Prehistoric cairnfield, field system, two funerary cairns, a Romano-British farmstead, field system and a post-medieval haematite mine at Brantrake Moss


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric cairnfield, field system, two funerary cairns, a Romano-British farmstead, field system and a post-medieval haematite mine at Brantrake Moss
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Copeland (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SD 15141 98075

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.

In Cumbria several distinctive types of native settlement dating to the Roman period have been identified. The majority were small non-defensive, enclosed homesteads or farms. In many areas they were of stone construction, although in the coastal lowlands timber-built variants were also common. These farmsteads were being built and used by non-Roman natives throughout the Roman occupation and their origins lie in settlement forms developed before the arrival of the Romans. These farmsteads are common throughout the uplands where they frequently survive as well-preserved earthworks. All homestead sites which survive substantially intact will normally be identified as nationally important. Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC and the iron industry, spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron exploitation within the Cumbrian fells was spasmodic due to transportation difficulties and low iron prices and it wasn't until the 1860s that serious attempts to mine veins of haematite began. Major haematite workings were exploited on both sides of the Eskdale valley during the latter decades of the 19th century and production from these was enhanced by numerous small workings dotting the valley sides. The prehistoric cairnfield, associated field system and two funerary cairns at Brantrake Moss survive reasonably well and form part of a 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. Additionally a Romano-British farmstead and associated field system also survives well and will facilitate any further study of Romano-British settlement patterns in the area. Similarly the post-medieval haematite mine will contribute to the knowledge and further study of the Cumbrian iron industry. Overall the monument is a rare example of a landscape within which evidence of human exploitation is visible through a range of well-preserved monuments dating to the prehistoric, Romano-British and post-medieval periods.


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a prehistoric cairnfield with an associated field system and two funerary cairns, a Romano-British farmstead consisting of two hut circles, two enclosures and an associated field system, and a post-medieval haematite mine. The site has been identified by a combination of field observation, limited excavation, aerial photography and field survey. The monument is located on the lower, south-facing slopes of Brantrake Crags overlooking Brantrake Moss and Black Beck, and represents evidence of the Bronze Age, Romano-British and post-medieval exploitation of this landscape. The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD15109805 and includes over 60 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 1m high. The circular cairns measure between 1.5m and 4.5m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 2.7m and 6.4m long by 1.5m to 5.4m wide. The field system associated with the cairnfield is located towards the south western end of the monument, centred at approximately SD15019795, and includes three lengths of stone bank or wall partially enclosing an area devoid of cairns which is considered to originally have been a field. Nearby are three short lengths of irregularly-shaped walling of uncertain function. Adjacent to these walls are two funerary cairns. The southern cairn measures approximately 12m long by 8m wide and up to 1m high with a stone kerb and disturbed centre revealing a stone cist within which the deceased's body or ashes would have been placed. The northern cairn measures approximately 7.5m in diameter and up to 1m high and is partially surrounded by a shallow ditch. The Romano-British settlement consists of the remains of two stone-walled hut circles, one located at SD15149804, the other a short distance to the north east at SD15179808. The western hut has an entrance on its south eastern side and a small annexe on its north eastern side, while the eastern hut has entrances on the south and north west sides and an annexe on the north side. The associated field system includes two stone-walled enclosures adjacent to the huts; the western enclosure being roughly triangular in plan with internal dimensions of 15.4m by 11.5m and an entrance on the south, the eastern enclosure being oval in plan with internal dimensions of 11.5m by 8m and an entrance on the north east side. To the north east of this group of huts and enclosures are the fragmentary remains of numerous lengths of stone bank or wall which may originally have formed a large enclosure. Limited excavation of this wall during the 1960s indicated that it was constructed at some time between 200-580 AD. Further evidence of the field system comes from an aerial photograph which clearly shows areas of past ploughing on the hillslope above and to the north west of the Romano-British settlement. The remains of a post-medieval haematite mine are located at SD15039811 and consists of a trench dug into the hillside which led to a now blocked adit or level. Two spoil heaps are associated with the adit; one lies adjacent while the other runs along the contour a short distance below the adit.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
Leech, R, Birkby Fell Survey Catalogue, (1982)
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)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 60-73
Fell, C I, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in A Settlement at Brantrake Moss, North of Devoke Water, , Vol. LXXI, (1971), 287-9
SMR No. 9461, Cumbria SMR, Brantrake Moss, Birkby Fell,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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