Spinster's Rock


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Devon (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 70091 90778


Portal dolmen known as Spinster’s Rock.

Reasons for Designation

Portal dolmens are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early and Middle Neolithic period, the dated examples showing construction in the period 3500- 2600 BC. As burial monuments of Britain's early farming communities, they are among the oldest visible field monuments to survive in the present landscape. They comprise a small closed chamber built from large stone slabs. A capstone, often massive, covers the chamber. Little is yet known about the form of the primary burial rites. At the few excavated sites, pits and postholes have been recorded within and in front of the chamber, containing charcoal and cremated bone. Many portal dolmens were re-used for urned cremations, especially during the Middle Bronze Age. They are one of the few surviving field monument types of the Neolithic period, are extremely rare and of considerable age.

Despite considerable restoration, Spinster’s Rock is a commanding and thought-provoking landmark. The restoration work itself is now historic and served to maintain this enigmatic monument for future generations to ponder and marvel at. Faced with the enormous nature of the stones used in its construction and knowing the limited available contemporary technology of such an ancient past, Spinster’s Rock bears witness to the significant social and political organisation enabling its conception, inception and creation.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 27 October 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes a portal dolmen known as Spinster’s Rock, situated in the valley of a tributary to the River Teign, to the north west of Shilstone. The monument survives as three upright stones all approximately 2m high, which in turn support a massive capstone which measures up to 5m long by 3m wide. The whole structure is approximately 3.5m high. It is known to have collapsed in 1862, but was re-erected ten months later. Prior to its restoration the site was excavated. The upright stones were set in very shallow sockets in light granite gravel. However, the excavations produced no archaeological evidence relating to the original burials and no trace of a surrounding mound was revealed. At the time of its restoration a pavement of rough granite slabs was placed below ground level and the upright stones were tied to it with iron bars in order to make them more secure. A notch was cut in one of the uprights to better support the capstone, which had only rested against it before. There are smaller stones visible at ground level to the north, west and east extending approximately 1m from the base of the stones.

Spinster’s Rock appears on Donn’s map of 1765. Traditionally, it was erected by three spinsters before breakfast one morning, hence the name.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DV 101
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Gerrard, S, Dartmoor, (1997), 30
PastScape Monument No:- 445766


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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