Round cairn on Browngelly Downs, 825m ESE of Higher Gillhouse Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Neot
National Grid Reference:
SX 19588 72720

Reasons for Designation

Bodmin Moor, the largest of the Cornish granite uplands, has long been recognised to have exceptional preservation of archaeological remains. The Moor has been the subject of detailed archaeological survey and is one of the best recorded upland landscapes in England. The extensive relict landscapes of prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the earliest prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, field systems, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains provides significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time. Round cairns are funerary monuments covering single or multiple burials and dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as mounds of earth and stone rubble up to 40m in external diameter but usually considerably smaller; a kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edges of the mound. Burials were placed in small pits, or on occasion within a box-like structure of stone slabs called a cist, let into the old ground surface or dug into the body of the cairn. Round cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small groups or in larger cemeteries. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provides important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social organisation in the Bronze Age. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

This round cairn on Brown Gelly hill has survived substantially intact despite the limited and well-defined disturbance from the antiquarian excavation and stone-robbing. This cairn is unusually large and is contained in one of the very few groups of large cairns on Bodmin Moor. The prominent setting of this group and the diversity of cairns included within it demonstrate well the nature of funerary practices during the Bronze Age and the relationship between cairn size and topographical setting. The proximity of this cairn to the broadly contemporary settlement sites and field systems on the Browngelly Downs shows well the relationship of funerary activity with farming and habitation during the Bronze Age.


The monument includes a large prehistoric round cairn situated near the centre of the broad summit ridge of Brown Gelly hill on southern Bodmin Moor. This cairn is at the middle of a linear group of five large cairns arranged along the ridge. The round cairn survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 27m in diameter and up to 3.8m high, with a very slight platform, up to 0.1m high, extending up to 2m beyond its base. The mound is an inverted-bowl shape with largely turf-covered steep sides. The top of the mound is truncated and bears a rubble-strewn hollow, 7.5m in diameter and up to 1m deep, resulting from an unrecorded antiquarian excavation. On the south and south-east sectors of the mound, relatively recent stone-robbing has produced two distinct steps in the slope, at approximately 0.5m and 2m above ground level and up to 2.5m wide, with abundant loose rubble on and above each step. The rubble forming the lower step extends to 2m beyond the projected circular perimeter of the mound at the south-east. Although clearly the steps have been exposed by recent activity, their form has been considered to provide evidence for original internal structuring of the mound's rubble. Further small robbing hollows are visible in the lower edge of the mound in the south-west sector. A small mound of rubble, 2m in diameter, 0.2m high and situated 4.5m beyond the lower step's south-east edge, contains further debris from these recent disturbances. Beyond the monument, this linear group extends over 375m in a slight curve along the summit ridge of Brown Gelly, the nearest cairn being located 48m to the south-east. Extensive broadly contemporary settlement sites and field systems are located on the eastern slope of the Browngelly Downs, 285m to the south-east.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Trahair, J E R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A survey of cairns on Bodmin Moor, , Vol. 17, (1978), 3-24
Buxton, H.K., The Landscape History of Brown Gelly, Bodmin Moor, 1986, Unpubl. BA Disstn, Univ. Sheffield
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 1972 & SX 2072,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1770.3,


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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