Ever since prehistoric times man has had a need to surround his land with a means of containing his livestock and excluding other animals and people from it. Whilst wood has been used to make fences these do not tend to survive. The use of trees and bushes to form hedges has been in use from early times also. However in upland areas were I am most interested the use of stone to build walls around fields and buildings etc. have been very common.

The entrance into these fields (gateways) need some form of control and the use of stone to hold the obstacle in place lead to the development of gateposts. 


Most people usually think of walls as being built with layers of stone stacked on top of each other. They usually use stone that is to hand either what is lying on the land, which usually allow the field being produced to be cleared of stone to make cultivation easier. On the fell where boundary walls were constructed either between different manors or after commons were enclosed. Stone for walling could be obtained from either local quarries in the lowlands, field clearance or just collected from the surrounding areas. Or small quarries could be opened up next to the route of the wall if suitable walling stone was available just under the surface soil. In some aras these small quarries are known as Borrow pits.




Small quarry scraps on Roundhill NY744 364. With boundary wall in the background between the two manors. (See boundary stone) 



 Most walls are built of two skins of stones with small stones packed between to fill the voids. Larger stones are placed usually in courses to cover both skins and hold them together. In some areas these 'throughs' project out of the sides of the wall.




A wall under construction with 'flaggy sandstones' it shows the large throughs as a layer holding the skins of the wall together.




The same wall showing the two sides with the small stones packed between.




The finnished wall with some of the large throughs protruding  from the wall.



In areas of slate were large slabs of slate are available then they can be used by standing on edge next to each other to form a barrier.In the Lake District these are known as 'slate fences'. 


A' slate fence' at Troutbeck.

slate fence 

A better maintained one with squared slates around Ambleside Church and the neighbouring park.










 Most field are surrounded by the local stone types, Some of these like sandstones etc. are easily dressed into squarish blocks, or occur in flat sheets (flags) which allow a more organised wall to be formed. Other stones like granites etc. tend to form round stones and are not so easily dressed and so the walls look more random.


 A wall made of pink Shap granite boulders. (Wasdale Head Shap)


























 Stonewall Langdale made from random stones probably from field clearances. Small pieces of slate used to level up stones and pack gaps.


















A series of walls in Eskdale (Cumbria) made from random blocks of Eskdale granite.



















A wall in Galloway, southern Scotland, built with rounded granite boulders. 








 A similar wall but here a low plinth of smaller stones has been formed before the larger boulders have been placed on top.





wall incnadamph


Wall above Inchnadamph Northern Highlsnds. The bottom is of relatively small stones with large stones on edge at the top.






The top row of stones, copestones or cam stones, usually go across the full width of the wall and tend to be higher than the normal courses. The wall below uses the same type of stones as the wall. The coping stones stabilise the wall by tying both sides together and by being large and heavy give pressure to the upper courses.





Field wall in Green Burn with 'slate' coping stones.




A limestone wall outside the village of Soulby in the Eden valley, which has red sandstone semicircular capings. This uses both of the local stones.


Stone walls were not only used for to divide up land into fields etc. but also used as holdingpens for animals especially sheep on open commons and moors etc. and also in field corners. (See SHEEP STRUCTURES.) 


It was usual to put a wall around the enclosed land, to seperate it from the unenclosed rough grazing of the fell.




Section of the fell wall at Seathwaite. Note the pig netting above the wall to stop sheep climbing up the wall and over.


These fell walls occasionally came up against large rocks and the wall was is built over it.




Fell wall built over a large earth fast boulder Seathwaite.

limestone wall arnside


A lenght of limestone walling in the Arnside area.


shap limestone wall


A lenght of limestone walling in the Shap area with small thin slabs of limestone.

shap granite wall foundatio

Slightly to the south of Shap the fields become covered with Shap granite erratics these have been cleared to the side of the field where they are used as foundations for the wall made of smaller limestone slabs.


large block walling

A wall made from large limestone blocks held together with iron cramps allong the top on a bridge at Leighton Moss.






Wall running along the ridge of  Calf seperating the old county of Westmorland and Yorkshire.





One the problems with fell walls is that they have to cross streams descending from the fells, small streams are usually crossed by using a long flat stone as a lintel.




Small sream passing through fell wall Seathwaite. 

In sheep areas there used to be a need to allow lambs to graze the fresh grass in the field next to the field where the adult ewes are grazing. To allow this a hole is usually formed in the walllarge enough to let the lamb through but small enough to prevent the ewes getting through. These are usually formed by placing a stone lintel over the hole in the wall.






A hogg hole next to a stile (wensleydale)







An ornate sheep creep with a formed arch on the B6277 near the Garrigill cross roads.


There is also a need to allow people to cross a wall on  a route of a footpath. This is usually achieved by placing a 'Stile' in the wall. The simplest stile is to just leave a gap in the wall this can be made narrower by placing slabs in the gap. These prevent sheep easily squeezing through.





A typical Dales squeeze stile.





A similar arrangement but the base of the stile is raised up to prevent sheep easily accessing it.

 In walls near houses nooks were formed to allow bee skeps to be kept in, these were called Bee Boles.


 A series of nooks in a south facing wall near Kirkoswald suitable for bee skeps

 It is normal in some places to put a lenght of wire fencing either a strand or some netting allong the top of the wall to prevent sheep climbing over the wall usually from the unenclosed rough grazing to the better quality grazing on the enclosed land. Normally long posts are used to hold the wire up, these are normally just lent against the wall possibly on alternative sides. They may be held in place with pieces of wire passed through the wall. however a more ornate method of securing the posts can be seen on a track side near Grasmere. slates are passed through the wall as 'throughs' and holes have been put through them to allow the post to pass through and so stand upright and preven them falling.

fence support in slate


It is nearly impossible to date a dry stone wall and in most cases the wall that we see now has probably been rebuilt at least once in its life. However some walls are dateable, these are the ones that were built at the time of the parlimentary enclosures. This occurred during the period 1604 and 1904 (the majority was between 1750 and 1850). During this period there was a drive to improve agriculture by the enclosure i.e. putting walls or hedges around fields thus enclosing it. These enclosures were applied to the medieval open fields and also the common grazing areas, commons. A surveyor was usually appointed who mapped the area to be enclosed then he split the ground up in to sections in proportion to the rights that each person had originally on the common or field. To make this splitting up easy most of the divisions were made by straight lines. The type of boundary division was stipulated in the enclosure act, and in those areas where stone was the normal means of dividing fields the size of the walls was stipulated as at Kirkby Moor near kirkby Lonsdale where the walls were to be

          ' built at a height of 6 ft  with top stones set edgewise and no more than 6 or 7 inches deep.Through stones were to be installed at three levels and the walls were to stand on foundations 3ft 6ins wide'.





Before hinges were used regularly on gates, the gateway was blocked with poles etc. These could be slotted through holes in the gate posts. In the central Lake District large slabs of slate were set on edge and holes to take the poles were cut through the slabs. Some of these holes were circular and occasionally they are square. It is thought that the square holes prevented the bars being knocked out easily when animals rub against it.







A variation on this theme seen in sandstone gateposts is to cut grooves in the post to allow the bars to be slide in and then locked.











 This slate gate post (round holes) has a date of 1799 inscribed on it.





North Cumbria has two sources of red sandstone which has been quarried commercialy. The St Bees Sandstone in the west of the county and the Lazonby sandstones in the Eden Valley and around Penrith.


Gatepost were produced commercially and sold throughout the region.  


A pair of sandstone gateposts at Whinney Brow on sandstonegateposts-above-ke

Latrigg above Keswick. This is an area of Skiddaw slate and so sandstone gate posts will have to have been brought into the area


















A dressed red sandstone gate post Dalemain Estate.




































A solid square Red Sandstone gatepost with chamfered corners and dressing on the faces (Kirkland).











 A pair of large ornate fieldgate posts. These are opposite the College at Kirkoswald and next to the path leading to the church, neither of which have similar ornate gateposts. They were probably originally outside the College and were moved when th eCollege was altered in the 1820s.












A pair of octagonal sandstone gate posts at Great Corby, part of Corby Castle estate. 









 moorhouse hallgatepost

Red sandstone gate posts into field next to gateway into Moorhouse Hall, Warwick on Eden.


Dating from 18th Century with 19th century iron gate.







little corby hall gate pill


A red St Bees gate pillar at  Little Corby Hall, Litle Corby.


A date has been inscribed on it when the hall was updated by Philip Howard.















newbiggin field gate



A yellow octagonal field gate post next to Newbiggin Hall Carleton NY 43385 51011.













newbiggin hall gate


A similar but more ornate pilllar is at the entrance to the main hall. Unfortunately alot of the detail has now been lost due to erosion. 
















gatepost-shap-gA gatepost made of pink Shap Granite at Wasdale Head (Shap). 















 shap gatepost

 A better dressed gate post in pink shap granite in a field near Shap.











 A similar gatepost which is square with a point on the top in Rosgill.shap granite gatepost point














limestone gatepost

A large limestone gate post and a squeeze style. Arnside area.















A harr hung gate is were the gate has some form of projection top and bottom which fit into a socket in an over hang of the gate post at the top and bottom which allows it to pivot on those points. 

This form of hinge was used by the Romans for their fort gates. It is mentioned in the Norse saga "Beowulf" during an epic struggle between the hero and a monster, the door of the hall were 'burst from off their harrs'.


A gate at on Dubbs road Applethwaite Common (NY 419 027) A metal pin attached to thew top of the gate fits into a socket in a massive piece of rock projecting out from the top of the wall.







A gate pillar built from dressed blocks NY403 072, Grasmere.