Finding Shelter on the Eastern Moors

Eastern Moors, Peak District

The Eastern Moors sit within the Peak District National Park, on the edges of Sheffield, and are jointly managed by the National Trust and RSPB as the Eastern Moors Partnership. This landscape is special not only for its wildlife but also for its extensive archaeology and cultural history. Margaret and Robert, two of our dedicated archaeology volunteers, tells us more.

Littered across the East Moors are numbers of small structures usually constructed of random stones, and now frequently tumbled and overgrown. Often built against walls or boulders, they probably provided workshops or shelters for farmers, shepherds or stone-workers and their livestock.

Ruined structure near Warren's Lodge
Ruined shelter near Warren's Lodge, Eastern Moors
Ruined structure near Warren's Lodge

One typical example can be seen just east of Warren Lodge near Curbar Gap. Carved into a large boulder are five slots to support a lean-to roof, with another square socket lower down, perhaps for a wind-break. To the west of the boulder, other slots and notches suggest the presence of another shelter, maybe for animals. A cross carved into the rock-face is also visible (illustrated below); is this a mason’s mark or for luck? As here, these shelters are often found near stone or millstone working areas – you can see pits and worked rocks just east of this shelter. Sometimes you can see scars on the edges of the boulders near shelters, where tools have been sharpened, and troughs to quench worked tools. An example of the latter lies just west of the footpath from Warren Lodge to Bee Wood near SK 254 753.

A cross carved onto the shelter near Warren's Lodge - a mason's mark or carved for luck?
Carved cross on shelter near Warrens Lodge, Eastern Moors
A cross carved onto the shelter near Warren's Lodge - a mason's mark or carved for luck?

Shelters may also have been built by local people who were supplementing their income or food supplies by cultivating land informally, or squatting. Such shelters and their neighbouring fields and enclosures were often built adjacent to parish boundaries or on the edge of common land. Remnants of such field systems can be seen at Curbar Edge as small irregularly shaped fields, and also near Bee Wood.

It is difficult to tell when people were building such timeless structures, but it has probably been happening for centuries. Looking at old maps from the 18th and 19th centuries, you can trace the outline of such small fields as those near Curbar Edge, and their imprint fading, as land was enclosed and consolidated with improvements in farming methods and the abandonment of marginal land. Nonetheless, in remoter areas of the Eastern Moors like Burbage Moor such structures have often survived, perhaps by being re-used for other purposes, such as for grouse-shooting or moorland management.

Possible ruined shepherd's hut on Burbage Moor
Ruined structure on Burbage Moor
Possible ruined shepherd's hut on Burbage Moor