Crosby Gill prehistoric cairnfield and field system and a dispersed medieval settlement and associated lynchets 450m west of Crosbythwaite


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020279

Date first listed: 10-Oct-2001


Ordnance survey map of Crosby Gill prehistoric cairnfield and field system and a dispersed medieval settlement and associated lynchets 450m west of Crosbythwaite
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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: Ulpha

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: SD 18589 94983


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.

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size, and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Cumbria-Solway sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area characterised by dispersed hamlets and farmsteads, but with some larger nucleated settlements in well-defined agriculturally favoured areas, established after the Norman Conquest. Traces of seasonal settlements, or shielings, dominate the high, wet and windy uplands, where surrounding communities grazed their livestock during the summer months. The Lake District local region is characterised by a series of mountain blocks separated by deep valleys, providing great variation in local terrain. Settlement is sparce, but villages and hamlets occassionally appear in the valleys. Higher up, beyond the head-dyke, are traces of medieval and earlier settlements in farmlands since abandoned. In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or principal) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to shared common land or road systems. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region, but where they survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used for building, the outline of building foundations may still be clearly visible. Communal areas of the settlement frequently include features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South Eastern Province and the Northern and Western Province of England. They are found in upland and also some lowland areas. Where found their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest. Crosby Gill prehistoric cairnfield and associated field system 450m west of Crosbythwaite survives well and forms part of a well-preserved prehistoric landscape extending along the fellsides of south west Cumbria. In conjunction with a wide range of other prehistoric monuments in the vicinity it represents evidence of long term management and exploitation of this area in prehistoric times. Additionally the dispersed medieval settlement and associated lynchets also survive well and will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of settlement and economy during the medieval period. 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 and medieval periods.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Crosby Gill prehistoric cairnfield and associated field system, and a dispersed medieval settlement and associated lynchets 450m west of Crosbythwaite. It is located on gently sloping enclosed land on the hillside west of Crosby Gill and represents evidence for the prehistoric and medieval exploitation of this landscape. The prehistoric cairnfield includes 28 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 0.9m high; the circular cairns measure between 2.1m to 7m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 4.4m to 6.3m long by 2.3m to 4.9m wide. The associated prehistoric field system consists of two irregularly-shaped stone-banked enclosures. The northern of these enclosures is centred at SD18649507 and measures approximately 70m by 60m internally. The enclosure is open on its south east side and contains a semi-circular structure within its south western corner which has been partly disturbed by construction of a later building platform. This structure appears to have an entrance on its eastern side and may originally have been a small enclosure or a large hut circle. Internally there are three clearance cairns within the main prehistoric enclosure. A small `D'-shaped enclosure with an entrance on its eastern side is attached to the outer wall on the prehistoric enclosure's north east side; this enclosure may be an original feature or it may be associated with a later building platform constructed immediately adjacent and within the prehistoric enclosure. The southern prehistoric enclosure is centred at SD18559482 and measures approximately 90m by 60m internally. It has an entrance on its western side and contains three clearance cairns. A sub-rectangular annexe with an entrance on its western side is attached to the northern side of this enclosure. The dispersed medieval settlement includes six building platforms, each consisting of a rectangular terrace cut into the hillslope. The most prominent is located at SD18589509; adjacent to this building platform is a stone-walled enclosure measuring approximately 15 sq m with an entrance on its north side. Another building platform lies about 20m to the north of this enclosure while two more building platform are located about 30m to the south. The northern of these two building platforms lies immediately outside the western corner of the northern prehistoric enclosure, while the southern building platform partly overlies an earlier structure situated within the prehistoric enclosure's south western corner. Another building platform lies adjacent to the eastern wall of the prehistoric enclosure. The remaining building platform is situated at SD16619496 immediately east of a cluster of clearance cairns and short lengths of stone walling. Associated with the dispersed medieval settlement are strip lynchets characteristic of medieval cultivation. One of the lynchets is centred at about SD18559517 while a group of four lynchets are centred further downhill at about SD18659520 and run along the contour and across the hillslope. The boundary of a modern fir plantation 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: 34972

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Leech, R H, Ulpha Fell Survey Catalogue: Crosby Gill, (1984)
Quartermaine, J, Leech, R H, Upland Settlement of the Lake District: Result of Recent Surveys, (1997), 78-9

End of official listing