Allan Tofts cairnfield, field system, burial cairns and prehistoric rock art, immediately south of Morton Close


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


Ordnance survey map of Allan Tofts cairnfield, field system, burial cairns and prehistoric rock art, immediately south of Morton Close
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1021301 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 20-Oct-2019 at 03:59:49.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Scarborough (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NZ 82899 02953

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.

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrows of the lowlands. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls or reaves, orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the field system.

The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Regular aggregate field systems occur widely and have been recorded in south western and south eastern England, East Anglia, Cheshire, Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, North and South Yorkshire and Durham. They represent a coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time and can thus provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries. Those which survive well and/or which can be positively linked to associated settlements are considered to merit protection.

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 (2800-c.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 into 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 exhibiting a significant group of designs normally will be identified as nationally important.

Allan Tofts cairnfield, field system, burial cairns and prehistoric rock art survive in an excellent state of preservation. Valuable evidence for the nature of Bronze and Iron Age agriculture, the contemporary environment and earlier land use will be preserved between and beneath the cairns and field banks. Despite a little weathering of some of the designs, the prehistoric rock art has survived very well and has not been disturbed. On the North York Moors cup and cup and ring marked stones are found largely within round barrows. These cup marked rocks lie in one of only a few open moorland situations to have decorated in situ boulders. The diversity and complexity of their designs is only matched on the North York Moors by the concentration of decorated rocks on Fylingdales Moor to the east. The relationships between features of different date will add greatly to our understanding of the sequence of development and change, and continuity of land use during the prehistoric period. The associations between the cairnfield, field system, burial cairns and rock art will provide evidence for the relationships between agricultural, social and ritual practice. The monument is situated within a landscape where there are many other prehistoric monuments. Associations such as this contribute to our understanding of the distribution of prehistoric activity across the landscape.


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a cairnfield which is situated on Middle Jurassic sandstone on the North York Moors. It lies at the north western edge of Goathland Moor, in the angle between the steep slopes of Allan Bank and Water Ark Scar and overlooking the valleys of the Murk Esk and Eller Beck.

Within the cairnfield and associated with it are an irregular aggregate field system, four round burial cairns and four cup or cup and ring marked stones. Also included are a linear boundary, thought to be of medieval date, and numerous tracks and hollow ways dating to the medieval and post-medieval periods. All these additional archaeological features are included in the scheduling.

The cairnfield includes a large number of cairns which are scattered over a wide area from the 150m contour to above the 200m contour. The cairns are distributed in several concentrations on a series of terraces which are either level or slope gently in a westerly or southerly direction. About 150 cairns have been mapped and appear on the early editions of the Ordnance Survey maps, but more recent fieldwork has shown that there were at least 220 cairns originally, most of which survive as earthworks. These are visible as well-defined sub-circular mounds constructed from small and medium sized stones, which stand up to 0.6m high. Some are built around large erratic boulders. In the northern and eastern parts of the cairnfield, the cairns range from 1.5m to 5m in diameter, but in the central and western parts, they are generally larger and measure 3m to 6m in diameter, with a few up to 8m in diameter. The majority are field clearance cairns which are the result of clearing the ground to prepare for agriculture, but some of the larger cairns, particularly at the western edge of the cairnfield, are thought to have been used as burial mounds. These latter cairns often have a hollow in the centre which has been produced by previous investigation. There are, in addition, four round funerary cairns which are larger and situated in more prominent positions than others within the cairnfield. These have well-defined stony mounds which measure 8m-12m in diameter and stand 0.5m-0.9m high. Partial excavation in the past has also left a central depression on top of each mound. One cairn, at NGR NZ82660271, is disguised by a post-medieval sheep bield, known as Redmond's Bield, which has been constructed over the top of the mound on its north eastern and north western edges. Two cairns, at NGRs NZ83080296 and NZ83120306, have uneven surfaces with boulders exposed within the matrix of the mound. The fourth cairn lies at NGR NZ82960272.

Superimposed upon the cairnfield and curving around the south western and southern slopes of the monument, largely between the 170m and 190m contours, are the remains of a prehistoric field system. This survives as fragmentary boundaries around a number of irregularly shaped, contiguous enclosures or cultivation plots which measure approximately 30m to 60m across. The boundaries are visible as banks of earth and stone, 2m-3m wide and 0.4m-0.7m high, which occasionally incorporate cairns, boulders and orthostats, or earthfast stones. Five such orthostats were marked on the 1913 edition of the Ordnance Survey map, but only one of these is still visible, although there are at least another four isolated orthostats within the cairnfield.

Four examples of prehistoric rock art lie within the cairnfield, located on small boulders which are natural outcrops. The first site is at NGR NZ82950274, which lies about 17m to the north of one of the funerary cairns. The boulder measures approximately 1m across and its surface, which is almost level with the ground surface, is decorated with three large cup marks, each of which is surrounded by a ring. There are also several shallow grooves connecting the rings and two smaller cup marks. The second site is at NGR NZ83170283. The boulder measures approximately 0.7m by 0.6m and is decorated with three cup marks, each surrounded by a ring, with two of the rings adjoining. The third site is the smallest of the four and is at NGR NZ82930301. The boulder measures approximately 0.8m by 0.6m and has four small cup marks, arranged in a Y-shaped pattern. The fourth site is the largest and has the most complex area of decoration. It lies at NGR NZ82650281, about 80m north of one of the funerary cairns. The boulder is approximately triangular in plan, with sides of 0.8m-1m, and stands up to 0.3m high. There are two decorated faces. On the north east face, and extending onto the upper surface there are at least 14 cup marks, arranged in lines, which are crossed and linked by a number of shallow grooves, including one which forms a curve. Below the cup marks there is a pattern of shallow grooves which cross each other. On the western face there is a shallow groove running approximately horizontally, with five further grooves crossing it and at least two cup marks. Some of the decoration is partly obscured by peat and vegetation at the edges of the boulder.

The prehistoric features within the cairnfield and field system continued to have an impact on the use of the landscape into the medieval and post-medieval periods. Running through the cairnfield in a north to south direction there is a linear boundary which is different in character from the prehistoric field boundaries. This boundary is about 440m long and survives as an irregular bank of cleared stone and boulders which is 3m wide and 0.4m-0.6m high. The bank incorporates some of the prehistoric clearance cairns and occasionally orthostats, or earthfast stones. In places it splits into two, or has fragments of parallel banks 10m-20m away which form narrow irregular enclosures. There are also traces of banks on either side running approximately perpendicular to it. These adjoining and parallel banks are considered to be components of the earlier, prehistoric field system, which have been included within a later boundary. It is known that the modern pattern of fields in the area around the monument originated with enclosures dating from the 13th century, including those to the immediate east of the monument, and this boundary is considered also to belong to the medieval period, although it incorporates elements of the prehistoric field system. Since at least the post-medieval period the area has been used for grazing sheep and there are several sheep bields which have been constructed within the monument; some of these are also likely to have incorporated fragments of the prehistoric field system.

Throughout the monument there are numerous paths, tracks and hollow ways which are evidence for the continued use of this area for grazing during the medieval and post-medieval periods. The most substantial of these are hollow ways which run down the steeper slopes at the edges of the monument, towards farmsteads to the north, west, south west and south east; they are considered to be medieval and contemporary with the earliest farmsteads, but some may have had a prehistoric origin. On the northern fringes of the monument, the hollow ways run approximately east to west before turning to the north west to run down the steeper slope, and here there are up to eight different parallel routes which are up to 2m deep. These are thought originally to have been part of a route between a former medieval grange of Malton Priory, on the site of the modern farmstead of Morton Close, and the Whitby to Pickering road. The monument is surrounded by many more remains from the prehistoric period, which include further cairnfields as well as ritual and funerary monuments.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the surfaces of the modern access tracks at the eastern side of the monument, the walls of the sheep bields at NGRs NZ82970303, NZ83000291 (Boggle Bield) and NZ82850277, the corrugated iron shed at NGR NZ83000330 and the walls of the ruined sheep fold at NGR NZ83230270; however, the ground beneath all these features is included in the scheduling.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Beckensall, S, British Prehistoric Rock Art, (1999), 64-68
Hollings, A, A History of Goathland, (1971), 23-29
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey 6" sheet 45 Source Date: 1853 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey 25" sheet 45/12 Source Date: 1913 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].