Standingstone Rigg

Northern end of the Standingstone Rigg stone feature. View from south © Anne T.

Location

England Northumberland Rest of England NY 81482 73163
Lat 55.05263   Long -2.2914

A plan of the stone feature by Oxford Archaeology, North and North of the Wall Tynedale Archaeology Group is available here.

Characteristics

Type: Double Length: 134m
No. of stones: 100 Size of stones: Small, medium and large
Orientation: 22.5° Altitude: 259m
Upper end: – Lower end: –
Straight (Yes or No)  : No Sea View: No
Context:  Cairn
Notes: Plan of feature available on Tynedale Archaeology Group link

Other Information

Public Access:  Yes
Land Status: Northumberland National Park
Scheduled Ancient Monument: No

Identification

Category: Unlikely. There are a number of separate and connected reasons for doubting the prehistoric stone row interpretation of this site:-

  • In places there seems to be a rubble bank between the upright stones.
  • At one point near to the sheep fold there is a clear lynchet along the orientation of the feature
  • At the northern end, the feature descends a very steep slope.  No other row is known to do this.
  • A line of lines at NY 81514 73328 suggests that the feature turns at a right angle and heads east from NY 81499 73317. Severe shifts of alignment such as this are not a characteristic of stone rows but are common in field boundaries
  • The spacing between the rows is inconsistent
  • The form of the feature is similar to prehistoric boundary walls
  • The southern part of the feature is orientated on a pronounced kink in a boundary bank.

On the basis of the available evidence it would therefore appear unlikely that this feature represents the remains of a prehistoric stone row and instead is more likely to be the partly robbed remains of a field boundary, probably of prehistoric date because historic boundaries in the vicinity appear to be of the ditch and bank type.

Photographs

View from the top of the ridge, slightly west of the cairn, looking south west along the top of the spur of land, at about 45° to the feature© Anne T.

The northern end of the feature, looking north. © Anne T.

View from of the ridge/spur of land, by the tallest stones in the feature. The bank leading between the stones is clearly visible. View from the north east © Anne T.

At the top of the ridge showing the largest (visible) block in the feature, looking towards west across the feature to the end of the spur of land © Anne T.

The northern length of the feature. View from the west © Anne T.

The northern end of the feature, taken looking south up the steep escarpment slope © Anne T.

 

View from above at NY 81482 73208 looking north along the feature (Scale 1m).

 View from above at NY 81480 73208 looking north along the feature (Scale 1m).

View from above at NY 81481 73220 looking south along the feature (Scale 1m). The edge set stone is clearly aligned across the orientation of the feature.

View from above at NY 81481 73261 looking north along the feature showing the stones approaching the steep scarp (Scale 1m).

The standing stones approaching the steep scarp. View from west and above from NY 81478 73264 (Scale 1m).

The standing stones approaching the steep scarp. View from north east and above from NY 81499 73283 (Scale 1m).

The standing stones approaching the steep scarp. View from north and above from NY 81491 73277 (Scale 1m).

The feature on the southern side of the scarp. View from the south at NY 81492 73082.

Stones at NY 81480 73204. View from south (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81480 73204. View from north (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81480 73204. View from east (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81480 73204. View from north east (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81480 73207. View from north (Scale 1m).

Small stones at NY 81485 73228 could represent the remains of a rubble bank or packing. View from north east (Scale 1m).

A cluster of small stones and a clearly defined lynchet following the orientation of the stones strongly suggests that the feature represents the remains of a boundary wall.

Stones at NY 81488 73252. View from north (Scale 1m).

The line of stones approaching the top of the steep scarp. View from the south.

Stones at NY 81488 73252. View from south (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81488 73252. View from west (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81486 73257. View from north (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81488 73261. View from south (Scale 1m). Along this length of the feature the stones appear to be protruding from a rubble bank. This suggests that it is more likely to represent a field boundary.

Stones at NY 81489 73269. View from north (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81489 73269. View from west (Scale 1m). The stones in this area are positioned very close to each other. Whilst rows consisting of small stones often have stones positioned close together this is not a recognised characteristic of rows comprising large stones.

Stones at NY 81489 73269. View from north west (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81489 73269. View from north east (Scale 1m).

What a difference a day makes. Same view as above but taken during a second visit. View from north east (Scale 1m).

Stones at NY 81489 73269. View from south east (Scale 1m).

Stones at the foot of the steep scarp at NY 81499 73308. View from west (Scale 1m).

Stones at the foot of the steep scarp at NY 81499 73308. View from north (Scale 1m). The near stone may have been cut and appears to occupy a superficial position which may mean that it is either not in its original position or has been placed here relatively recently.

Stones at the foot of the steep scarp at NY 81499 73308. View from north west (Scale 1m).

Stones at the foot of the steep scarp at NY 81499 73308. View from north (Scale 1m). The sinuous form of the feature does not detract from a prehistoric row interpretation, but it is perhaps surprising that the stones have not been overcome by soil accumulation in this area.  This would suggest that they are more likely to have been placed here during the historic period rather than during prehistoric times, but this contradicts the form of the site which is more typically prehistoric. Another enigma.

A further line of stones at NY 81514 73328 probably represents a continuation of the feature, which would mean that it has turned a right-angle. Stone rows never do this, but field boundaries often do. View from east (Scale 1m).

View from the east showing the position of the stones at NY 81514 73328 relative to the northern length of the feature. The position of the stones is highlighted with a red line.

Stones at NY 81514 73328. The similarity with the stones forming the feature identified as a stone row is obvious.

A large slab at NY 81532 73320 may form part of the feature. View from east (Scale 1m).

A small cairn (NY 81499 73283) situated at the top of the steep scarp a short distance to the east of the feature. View from the south (Scale 1m).

A line of stones at NY 81492 73082 over 100m south of the feature may represent a natural outcrop or another length of stone walling.

Comparisons

Field boundaries formed by large stones are known in the archaeological record in Northumberland. At a couple of locations in Rothbury Forest, boundaries which look exactly like the feature at Standingstone Rigg are known to survive.  They are considered to be prehistoric in date.  It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between field boundaries of this form and stone rows but generally if there is the slightest trace of a connecting rubble bank and they make sharp changes in orientation it is possible to be fairly confident that the feature is a boundary rather than a stone row. Where there is no sign of associated bank, there are no sharp changes in orientation and it is not obviously associated with other boundaries it is more likely to be a stone row.

A line of stones associated with an almost imperceptible bank in Rothbury Forest at NU 06074 00018. View from north west (Scale 1m).

The slightest of banks connect this line of stones at NZ 05653 98994. This feature form part of a field system associated with a nearby hillfort. View from north west (Scale 1m).

A double-faced wall at NZ 05578 99006 which bears a passing resemblance to a double stone row, forms part of a field system associated with a nearby hillfort. View from south east.

A line of edge set stones at NZ 05592 99043 looks to all intents and purposes like a stone row, but it forms part of a field system formed by similar looking boundaries. View from east (Scale 1m). 

Access Information

Limited car parking is available at NY 83118 75082. From here follow the track south looking out for the small four-stone circle at NY 82942 74717. Follow the track past Great Lonbrough and onto the access land at NY 81612 73313. From here it is a short walk west to the stones.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Phil Bowyer, North of the Wall, Tynedale Archaeological Group for showing me around the site, discussing its interpretation and sharing his considerable knowledge of the area.

Online Resources 

Megalithic Portal     Tynedale Archaeology Group

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