Whinny Hill

Enclosed Cremation Cemetery - Northumberland

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NU 09452 27736 (GPS 13min).  Diameter 11.6m, bank (Meas.)
Visited July 2003

The Enclosed Cremation Cemetery is a type of monument which has only recently been recognised as a distinct class in its own right. Because the classification is recent, the defining characteristics and typological distinctions are still being evolved.
These monuments are vaguely hengi-form, consisting of an oval or circular space enclosed by a bank and ditch, the important distinction being the location of the bank external to the ditch. As with henges, the ditch may not be continuous, it may be broken by entranceways. The main feature of the interior space in these monuments is the cremation pit, distribution within the space can vary, as can pit size and number. The cremations may simply be added to the pit backfill or can exist as single deposits, grave-goods have been found in some cremation pits. The dating of these monuments is uncertain, but it has been argued that  they are the antecedents of later Bronze Age Ring Cairns, which would probably suggest a late Neolithic timeframe.

The Whinny Hill Enclosed Cremation Cemetery lies just NE of the hill crest on top of the ridge. We could see no sign of a ditch, but there was a bank 11.6m in diameter, a good arc of the stones making up the bank was exposed at the NW. Even where the stones were not exposed, the rise of the bank was evident. Apart from the bank, there is very little else to see at the site, the interior space did appear to be a little "lumpy" but the heather moor that monument stands on has a naturally uneven texture.
The whole area of the Whinny Hill ridge is dotted with the low mounds of cairns and about 200m over the hill crest to the SW stands Whinny Hill stone circle.

Perhaps the most famous example of an Enclosed Cremation Cemetery is Stonehenge Phase 1, this was a much grander monument being 90m in diameter and perhaps having associated standing stones and timber posts. Despite their present rarity, we have actually visited another Enclosed Cremation Cemetery, this monument was in Scotland where it was associated with the magnificent Loanhead of Daviot recumbent  stone circle. Although we did not measure the diameter of the Loanhead cemetery, it is certainly visually very similar to the Whinny Hill example.

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