Hawksworth Shaw, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairnfield:  OS Grid Reference – SE 143 439

Also Known as:

  1. Hawksworth Moor cairnfield (2)

Getting Here

Curious small ‘long cairn’ (photo © James Elkington)

It’s a bittova pain-in-the-arse locating this site unless you’re into walking off-path, through excessive dense heather  or burnt coarse ground.  You can either follow the directions to the Black Beck tomb, or set off from Horncliffe Circle and walk up parallel to the fencing for nearly 300 yards (275m).  From here, walk due east for nearly half a mile through the deep heather until you reach an overgrown track that keeps you eastwards towards a line of grouse butts abaat 275 yards (250m) on.   Naathen, walk on the north-side of this path-track and for a few yards and you’ll begin to see either small piles of stones, or heather-covered mounds.  Zig-zag about.  You’re in the middle of the cemetery!

Archaeology & History

This cairnfield, or burial ground, or necropolis (choose whichever term you prefer) is a bittova beauty!  Although some of the tombs here had been ‘officially’ noticed a few years back, the magnitude of it was understated to say the least.  On a visit to the place a few months ago in the middle of one fuckova downpour, James Elkington and I found not only the large Black Beck tomb, but scattered clusters of many more cairns.  But it wasn’t until a few weeks after that we got a longer time to check it over and, even then, I think the job was only half-done.  So this site profile is merely an overview of some of what we found there.  Along with the Black Beck tomb, we found more than thirty examples of prehistoric cairns—probably Bronze Age in nature—around the Hawksworth Shaw area near the middle of Hawksworth Moor, scattered around (seemingly) in no particular order.

…and another one…
Round cairn in foreground

Three types of cairns were identified in this large cairnfield.  The majority of them are of the standard circular form, averaging 3-4 yards across and rising to about two feet high.  They are of the same architectural form as those found in the Hawksworth Moor cairnfield 4-500 yards northwest of here (there is the possibility that the two of them are part of the same necropolis, but unless we can locate an unbroken continuity between the two groups, it’s best to present them as separate clusters).  When we looked at them a couple of weeks ago, most cairns of the ’round’ type were overgrown, albeit in low growth, as a couple of the photos here show.  The main cluster of the round cairns are just a few yards off the aforementioned track, but there are others scattered here and there at other points on this part of the moorland.  A number of these cairns seem to have have been damaged and robbed of stones to build a line of grouse butts close by.

One of the ‘long cairns’
Another ‘long cairn’ during an utter downpour!

The second type of cairn in the necropolis—close to the main cluster of round cairns—are curious small, long cairns.  Each one of them measures between 8-10 yards in length, are up to three yards across, and rise to a height of about one yard.  They are built of the usual mass of small stones typical of the huge number of other cairns on Rombalds Moor, but have been constructed in an elongated form, in contrast to the more usual circular ones.  Four of them are very close to each other with a fifth further away from this main group.  A sixth one appears to be under the heather 50-60 yards away to the northeast.  Unlike some of the nearby round cairns, this group looks as if it’s barely been touched by the hand of man, with only fallen scatters of stones around the outer edges of them.  Tis an interesting group…

Small cairn, 50 yards N of Black Beck cairn
Small cairn 100 yard SE of Black Beck tomb (photo © James Elkington)

The third architectural cairn-types are scattered unevenly across the necropolis and are characterized as smaller, mini-versions of the round cairns, i.e, small piles of stones between 1-2 yards across and and just one or two feet high.  Each of this type of cairn are more deeply embedded in the peat with more vegetational growth covering them due to their small size.  This makes them much more difficult to see in comparison to their larger  compatriots.  One example (at SE 1423 4404) can be seen in the photo, above left, some 50-60 yards north of the Black Beck tomb; with another, above right, some 100 yards away to the southeast.  There is the possibility they may be so-called ‘clearance cairns’, although I have some doubts about this and believe they are more likely to be individual graves…. but I could be wrong…

There’s little doubt that other tombs are hiding away in this area, waiting for fellow antiquarians to uncover them.  Equally probable is the existence of hut circles or similar living-quarters lost beneath the heather.  Two such sites have been found on recent ventures here: one a short distance west of the Black Beck tomb and another hiding away nearly 300 yards southwest, right beside the Black Beck.  The main thing lacking up here are cup-and-ring stones.  Apart from several uninspiring cup-marked rocks it seems few exist hereby; but there are, no doubt, some hiding away that have been hidden for millenia…

One final thing: the grid-reference given for this necropolis is based loosely on where some of the cairns can be found, but there are others whose positions lies slightly beyond that grid-ref, as you’ll find if you potter about.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos.  Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional input…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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