England's Rock Art

Durham County Council, Historic England, Northumberland County Council, Ilkley Archaeology Group, Newcastle University, 2021.

Data copyright © Newcastle University, Historic England, Northumberland County Council, Durham County Council, Ilkley Archaeology Group unless otherwise stated

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Primary contact

Sara Rushton
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
NE61 2EF

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  • ADS Collection: 836


Over the past 30 years the rock art of the North East of England has received much attention, with major projects culminating in the creation of England's Rock Art (ERA) database, and further work both extending the scope and refining the recording methodology. These different studies drew together experienced amateurs; academics; local government archaeologists; heritage managers; technical specialists; and many local people. This work has significantly raised the profile of this under-studied and under-managed aspect of our prehistoric past and increased our understanding and appreciation of these fascinating carved stones. Here you can find out more about these projects:

The Beckensall Archive of Northumberland Rock Art (2002 - 2004)

Digitising a rock art legacy.

The Beckensall Archive of Northumberland Rock Art Project (2002-2004) sought to conserve and disseminate the extensive records of Dr Stan Beckensall who donated his archive to the Museum of Antiquities at Newcastle University (to be transferred to the Great North Museum). Recognising the significance of Beckensall's Northumberland rock art archive and the need to make it widely available, Professor Geoff Bailey, Dr Clive Waddington and Glyn Goodrick obtained an Arts and Humanities Research Board Resource Enhancement Grant for a project entitled Web Access to Rock Art: the Beckensall Archive of Northumberland Rock Art. The work was undertaken by Dr Aron Mazel and his team at Newcastle University who digitised the records and made them publicly available through an interactive website. Launched to acclaim in 2005, it has provided a platform for future study.

In 2011 the data from the Newcastle University website was replicated in the ERA database and website.

About Stan Beckensall

Stan Beckensall's archive developed over 40 years starting in the 1960s, represents the primary source of information on the website. Beckensall's records include life-size rubbings, final drawings, photographs (including colour slides, and colour and monochrome negatives and prints), locational information, excavation reports, and descriptive commentary about the rock carvings.

Beckensall's record has been added during the Northumberland Rock Art project (2002-2004) by Aron Mazel with Beckensall himself. As a result of the project new panels have been located in the field and additional site information has been provided by Philip Deakin and Manuella Walker of the Border Archaeological Society, Ian and Irene Hewitt, farmers, and members of the public. All together, some 720 panels in the countryside were visited during the Northumberland Rock Art project, were re-photographed, and had their locations fixed using Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.

Mazel made repeat visits to 560 panels, where he completed panel reports to collect information relating to: panel identification, environmental setting and surface of panel, panel type and archaeological context, art, and management and conservation. Much of this information has been presented in the 'Environmental' and 'Management' sections of the individual panel reports.

The Northumberland & Durham Rock Art Pilot Project (2004 - 2008)

Developing volunteer recording in the North East

The Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Pilot Project (NADRAP) was funded by English Heritage and managed by Northumberland and Durham County Councils. The project ran from 2004-2008, and involved around 100 volunteers. New recording techniques were piloted and a standardised rock art recording methodology developed. Over 1500 rock art panels were captured using a variety of approaches including photography and photogrammetry. The current condition of each panel was assessed and potential threats were noted. This information will help heritage managers make informed decisions about conserving and managing the rock panels for the future. A number of specialist studies were also undertaken, including landscape surveys, an analysis of sandstone weathering, and the use of laser scanning for monitoring erosion. The project also sought to raise awareness of the rock art with other members of the local community, working with the Newcastle Society for Blind People, and running guided walks.

Carved Stone Investigations: Rombalds Moor (2010 - 2013)

Recording a rock art landscape in West Yorkshire

The CSIRM project, which ran from 2010-2013, was one of several initiatives developed within the award winning Watershed Landscape Project (WLP), a wide ranging project covering six major themes, including the Historic Environment and managed by Pennine Prospects. The WLP project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and LEADER programme. In 2012 it was a finalist in the National Lottery Awards, and won the UK Landscape Award; in 2013 it was awarded a Laureate in the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage and Europa Nostra Awards for its work in the area of 'Education, Training and Awareness-raising'.

CSIRM drew on the methodology and experience of the NADRAP Project, applying these to a small area of West Yorkshire centred on Rombalds Moor which has a very high concentration of rock art. Around 35 local people were trained to undertake the recording of the carved stones and around 500 records were added to ERA in 2013, including 42 brand new discoveries. The volunteers also developed a new landscape survey recording methodology using Google Earth satellite images, which were also used by other volunteer-led initiatives within the Watershed Landscape Project. The project built upon existing records initially created in the 1970s by the Ilkley Archaeology Group (latterly maintained by Dr Keith Boughey), allowing insight into the degree of weathering that has occurred over the intervening years.

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