Cup marked rocks and cairnfield at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of Folly Head


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021114

Date first listed: 22-Dec-2003


Ordnance survey map of Cup marked rocks and cairnfield at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of Folly Head
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Marwood

National Grid Reference: NZ 01430 23307


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

Reasons for Designation

Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops in many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland, Durham and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the `cup and ring' marking where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more `rings'. Single pecked lines extending from the cup through the `rings' may also exist, providing the design with a `tail'. Pecked lines or grooves can also exist in isolation from cup and ring decoration. Other shapes and patterns also occur, but are less frequent. Carvings may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. They date to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (c.2800-500 BC) and provide one of our most important insights into prehistoric `art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated in burial mounds. Around 800 examples of prehistoric rock-art have been recorded in England. This is unlikely to be a realistic reflection of the number carved in prehistory. Many will have been overgrown or destroyed in activities such as quarrying. All positively identified prehistoric rock art sites will normally be identified as nationally important.

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 land surface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occasion their distribution 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.

The cup marked rocks and cairnfield at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of Folly Head survive well. They provide important evidence of the links between Bronze Age agricultural practice, burial, and belief systems. They form an important part of a wider distribution of cairnfields, carved rocks, and prehistoric burials in the plantations, allotments, and commons north east of Eggleston, and form part of the prehistoric landscape of the North Peninnes.


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


The monument includes seven carved rocks and a cairnfield on the top of a ridge at Bracken Heads, 380m north east of Folly Head. Four additional carved rocks are known within Stobgreen Plantation, which lies to the north west; these are the subject of a separate scheduling.

The cainfield consists of at least 14 cairns. These occur on both sides of the wall separating Folly Top from Barnard Castle Allotment. The cairns vary in size and condition. The largest is a large burial cairn 16m in diameter and 0.3m high. The diameter of this cairn suggests that it may once have been substantial, however much of the stone has been removed for walling. The remainder of the cairns are between 10m and 3m in diameter, and up to 0.6m high. Most are undisturbed, but the centres of a few closest to the wall are dished because of the removal of stone for walling.

The carved rocks are closely associated with the cairnfield, and occur on both sides of the wall between Folly Top and Barnard Castle Allotment at NZ0135823292, NZ0133723274, NZ0150023324, NZ0150123309, NZ0150823310, NZ0150323308, and NZ0153423294. The carvings on all the rocks consist of cup marks; these are joined in pairs by short grooves on two of the rocks. The rocks are mostly or completely covered by turf, and their positions are marked by loose stones which have been placed on top of them. The carvings are unusually fresh because they have been covered by turf for most of the last 4000 years.

The drystone wall 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. 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: 35956

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Laurie, T, Prehistoric Rock Art in County Durham, Swaledale and Wensleydale, (1998), 84
Brown, P, Carved Rocks and cairns at Bracken Heads,

End of official listing