Following the illegal robbing of a cairn on Beeley Moor sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, the site was excavated by Radley in 1967. It proved to comprise three abutting cairns. Cairn A (the westernmost) was haphazardly constructed and had been undermined on the north-west side by a hollow way. Only the eastern half of the kerb was reasonably complete. The central burial was a cremation with an urn which originally was set in a rough cist. A secondary burial was found beneath the cairn. Five feet south of the primary burial an urned cremation had been inserted into the top of the mound. Two small groups of Bronze Age pottery were found between rocks in undisturbed positions. The kerb of cairn A abutted on to the kerb of cairn B; where they met, parts of a small enclosure could be seen. This was found to contain a small urned cremation. Cairn B, where it was intact, was carefully constructed of layers of large flat gritstone slabs with lesser stones in the gaps, and it had a carefully made double kerb. Most of the centre of the mound had been previously dug out, although parts of the central cremation were found scattered around, and some large pieces of urn and bone were found hidden beneath a stone in a 'Boots' paper bag. Cairn B appeared to be attached to cairn C, which had a single complete kerb. Its primary burial had been totally removed. Just beyond the east end of the robber trench was a small cremation. A total of eight cremations and urns were recovered, with an additional urn having been found on cairn C several years previously. A thick layer of white sand was found beneath each cairn. A feature lying twelve yards west of the triple cairn was also excavated. This proved to be a further cairn in an almost perfect rectangle. In the centre was a shallow depression in the natural soil which was covered by a flat rock. Below this was a mass of black, greasy, compact sand which was full of large pieces of charcoal and a few fragments of cremated bone. On top of this deposit and in the middle was a segmented faience bead. (1)
This small cairnfield on the south-facing slopes of Ravens Tor has recently been surveyed by the Hunter Archaeological Society. It is located in a relatively stone-free area next to the escarpment. Extensive quarrying nearby may have destroyed further remains. There are from twelve to fourteen cairns in the group with diameters ranging from 3m x 2m to 8m x 7.5m. The three largest cairns are joined together in an east/west line and were excavated in 1967. The easternmost cairn was defined by a kerb 7.5m x 7m in diameter. Its centre had been disturbed but scattered remains of a cremation and a cordoned urn were found. A secondary cremation and urn sherds were found intact in the rubble of the cairn. A collared urn was removed from the site in 1963. Abutting the kerb to the southeast was a crude cist which was empty. The central cairn had an external diameter of 8m x 6m. It had two kerbs set about 1m apart which appeared to postdate it. It is possible that the central cairn was built initially as an open ring cairn and later filled in. The centre of this middle cairn was also badly disturbed. A ruined cist was found and nearby was a disturbed cremation and sherds of a cordoned urn in a modern paper bag. The shape of the western cairn indicated that it postdates the central cairn. It too was defined by a kerb with a diameter of 8m x 7.5m. A medieval bole had been inserted into its western edge [see SMR 1422]. In the centre of the cairn was a crude cist containing a disturbed cremation with a cordoned urn. Nearby in a pit in the subsoil was a second disturbed cremation with a collared urn. A third cremation in a collared urn had been inserted into the cairn south-west of the centre. Outside the kerb to the northeast a biconical urn containing charcoal had been inverted in a small pit. Also outside the kerb, but to the southwest, further urn sherds were found. At the northern junction between the western and central cairns a small rectangular enclosure or platform had been built; under this was a cremation accompanied by a broken urn which has affinities with a food vessel but may well be a cordoned urn. Radley also excavated a small rectangular cairn just to the northwest of the triple cairn. This measured 3m x 2m and was defined by a crude kerb. Under the cairn was a cremation accompanied by a segmented faience bead. To the southwest of the triple cairn is a second rectangular cairn, measuring 4m x 2.5m. Three other cairns in the group, with diameters of 3m to 3.5m, have circular stone kerbs and flat-topped earthen interiors. The high exposed location and the unusual nature of several of the sites in this cairnfield suggest that it is primarily funerary in character. (4)
Archaeological survey of this area has identified up to 16 possible features, many of which have architectural characteristics which indicate that this is, in part at least, a funerary cairnfield of early 2nd millennium BC date. These features include the complex structure of three abutting stone-built barrows that were excavated in 1967. However, the downslope part of the cairnfield, and possibly some of the other cairns, may well be ancient agricultural clearance. (6)
The triple funerary cairn complex, together with the adjacent cairnfield and several medieval lead smelting sites, has been designated a scheduled monument. This area of complex archaeology occupies the edge of a gritstone escarpment facing to the west. The triple cairn consists of three abutting funerary cairns with stone kerbs arranged as a linear feature and oriented east-west. The cairns have been excavated and reconstructed, leaving exposed stone on the surface. They appear to have been built one after the other - with the easternmost cairn being the oldest. Surrounding the triple cairn are at least ten or more smaller cairns, some of which appear undisturbed. They cluster to the south of the triple cairn, with more to the north east and south west. They are of various sizes, but are typically between 2m and 5m in diameter. Two are sub-rectangular in plan. While their prominent location and proximity to the triple cairn indicates the cairns are likely to be funerary in function, they could alternatively represent the remains of prehistoric agricultural clearance, or have held a dual function. (7)
Article in serial: Radley, J. 1969. 'A triple cairn and a rectangular cairn of the Bronze Age on Beeley Moor', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 89, pp 1-17.
Index: North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust (NDAT). North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust Index. 0322, 2789,.
Bibliographic reference: Marsden, B. 1977. The Burial Mounds of Derbyshire. pp 21-22.
Article in serial: Barnatt, J. 1986. 'Bronze Age remains on the East Moors of the Peak District', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 106, pp 18-100. pp 61-63, Cairnfield 39.
Unpublished document: Barnatt, J. 1989. The Peak District Barrow Survey (updated 1994). Sites 29.52, 29.53, 29.54.
Scheduling record: English Heritage. 2001. Scheduling Notification: Triple Cairn, Cairnfield and Bole Sites SW from Raven Tor. 31275. Cat. No. 511.
Photograph: Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA). Slide Collection. 1454.1.
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Centred SK 2794 6678 (255m by 284m) (Approximate)
BEELEY, DERBYSHIRE DALES, DERBYSHIRE
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Jun 8 2015 10:45AM
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