Hesk Fell prehistoric cairnfield and funerary cairn, a linear boundary, and a dispersed medieval settlement and field system 840m west of Horseman Gate


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020280

Date first listed: 10-Oct-2001


Ordnance survey map of Hesk Fell prehistoric cairnfield and funerary cairn, a linear boundary, and a dispersed medieval settlement and field system 840m west of Horseman Gate
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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 18468 94134


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.

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size, and type. 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. Medieval enclosed field systems comprise fields defined and enclosed by a physical boundary. These boundaries can take various forms including walls, hedges, earth and stone banks and ditches. The development of enclosed field systems during the medieval period was a response to population pressure and expansion onto marginal land, and the extent and morphology of these field systems resulted from the nature of the topography and social and economic constraints such as the size of the population they were intended to support. The majority of enclosed field systems are thought to have been used for pasture but others contained cultivated ground. Some continued in use throughout the post-medieval period and are a major feature of the modern landscape. They occur widely throughout England with a tendancy towards upland areas associated with largely dispersed settlement patterns. Medieval enclosed field systems offer good opportunities for understanding medieval rural economy and provide valuable evidence regarding the morphology of field systems, their extent and distribution. Hesk Fell prehistoric cairnfield and funerary cairn 840m west of Horseman Gate survives reasonably 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 linear boundary and the dispersed medieval settlement and associated enclosed field system 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 Hesk Fell prehistoric cairnfield and funerary cairn, a linear boundary, and a dispersed medieval settlement and associated field system 840m west of Horseman Gate. It is located on gently sloping enclosed land on the south eastern slopes of Hesk Fell and represents prehistoric and medieval exploitation of this landscape. The earliest feature at this monument is a prehistoric cairnfield which includes over 70 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 0.5m high. The circular cairns measure between 1.9m to 6.6m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 5.2m to 16.4m long by 1.3m to 4.9m wide. Towards the eastern end of the cairnfield, at SD18549403, there is what is interpreted as a prehistoric funerary cairn. It measures 6.6m in diameter by 0.6m high and has been disturbed at its centre by unrecorded investigation in the past. At an unknown date after the creation of the cairnfield a linear boundary consisting of nine lengths of stone bank or wall was built running through the cairnfield on a north east-south west alignment for about 370m. During the medieval period a dispersed settlement was constructed consisting of a large `D'-shaped enclosure measuring about 114m by 86m internally, two huts and two small stock pens. The central part of the existing linear boundary was used as a wall for the `D'-shaped enclosure and at the two points where the enclosure wall and the linear boundary met, two single-roomed stone huts were constructed. The south western of these huts is rectangular in plan with an entrance leading from the `D'-shaped enclosure, while the slightly larger north eastern hut has an entrance leading from the adjacent hillside. The `D'-shaped enclosure has three narrow entrances, one adjacent to each of the huts, another on its eastern side. There are no signs of cultivation within this enclosure and despite its narrow entrances it is interpreted as a stock enclosure, with the associated structures considered to have been herdsmen's huts. On the opposite side of the linear boundary, adjacent to the south western hut, are two small enclosures interpreted as stock pens. The eastern stock pen has a single entrance on its north east side, while the western stock pen has two entrances, one giving access from the northern side of the linear boundary the other giving access from the southern side of the linear boundary.

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: 34973

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell Survey Catalogue, (1985)
Draft survey report, Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell,
Draft survey report, Quartermaine, J, Hesk Fell,

End of official listing