<< Our Photo Pages >> Langdale Axe Factory - Ancient Mine, Quarry or other Industry in England in Cumbria

Submitted by Thorgrim on Saturday, 17 July 2004  Page Views: 74478

Multi-periodSite Name: Langdale Axe Factory Alternative Name: Great Langdale
Country: England County: Cumbria Type: Ancient Mine, Quarry or other Industry
Nearest Town: Windermere  Nearest Village: Great Langdale
Map Ref: NY274072  Landranger Map Number: 89
Latitude: 54.454977N  Longitude: 3.121304W
4Almost Perfect
3Reasonable but with some damage
2Ruined but still recognisable as an ancient site
1Pretty much destroyed, possibly visible as crop marks
0No data.
-1Completely destroyed
4 Ambience:
2Not Good
0No data.
4 Access:
5Can be driven to, probably with disabled access
4Short walk on a footpath
3Requiring a bit more of a walk
2A long walk
1In the middle of nowhere, a nightmare to find
0No data.
2 Accuracy:
5co-ordinates taken by GPS or official recorded co-ordinates
4co-ordinates scaled from a detailed map
3co-ordinates scaled from a bad map
2co-ordinates of the nearest village
1co-ordinates of the nearest town
0no data

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Modern-Neolithic obscureed 43559959 haidij whese001 would like to visit

Anne T visited on 11th Aug 2015 - their rating: Cond: 3 Amb: 5 Access: 3 Mickleden Way, finding pointers to the Pike O'Stickle Axe Factory: I was lucky enough to win a copy of Gabriel Blamires book in a Portal photographic competition. It arrived just in time for our trip over to the Lakes on 10th/11th August. We followed Chapter 4: The Mickleden Way, having parked at the National Trust pay and display car park next to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, and headed up behind the pub onto the stoney footpath into the hills.
This is a beautiful and easy walk with Mickleden Beck in the valley to the left hand side and Langdale Fell with Pike O’Stickle to our right. We were passed by a number of small climbing parties coming back the other way. We found boulders 4.1 to 4.7. We had intended finding more but dusk stopped us in our tracks and had us retracing our steps back to the Hiker's Bar at the hotel The Pike O’Stickle Pentagon was perhaps the most dominant and impressive stone. To be found at NY 2738 0640 it stands out proudly on the hillside and is one of the more convincing markers/pointers. There has been some recent activity around both sides of the stone, with gullies being made to channel water off the hillside around it, hence it’s a bit tricky to get up to. From the banks of one of these gullies I picked up a lump of shiny black stone (now dried it is a dull green-grey with light brown inclusions) which was incredibly sharp. We later identified it as a piece of stone used for the axes, so it now sits proudly on my window ledge. As our walk continued there were so many stones and stony outcrops that we started to wonder how Gabriel Blamires had chosen the pointers he did, as there were others which equally stood out in the landscape. He has obviously done an immense amount of research to check everything out. I did get excited at boulder 4.4 as bending down to retrieve the lens cap for my camera, I noticed that the top profile of the boulder seemed to echo the pattern of the peaks above. Following the book to the letter, and thankful for our GPS, we got to boulder 4.7 before spotting what looked like an area of cairns. There are many more boulders detailed in Gabriel's book, along with some stunning walks/ways and I really look forward to finding out more. I do agree with rich32 that you would have needed ropes and parachutes to attempt to get up to the axe factory!

Andy B: would like to visit Offcuts of stone axes in the mountains - featured in Episode Three of BBC's History of Ancient Britain

DrewParsons Linanjohn have visited here

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Thorgrim : The Langdale Pikes in Great Langdale. (see article on Langdale Axes) (Vote or comment on this photo)
When Professor Bill Cummins examined nearly 2000 Neolithic axes from finds all over England and Wales, he found that 27% were made from polished greenstone volcanic tuff from Great Langdale in Cumbria.

The British Museum's 1978 catalogue of 368 Neolithic axes found in the Thames lists 15 from Langdale and they have also been found in places as far apart as Northern Ireland and Peterborough. In fact, most of the Langdale axe finds are in Lincolnshire and the east midlands. Why were these axes so prized and how did they travel so far?

The greenstone comes from the intrusion of a narrow vein of tuff in the volcanic rocks of Great Langdale. Debris and hundreds of "reject" axes have been found on the scree slopes of Pike o' Stickle. Even today, Great Langdale is remote and the climb to the source of the stone is arduous. How did Neolithic peoples know that this vein of very special stone was there in such a remote and insignificant geological fault? How did they mine it, shape the axes and then polish them to perfection? Perhaps the most intriguing question is that of distribution. Were there long trade routes over the sea to Northern Ireland and across the breadth of Britain to Peterborough and Lincolnshire? Were the axes distributed by means of long chains of gift exchanges between persons of high status?

Why were these axes so special? Many of those found in eastern England have been well worn, but others show no sign of wear at all. They are often found in wet places as if they had been deliberately placed there as offerings. The stone from Langdale is found elsewhere, so why was it specifically taken from such a high and dangerous place - frost shattered pinnacles high up on the side of one of England's remotest valleys? Did the place of origin itself have special religious significance? Were the polished axes seen more as high status symbols than working axes? Is there a parallel with the symbolic maces found in Wiltshire barrows (in Devizes Museum)? Could these highly prized axes be symbols of wealth and authority preceded by the antler batons of the Palaeolithic and succeeded by the ceremonial whetstone of Sutton Hoo, field marshals' batons and the sceptre of today's monarchy?

Alfred Wainwright: The Central Lakeland Fells
Francis Pryor: Britain BC
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Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Thorgrim : Langdale Neolithic axe factory on the Pike o' Blisco. (see article on Langdale Axes) (2 comments - Vote or comment on this photo)

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by LivingRocks : The distinctive dome of Pike of Stickle, site of the Langdale Axe Factory. Seen at dusk from Harrison Stickle. (3 comments - Vote or comment on this photo)

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by rich32 : A view of Langdale Axe Factory from the top. The lump in the middle is 'Pike of Stickle', the axe factory & scree is just to the left of the stickle. You can see a path leading up to the site from the left. (1 comment - Vote or comment on this photo)

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by m1ke : Looking down the scree near the cave. The cave is about 70-80 yards down the scree and great care is required to access it without disturbing the scree. It's a little disappointing when you've carefully picked your way down only to find scree runners sliding down behind you. (Vote or comment on this photo)

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by rich32 : Langdale Axe Factory, Cumbria, NY274072 I ventured up Langdale to take some pictures of hand axes or fragments in situ. Having forgotten to take ropes and a parachute I thought better of it and this picture of the scree will have to do. You get stunning views & a real sense of the danger that prehistoric man must have felt looking for the right stones. (5 comments - Vote or comment on this photo)

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by stu : The Pike of Stickle axe factory and the scree shoot from the neolithic quarry. NY274074

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by m1ke : Looking straight on at the cave and attempting to show some of the scree. There are lots of chippings. If there are any 'rough outs' left on the scree they are probably halfway down by now. You can just stand up in the cave and it's about as deep as it is wide. A couple of people could shelter in there easily.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : Gabriel Blamires's Mickleden 4.1 and 4.2 sit close together at the side of Grave Gill, only just above the bridle path. Without Gabriel's book, I would not have picked these two stones out of the landscape, but they definitely have the alignments Gabriel proposes. A beautiful walk, though - well worth coming.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by postman : Harrison Stickle tops the Langdale peaks, and pikes. Neolithic stone axes were made there.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Aerial-Cam : Langdale Axe rough out, this one found early in the 20th century, before the current view that these should be left where they are found. (3 comments)

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Antonine : Blake Rigg & Langdale, from Blea Tarn, 2011 (2 comments)

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Antonine : Langdale Axe Factory in the sun, from Blea Tarn, 2011

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : This is the first of the stones, identified by Gabriel Blamires as 4.1, a recumbent, slanting pentagon topped block. It is paired with a smaller lozenge topped block, Mickleden 4.2. Both sit at the side of a small stream (Grave Gill).

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : The pair of stones Mickleden 4.3 and 4.4 (an upright triangular block and slanting, triangular sided block respectively) as identified by Gabriel Blamires, which sit on the slope just above the bridle path "on open ground along the lower slope of Langdale Fell".

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : A close up of the top of Mickleden 4.4, which seems to echo the profile of the ridges above.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : This is Mickleden 4.4, a slanting triangular block, which Gabriel Blamires tells us is paired with 4.3, an upright triangular block some 20 paces away.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : Mickleden 4.5, the Pike O'Stickle pentagon, with Pike O'Stickle rising up in the background. I found it quite humbling to be standing next to this stone in such a significant landscape.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : This is boulder Micklden 4.5, the Pike O'Stickle pentagon, which is prominent in the landscape. Some modern ditches have recently been dug either side of this boulder, making it difficult to access without wellies (on the day of our visit, at least). Gabriel Blamires describes this as "an impressive upright pentagonal profile reminiscent of some stones at the great Avebury stone circle."

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : This is Mickelden 4.6, a recumbent wedge stone, with aligments SW to The Band and Oxendale, sitting at the bottom of the scree slope from Pike O'Stickle which houses the axe factory cave.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : A large boulder in the landscape near Mickleden 4.7, not described in Gabriel Blamires Book, but near to a group of what appeared to be circular cairns at the foot of Pike O'Stickle.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by Anne T : On the opposite side of the path to stone 4.7, just below the peak of Stickle O'Pike, we came across a group of what looked strongly like cairns - circular in shape, some with a vague outer bank. The circular formations of the stones contained in the piles didn't look like clearance cairns to us. What a beautiful place to be buried - on a ridge not far above Mickleden Burn with Stickle O'Pike an...

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by DrewParsons : Once you pass the cave the rock type changes dramatically as you make your way up to join the Pike of Stickle track just below its summit. This view looks back from that track towards the cave. September 2013.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by DrewParsons : Towards the cave near the top of the scree slope you enter a small gorge and in our case into the mist!! September 2013.

Langdale Axe Factory
Langdale Axe Factory submitted by DrewParsons : There are many pieces of rock which look like they are the discarded waste of some knapping work, although some may be just naturally broken pieces of stone. September 2013.

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Prehistoric Monuments of the Lake District

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"Langdale Axe Factory" | Login/Create an Account | 8 News and Comments
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The Social Context of Prehistoric Extraction Sites in the UK - Pete Topping by Andy B on Friday, 27 April 2018
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The Social Context of Prehistoric Extraction Sites in the UK - Pete Topping, 2017

The social context of mines and quarries is fundamental to the interpretation of
Neolithic stone extraction. Why did communities choose to exploit certain raw
materials in preference to others which were often more accessible? To address
this, 168 global ethnographic studies were analysed to identify common trends in
traditional extraction practices and produce robust statistics about the material
signatures of these sites.

Repeated associations emerged between storied
locations, social networks and the organisation of extraction practices on the one
hand, and features of the material world on the other (e.g. landforms, extraction
practices, structured deposition), suggesting that we can now probably identify
sites which were mythologised/storied locations, those owned, seasonally used,
and those practicing ritualised extraction - all leading to product objectification.

A second stage of analysis compared the ethnography to 223 global
archaeological sites which produced similar patterning in the material record,
while suggesting limits to interpretation. These constraints led to a revision of the
interpretive framework which was then used to analyse the published excavations
of 79 flint mines and 51 axe quarries in the UK and Ireland.

This analysis suggested that many extraction sites were special places,
deliberately distant from settlements. They followed common practices and
assemblages were carefully deposited which the framework suggests reflects
technical skill and ritualised practices, but also exclusivity – the sites probably
controlled by clans or technical specialists.

Previous analyses, particularly of
stone axes, demonstrates that many extraction site products travelled long
distances, were often unused and deposited in non-settlement contexts.
Conversely, artefacts knapped from expedient surface sources are generally
discovered in a domestic setting, which confirms the special nature of extraction
sites and their products.

Overall, this statistically-robust ethnographic probability analysis provides a more
confident foundation to model the social context of extraction sites through
detailed analysis of their structures and assemblages

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Re: Langdale Axe Factory by Andy B on Saturday, 02 September 2017
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Pastscape: http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=9705
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Stonework poetry and art book by Mark Edmonds and Rose Ferraby by Andy B on Friday, 28 July 2017
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Mike Pitts calls it a 'lovely thing'. A poem about an ancient place, by Mark Edmonds and Rose Ferraby – or as Mark describes it, “words by me, images by the two of us” – in the form of an illustrated book. It’s mostly the story of the making of a stone axe 6,000 years ago. A quarry high in the Lake District draws the maker up to find the right stone, where the axe is roughed out, then carried back down and finished; the description attempts to convey that this means more to the maker than the mere winning of a useful implement.


STONEWORK travels to an outcrop that meanders through the central Fells of Cumbria. It fastens on Neolithic quarries that lie scattered along the outcrop's sinuous line, crags worked for the making of stone axe blades around 6000 years ago.

STONEWORK explores the work that left such an abiding mark upon the Fells. It is concerned with what the place and the labour once meant to people. The journey and the climb, the power of the outcrop, the binding of stone and skill to identity.

STONEWORK is an experiment with a different way of telling, a use of words and images that respond directly to the work, to the qualities that people recognised in the stone and the values that they realised, unspoken, through their bodies.

The book is £22.50 + p&p from here

and there is a Q&A with Mark Edmonds here
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Re: Langdale Axe Factory by Anne T on Sunday, 04 June 2017
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Visitors without a climbing experience, a head for heights or even a rope or parachute might not be able to get up to the actual axe factory cave, but the walk along Mickleden Beck to stand at the bottom of the slope of Pike O'Stickle and look up is certainly a lovely, lovely walk.

Combine this with a visit to Copt Howe and Grasmere to see the cup-marked rocks and perhaps take in St. Olaf's Church at Wasdale Head with the Viking timbers incorporated into the roof trusses.
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County Clare Langdale axe - picture !! by Blingo_von_Trumpenstein on Wednesday, 27 April 2011
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Hi Sean,
The Langdale from Doolin, County Clare is an interesting beast. It is not a hand axe and would have originally been hafted with wood, antler or even bone. It does not surprise me that it got that far from home - they are found all over England - hundreds of miles from Pike O Stickle. I found some images for you:

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/claremuseum/acquisitions/polished_greenstone_axe.htm http://menmedia.co.uk/tamesideadvertiser/community/s/1094765_the_lakes_has_an_axe_to_grind

Pretty classic thin butted Langdale axe. One look at it makes me think it is a Langdale immediately - they are very distinctive. Visit Kendal Museum to see lots of flaked examples all next to each other. I have handled polished Langdales in museums all over England. Some get close to 30cm long !!
The green tuff that is so distinctive is officially called "epitodised ash". I see no signs of petrological analysis so they probably do not know for certain it came from Langdale (I would bet on it though) but the above story does say it has been analysed. I'm always up for stone axe discussion so post back if you want any more info . . .

Rock on,

Blingo von T
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Re: Langdale Axe Factory by Anonymous on Friday, 22 April 2011
Hi, I'm interested in a photo of a green tuff hand axe from \langdale which was found in county Clare, can anybody locate a photo for me please. Have seen one in a museum in Dublin I think, but not great image quality.
Sean Wood
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6000-Year-Old Trade Link Between Clare & Cumbria Identified by coldrum on Thursday, 11 September 2008
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Clare Museum and the Irish Stone Axe Project (ISAP) at University College Dublin have uncovered evidence of a 6000-year-old trade link between Ireland and Great Britain.

A stone axe uncovered in Doolin, County Clare in 2000 was this week confirmed as having likely originated in the Great Langdale and Scafell areas of Cumbria.

According to John Rattigan, Curator of Clare Museum, 'The linking of this stone axe with Cumbria suggests there was contact between Neolithic people in Ireland and in mainland Great Britain.'

The Neolithic or ‘New Stone
Age' (4000-2500BC) is generally regarded as the period in which Ireland became a predominantly agricultural-based society.

As well as being the first Irish farmers, the people of this period were the creators of field systems and the builders of great tombs such as those found in the Burren in County Clare. Tools, usually in the form of stone axes, were used to clear great tracts of oak and elm woodland, which covered most of the country.

'Studies on the finely polished implement have found that it is different to the typical dark grey shale axes produced at a site close to the cobble beach at Doolin. More significantly, petrological analysis indicates that the pale green axe was of a type of stone known as tuff, which is typical of the tools produced in Cumbria. This discovery reinforces suggestions that trade links existed between the west of Ireland and western Britain during the Neolithic era', stated Mr. Rattigan.

The stone axe will be on display at Clare Museum in Ennis from tomorrow (Tuesday May 20). Also included for display will be a recently conserved bronze axehead acquired by the museum in 2004.

Mr. Rattigan explained, 'This socketed and looped axehead was discovered at Knockliscrane in Kilmurry-Ibrickane, County Clare. Although badly damaged by time and weathering the metal has been conserved and stabilised, thus ensuring its survival into the future.'

Clare Museum acquired a collection of archaeological objects from Doolin townland in North Clare in 2000.

As a designated museum under the National Monuments Act the museum was legally entitled to retain these objects on behalf of the state. Wishing to know a bit more about the axes in its care and wanting to contribute to a national study, the implements were sent to Irish Stone Axe Project (ISAP) at UCD in Dublin for analysis in November 2007.

The aim of the ISAP is to establish a database of all known Irish stone axes and analyse the data to enhance knowledge of the different types, roles and significance of stone axes in Ireland.

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Re: Langdale Axe Factory by Anonymous on Thursday, 31 May 2007
The nearest town is Ambleside not Windermere, sorry to be picky, and Langdale isnt exactly remote when compared to other Lake District valleys, such as Ennerdale for example
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