Banked cairn on Browngelly Downs, 880m 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 19621 72658
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. Banked cairns are funerary monuments covering single or
multiple burials and dating to the Early Bronze Age (c.2000-1600 BC). They
comprise a circular bank of earth and stone rubble, up to 30m in external
diameter and sometimes accompanied by an external ditch, surrounding a central
mound of earth and rubble. A kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the
edges of the bank or mound or both. They occur as isolated monuments, in small
groups or in larger cairn cemeteries. In the latter two instances they may
occur either as groups comprising only banked cairns or, more usually, with
cairns of other types. The burials, either inhumations or cremations, were
placed in small pits, on occasion within box-like structures of stone slabs
called cists, let into the old ground surface or placed within the body of the
mound itself. Although no precise figure is available, current evidence
indicates that there are under 250 known examples of banked cairns nationally.
As a rare class exhibiting considerable variation in form, a substantial
proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.
This banked cairn on Brown Gelly hill retains evidence for its original distinctive form and contruction despite the attentions of relatively recent stone-robbers. Its unusual form adds to the range of cairn-types visible in what is 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 prehistoric banked cairn situated near the centre of
the broad summit ridge of Brown Gelly hill on southern Bodmin Moor. This cairn
is located towards the southern end of a linear group of five large cairns
arranged along the ridge.
The cairn survives with a circular outer bank of heaped rubble, 21m in
external diameter, up to 2m wide and 0.5m high. In its south-east sector a
contiguous row of edge-set slabs, up to 0.3m high, forms a kerb along the
outer face of the bank. Relatively recent stone-robbing has caused two breaks,
up to 3m wide, in the bank's north and north-west sectors and has reduced the
south-western curve of the bank to 0.15m high. The surface remains within the
outer bank are also dominated by the effects of recent stone-robbing. From 2m
within the bank's northern sector, a low irregular mound of consolidated
rubble covered by a thin turf rises to 0.15m high and is considered to be the
surviving intact base of the cairn's former central mound. The disrupted
rubble from the upper parts of the mound has been redeposited over the
southern half of the cairn, visible as a broad irregular spread of
unconsolidated rubble and boulders, up to 1m high, covered by a thin turf only
along its southern and western periphery. This robbing debris reaches the
outer bank except at the south-west and it spills over the top of the outer
bank at the south. On the west, the robbing debris narrows to a bank which
merges with the line of the outer bank.
Beyond the monument, this linear group extends over 375m in a slight curve
along the summit ridge of Brown Gelly, the nearest being located 48m to the
north-west. Extensive broadly contemporary settlement sites and field systems
are located on the eastern slope of the Browngelly Downs, from 230m to the
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 1770.4,
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