Prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and hut circle east of Water Crag


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019980

Date first listed: 16-Jan-1963

Date of most recent amendment: 05-Jan-2001


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and hut circle east of Water Crag
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland (District Authority)

Parish: Eskdale

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: SD 15641 97366


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

Reasons for Designation

The Cumbrian uplands comprise large areas of remote mountainous terrain, much of which is largely open fellside. As a result of archaeological surveys between 1980 and 1990 within the Lake District National Park, these fells have become one of the best recorded upland areas in England. On the open fells there is sufficient well preserved and understood evidence over extensive areas for human exploitation of these uplands from the Neolithic to the post- medieval period. On the enclosed land and within forestry the archaeological remains are fragmentary, but they survive sufficiently well to show that human activity extended beyond the confines of the open fells. Bronze Age activity accounts for the most extensive use of the area, and evidence for it includes some of the largest and best preserved field systems and cairn fields in England, as well as settlement sites, numerous burial monuments, stone circles and other ceremonial remains. Taken together, their remains can provide a detailed insight into life in the later prehistoric period. Of additional importance is the well-preserved and often visible relationship between the remains of earlier and later periods, since this provides an understanding of changes in land use through time. Because of their rarity in a national context, excellent state of preservation and inter-connections, most prehistoric monuments on the Lake District fells will be identified as nationally important.

The prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and hut circle east of Water Crag survives well and forms part of a large area of well-preserved prehistoric landscape extending along the fellsides of south west Cumbria. In conjunction with a wide range of other prehistoric remains in the vicinity the monument represents evidence of long term management and exploitation of this area in prehistoric times.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and a hut circle. It is located to the east of Water Crag, on the plateau between Water Crag and Rough Crag, extends downslope southwards towards Devoke Water, and represents evidence of the Bronze Age exploitation of this landscape. The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD15629738 and includes over 120 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 0.7m high. The circular cairns measure between 2.2m to 6.9m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 3.4m to 9.1m long by 1.9m to 6.4m wide. The western extent of the cairnfield is marked by a short length of stone banking together with the crags below the summit of Water Crag. A field system associated with the cairnfield consists of a curvilinear enclosure centred at approximately SD15589726. Elsewhere within the cairnfield a number of cairn-free areas may indicate the former site of small field plots. On the north western side of the cairnfield, in a sheltered position at SD15489754, there is a platform containing the remains of a hut circle 4.7m in diameter. Pollen cores taken from the sediments of nearby Devoke Water have revealed the changing vegetational history of this area over the last 5000 years and show episodes of forest clearance and a development of grassland during the prehistoric period. During one of these episodes most trees were cut down and were soon replaced by extensive grassland. This clearance is associated with the Bronze Age on the basis of its similarity to a clearance episode from Seathwaite Tarn 9km to the east, which has been scientifically dated to around 1000 BC.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 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: 32878

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 60-73
Leech, R, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Settlement And Groups Of Small Cairns On Birkby And Birker Fells, , Vol. LXXXIII, (1983), 15-23

End of official listing