-157
Vyner, B E, 'CBA Research Report 101: Moorland Monuments' in The Brides Of Place: Cross-Ridge Boundaries Reviewed, , Vol. 101, (1995), 16-30
Pacitto, A L, AM107, (1982)
Title: 1st Edition 6" Ordnance Survey sheet 76 Source Date: 1854 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 2nd Edition 25" Ordnance Survey sheet 76/2 Source Date: 1912 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 2nd Edition 25" Ordnance Survey sheet 76/2 Source Date: 1912 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing