Earlier prehistoric hillfort, stone hut circle settlement and field system at Helman Tor


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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

Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 06158 61632

Reasons for Designation

Earlier prehistoric hillforts are large fortified settlement sites dating to the Neolithic period (c.3500-2000 BC). They may be recognized by single or multiple rubble walls or earthen banks enclosing all or part of a hilltop. The boundaries often vary in size, incorporate numerous small entrance gaps and commonly include substantial natural rock outcrops and scarps in their circuit. Ditches occasionally accompany the enclosing banks. The hillfort enclosures, up to 10ha in extent, usually contain cleared and levelled house platforms. The few recent excavations have revealed numerous internal timber and stake-built structures and pits associated with large quantities of undisturbed Neolithic settlement debris including animal bone, charcoal, flint artefacts, pottery and stone tools. Many of these finds or their raw materials were originally brought to the hillforts from considerable distances away. Excavations have also produced evidence for warfare at some sites. Extensive outworks are associated with most of these hillforts, either roughly concentric with the inner enclosure or connecting a series of related enclosures. Less than twenty earlier prehistoric hillforts are known, concentrated in the uplands of south-western England. They are a very rare monument type, highly representative of their period and one of the major sources of information on social organisation and interaction during the Neolithic period. Stone hut circles and hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers. Most date from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). The stone-based round-houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Frequently traces of their associated field systems may be found immediately around them. The longevity of hut circle settlements and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period. The earlier prehistoric hillfort, stone hut circle settlement and field system at Helman Tor shows an important continuity of settlement, agriculture, territorial and ritual significance, changes in social organisation, developments in domestic dwellings and also the landscape context of this extremely rare type of monument juxtaposition.


The monument includes an earlier prehistoric hillfort, a stone hut circle settlement and a field system, situated on the prominent hill known as Helman Tor. The earlier prehistoric hillfort survives as a single complete rampart mainly composed of large orthostats and small coursed stone walls linking outcrops of naturally outcropping rock and enclosing the whole top of the tor. An additional, partial outer rampart to the west extends southwards and is similarly constructed. This attains a height of up to 1.5m. The position of an entrance is suggested by two orthostatic uprights in this outer boundary and a second entrance has also been identified on the western side. Within the enclosure the settlement on the summit of the tor includes at least 19 flat areas, terraced for occupation. On the lower western slope of the hill is a stone hut circle settlement which includes one substantially-built hut circle with an internal diameter of 11.5m with at least two associated smaller hut platforms. These lie within a field system surviving as substantial lynchets, areas of cleared stone and clearance cairns concentrated on large earthfast boulders. There are further boundaries between the two ramparts, and on the eastern side of the hill there are more cleared areas and clearance cairns. A later stone-faced earth bank appears to cross the top of the tor from north to south and is a post medieval land division for grazing. Throughout the area there is extensive evidence of post medieval stone splitting. Partial excavations by Mercer in 1986 revealed evidence for lengthy occupation including many post and stake holes from frequently replaced structures; hearths; a midden containing Neolithic pottery; and an enigmatic paved feature. Additional chance finds in the vicinity have included two greenstone axes, flints and pottery indicating early prehistoric activity.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-431466 and 431482


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

Legacy System number:
CO 991
Legacy System:


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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