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 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:
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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

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