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Site record MDR7634 - Creswell Crags, Creswell, Hodthorpe and Belph

Type and Period (2)

  • (Undated)
  • (Middle Palaeolithic to Post Medieval - 150000 BC to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Creswell Crags is a natural gorge running approximately east-west through the narrow magnesian limestone ridge. Only the northern side of the gorge lies within Derbyshire, the southern side being in Nottinghamshire. A series of caves on the northern and southern sides of the gorge have produced highly valuable evidence relating to settlement and environment from the Middle Palaeolithic onwards. Exploration in the Creswell area only commenced at a relatively late date in the 19th century. Many of the caves were occasionally visited by travellers from the 1700s onwards, but there were few good communication routes and the way through the gorge was very narrow. The first known archaeological discovery within the Creswell Crags gorge itself was made in 1873, when 'fossil bones' were observed eroding from the rear of a cattle byre that occupied the mouth of Church Hole Cave. Over the course of the following century, numerous excavations have been carried out in the various caves and rock shelters, which together provide a wide range of information revealing a complex history. (1) Creswell Crags Gorge, environmental and human occupation remains on valley floor and in caves. Whole area scheduled (Derbyshire 275 and Nottinghamshire 183), all except Severn Trent Caves are in SSSI. Access was gained to all the published caves (some in Derbyshire and some in Nottinghamshire) and excavation was seen to have taken place in each. (2, 5, 6) Creswell Crags contains some of the most celebrated Palaeolithic cave sites in Britain and has generated an extremely large published literature, with respect to primary field studies, to secondary studies of artefacts, fossils and sediments, and to broader synthetic studies. Examination started at a relatively early date and the sites have contributed to the historical development of the discipline, notably concerning the debate over the association between man and extinct animals, the argument over whether or not animal remains found in caves were used/modified by humans as tools, and the stratigraphic and cultural subdivision of British Palaeolithic artefact assemblages. The Crags provided the type-site for the Creswellian Industry (Later Upper Palaeolithic, centred upon a time some twelve thousand years ago), now recognised as far afield as Belgium and Northern France. A few examples of mobile art (engraved bone) and human skeletal remains have been recovered, material which is exceedingly rare in the British context. The sites also contain Earlier Upper Palaeolithic material (arguably from more than one industry and dating from periods some thirty-five to twenty-five thousand years ago) and an important suite of Middle Palaeolithic material (presumably made by Neanderthal Man during periods between eighty to forty thousand years ago). Traces of even earlier, Lower Palaeolithic material have been claimed, although never substantiated. The Creswell caves also contain traces of later archaeology, often apparently from isolated burials), including the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British periods. (3) In early 2006 the old road through the middle of Creswell Crags was closed, following the construction of a new road which by-passed the gorge. This was carried out as part of the 2001 Creswell Crags Conservation Plan, which also includes the construction of a new visitors centre at the eastern end of the Crags, partly within the boundary of the scheduled area. (4)

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Monograph: Jenkinson, R. 1984. Creswell Crags: Late Pleistocene Sites in the East Midlands, British Archaeological Reports 122.
  • <2> Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1988. Scheduling Notification: Palaeolithic and Later Prehistoric Sites at Creswell Gorgeā€¦... 275.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Collcutt, S (UMAU). 1997. Proposed Extension to Whitwell Quarry, Derbyshire. Environmental Statement - Cultural Heritage Issues..
  • <4> Unpublished document: Lewis, B, Appleton, E & MacIntosh, A (TPAU). 2006. Desk-based assessment of the new visitors centre, Creswell Crags, Derbyshire.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Smith, K, Little, J & Bishop, M. The prehistoric heritage of the Creswell area, a strategy for conservation.
  • <6> Index: Nottinghamshire County Council. 2015. Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record monument details full report: Creswell Crags, Holbeck (M4373).



Grid reference Centred SK 5354 7422 (923m by 587m) Centre

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Please contact the HER for details.

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Record last edited

Feb 12 2024 3:05PM

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