Stone circle and stone alignment 370m west of Threestoneburn House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019922

Date first listed: 28-Nov-1932

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Jul-2001


Ordnance survey map of Stone circle and stone alignment 370m west of Threestoneburn House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Ilderton


National Grid Reference: NT 97130 20505


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.

Stone alignments or stone rows consist of upright stones set in a single line, or in two or more parallel lines up to several hundred metres in length. They are often sited close to prehistoric burial monuments, such as small cairns and cists, and to ritual monuments, such as stone circles, and are therefore considered to have had an important ceremonial function. Stone alignments were being constructed and used from the Late Neolithic period to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2500-1000 BC) and provide rare evidence of ceremonial and ritual practices during these periods. Due to their rarity and longevity as a monument type, all examples that are not extensively damaged will be considered worthy of protection. Although the stone circle west of Threestoneburn House has been subject to partial excavation, the extent of disturbance is limited and archaeological deposits survive well. The interior, which is protected by a thick layer of peat, will provide evidence of the nature of activity at the stone circle. The stones and their settings will reveal details of the manner and method of construction. In addition, artefacts found within the circle will provide evidence for duration of use. Evidence relating to the wider Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age environment is also likely to survive in the form of preserved pollen grains. The survival of an associated stone alignment enhances the importance of the monument and will add to our knowledge of wider ritual practice at this time.


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


The monument includes the remains of a stone circle and a stone alignment of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date, situated on a gently sloping promontory formed by the confluence of the Threestone Burn and one of its minor tributaries. Before modern afforestation, the situation afforded extensive views in all directions. The stone circle, which is sub-circular in plan, is visible as a setting of 16 stones measuring 36m north west to south east by 30m. The stones are of local pink granite and are set on average 5.5m apart. Four of the sixteen stones on the northern side of the circle remain upstanding and measure between 0.7m and 1.3m high and are on average 0.6m wide. Two of the upstanding stones have the remains of packing stones visible around their bases. The remaining twelve stones are recumbent and two of these are partially obscured by peat. A larger gap between two of the stones in the eastern quadrant of the stone circle is thought to be the site of an original entrance. The stone circle was partially excavated in 1856 when charcoal and a flint tool were recovered. The excavations also established that the ground surface upon which the stone circle was constructed was overlain by a thick layer of peat. Situated some 28m to the north of the stone circle and included in the scheduling are a further two stones of local granite; the western stone stands 0.56m high and the eastern one is recumbent. Immediately to the east of the two outlying stones there is a stone alignment visible as a line of at least three stones, two of which are almost entirely submerged in the peat, and set 9m apart measuring 19m in total.

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: 34222

Legacy System: RSM


Archaeological Assessment and Survey, The Archaeological Practice, Threestoneburn Stone Circle, Ilderton, Northumberland, (1988)
Archaeological Assessment and Survey, The Archaeological Practice, Threestoneburn Stone Circle, Ilderton, Northumberland, (1988)

End of official listing