Cairnfield, field system and ring cairn 610m south east of Foulsike Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019725

Date first listed: 21-Nov-1962

Date of most recent amendment: 09-May-2001


Ordnance survey map of Cairnfield, field system and ring cairn 610m south east of Foulsike Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Fylingdales


National Grid Reference: NZ 91763 01933


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.

In addition to clearance cairns prehistoric fields were also defined by earthen banks. These can vary in size and in some cases can be several kilometres long dividing the land into large elaborate complexes of fields. Their longevity and their relationship with other monument types provide important information on the diversity of social organisation, land division and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. A ring cairn is a prehistoric ritual monument comprising a circular bank up to 20m in diameter surrounding a hollow central area. The bank may have stone kerbing on the inside and the outside may be made up of small uprights or laid boulders. Ring cairns are mainly found in upland areas of England and are mostly discovered and authenticated by fieldwork. They often occur in pairs or small groups and are occasionally associated with round barrow cemeteries and cairnfields. Ring cairns 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 burial rites. As a relatively rare class of monument exhibiting considerable variation in form, all positively identified examples retaining significant archaeological deposits are considered worthy of preservation. Ring cairns are unusual on the North York Moors and this is an important and well-preserved example. The cairnfield, field system and ring cairn 610m south east of Foulsike Farm have survived well, so significant information about the relationship between them, their original form and any burials placed within them will be preserved. Evidence of earlier land use will also survive beneath the monument.


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


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a cairnfield located on improved moorland to the north of Biller Howe Dale. An associated field system and a ring cairn are also included. The bulk of the monument lies in rough grassland with the northern part lying in a ploughed and improved grass field. The monument lies at the eastern side of the sandstone, predominantly heather covered moor characteristic of the North York Moors. Today the moor is little used but archaeological evidence indicates that this has not always been the case. The prehistoric period in particular saw extensive use of the area for burials and agriculture. Remains of these activities survive today. The monument extends over an area approximately 300m north west-south east by 150m north east-south west. The cairnfield originally extended further to the north east into land now enclosed and improved. The cairnfield includes at least 15 clearance cairns. These are composed of stony mounds measuring up to 5m in diameter and up to 0.5m in height. These are the result of stone clearance in the Bronze Age to improve the land for farming. Evidence from other similar monuments in the north of England shows that such cairns may also have be used for burials. The field system associated with the clearance cairns is indicated by at least four lengths of linear banks which are interpreted as the remains of field boundaries. The banks are built of earth and stone and measure up to 2.5m wide and are up to 0.4m high. The longest section extends north to south for 70m. The settlement from which this area of land was farmed has yet to be identified. The ring cairn is located at grid referance NZ91740191. It survives as a circular earth and stone built bank with an overall external diameter of 7m. The bank is 2m wide and up to 0.4m high.

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: 34411

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Spratt, D A, Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, (1994), 109-122
Spratt, D A, Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, (1994), 104-122
Pacitto, A L, (1990)

End of official listing