Prehistoric linear boundary, adjacent irregular aggregate field system and hut circles, incorporated cairns and medieval grave on north-west Roughtor


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. Breward
National Grid Reference:
SX 14474 81056

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.

The linear boundaries of Bodmin Moor consist of stone banks, sometimes incorporating facing slabs or projecting end-set slabs called orthostats. They may be massively constructed, up to 8m wide and 1m high, although the majority are much slighter. Built during the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC), they fulfilled a variety of functions. Some ran at high altitudes along a contour and appear to separate lower land used for cultivation from that less intensively used. Some may be territorial, marking the boundaries of land held by particular social groups. Others may serve to delineate land set aside for ceremonial and religious activities such as burial. Frequently linear boundaries are associated with other forms of contemporary field system. Irregular aggregate field systems are one such type of field system known to have been employed in south-west England during the prehistoric period. They comprise a collection of field plots, generally lacking in conformity of orientation and arrangement, containing fields with sinuous outlines and varying shapes and sizes bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches or fences. They often incorporate or are situated near stone hut circles, the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on the Moor, mostly also dating from the Bronze Age. The stone-based round houses survive as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; the remains of a turf or thatch roof are not preserved as visible features. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may occur in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Prehistoric linear boundaries, field systems and hut circles are important elements of the existing landscape and provide important evidence on the nature and organisation of farming practices and settlement among prehistoric communities. Prehistoric field systems and stone hut circles are often located around or near broadly contemporary funerary monuments, most frequent among which on the Moor are round cairns, covering single or multiple burials and also dating to the Bronze Age. They were constructed as mounds of earth and rubble up to 40m in diameter but usually considerably smaller. A kerb of edge-set stone sometimes bounds the edges of the mound. Burials were placed in small pit, or on occasion within a box-like structure of stone slabs called a cist, set into the old ground surface or dug into the body of the cairn. Round cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small groups or larger cemeteries. The considerable variation in form and associations of funerary cairns provides important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social organisation during the Bronze Age. The relatively unintensive post-medieval land use of upland areas which has allowed the preservation of much of the surviving prehistoric settlement and funerary evidence has also favoured the survival of a diversity of medieval monuments which often impinge on those earlier, prehistoric, remains. Such medieval monuments frequently include various forms of field system, cultivation ridging and a range of settlement and shelter types but the medieval cairn-grave site on Roughtor is unparalleled on Bodmin Moor and its contemporary use of a round-head cross as a grave-marker is unique. This monument on the upper north-west slope of Roughtor has survived well with only very minor and limited disturbance from recent stone-workers. The incorporation within this monument of the linear boundaries, field system, hut circles and cairns demonstrates well the nature and organisation of farming practices and their relationship to settlement and funerary activity. Those aspects of the monument are placed in a broader prehistoric context, in both time and space, by the monument's proximity to the extensive multi-phase prehistoric settlement, funerary and ceremonial sites on the Roughtor Moors. The range of cairn size and detail also shows the diversity of funerary practices among prehistoric communities, while the relationship evident between a cairn and a hut circle in one instance and between a cairn and a linear boundary wall in another provides rare visible evidence for successive episodes of land use during the prehistoric period. The use of a cairn to form a medieval grave is extremely rare and its contemporary grave-marker provides the only known example of a round-head cross employed in such a context. The grave's proximity to the other broadly contemporary religious monuments on Roughtor, including the only surviving remains of a hilltop chapel on Bodmin Moor, shows clearly an important relationship between religious activity and the topography in the medieval period.


The monument includes a prehistoric multi-walled linear boundary with an adjacent irregular aggregate field system, three adjacent stone hut circles and three incorporated round funerary cairns on the upper north-western slope of Roughtor on north-west Bodmin Moor. The uppermost of the linear boundary's walls also incorporates a small medieval grave marked by a small cairn with a roughly fashioned round headed cross on its east side. Post-medieval stone-splitting in the monument is evident from at least five roughouts for millstones within its area. The prehistoric linear boundary is formed by two walls of heaped rubble, each up to 2.25m wide and 0.6m high. The walls each incorporate occasional edge- and end-set slabs, up to 1.25m high, arranged to form contiguous rows in some sectors. Soil movement downslope due to prehistoric cultivation and hillwash, a process called lynchetting, has buried most of the uphill edges of both walls. The boundary's walls share an overall NE-SW axis and are visible for 425m roughly following the contour of the scree-strewn upper north-west slope of Roughtor, but descending the slope obliquely at their south-west ends. The boundary follows a line approximating in several sectors to the division between the dense scree above and the more open peaty grassland below. Within that overall axis, the boundary's walls follow wavering courses, converging and diverging in the range from 2m to 33m apart, while at their visible south- west end they diverge to give a funnel-shaped terminal whose ends are 50m apart. At the midpoint along the boundary its course is stepped such that the axis of its south-western half is transposed 50m north-west, downslope, relative to the axis of the boundary's north-eastern half. A slight rubble cross-wall links the two boundary walls at the southern end of the boundary's north-east half. The plots of the irregular aggregate field system are grouped about, and integrated with, that central step in the linear boundary walls. The irregular aggregate field system is visible as at least six adjoining sub- rectangular field plots, of 0.06ha-0.3ha each, covering a total area of 1ha between the stepped midpoint ends of the linear boundary walls and extending to the north for 130m. The plots are largely defined by sinuous lynchetted rubble walls, up to 2m wide and 0.5m high, but they also incorporate the linear boundary walls as plot boundaries where the field system adjoins them. A small sub-triangular enclosure, 0.01ha and defined by similar walling, projects from the south-west edge of the field system. The enclosure's wall extends a further 9m south-west to join the northern side of a stone hut circle. The hut circle survives with a near-circular heaped rubble wall up to 1.5m wide and 0.35m high, defining a cleared internal area measuring 3.5m north-south by 4m east-west. The wall's southern sector has been partly cleared over a 4m length later in the prehistoric period to create a small funerary round cairn on the wall's south-west side. This cairn has a heaped rubble mound 1.6m in diameter and 0.6m high, with a low kerb of edge-set sabs along its western side. The monument's other two hut circles are also located adjacent to the central step in the linear boundary, but they are situated amongst boulder scree 15m uphill, south-east, of the boundary's uppermost wall. The hut circles are situated 9m apart on an east-west axis and survive with sub-circular heaped rubble walls about internal areas levelled into the slope. The eastern hut circle has a wall up to 1.4m wide and 0.6m high, incorporating several edge-set inner facing slabs up to 0.4m high and defining an internal area measuring 5.5m NE-SW by 4m NW-SE. The western hut circle has a wall up to 1.1m wide and 0.4m high, incorporating occasional inner and outer facing slabs up to 0.25m high and defining and internal area 4.5m in diameter. The monument also incorporates another two prehistoric funerary round cairns. One cairn is located on the uppermost wall in the north-east half of the prehistoric linear boundary, 110m from its visible north-eastern end. The cairn survives with an ovoid mound of heaped rubble measuring 6.4m NNE-SSW, along the contour, by 4.8m WNW-ESE, rising 0.4m high. The cairn is clearly earlier than the linear boundary, whose wall undergoes a slight curving stagger as it crosses the cairn, the rubble of the linear boundary wall forming a slight ridge up to 0.2m above the cairn's mound. The other prehistoric round cairn is situated 140m to the south-west at the western corner of a plot in the irregular field system. This cairn survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 8m in diameter and up to 0.7m high. Relatively recent stone-robbing has produced a central hollow, 4.5m in diameter and up to 0.4m deep, whose spoil extends as a rubble spread up to 5m beyond the mound's SSW edge. The broadly contemporary field plot wall adjoins the mounds NNE and southern edges. The medieval grave is built into the uppermost wall of the prehistoric linear boundary at the southern end of its north-east half where the boundary's course is stepped downslope and a short cross-wall links the paired walls. The grave is visible as a low circular cairn of heaped rubble, 2.5m in diameter and up to 0.15m high, its perimeter defined by a kerb of edge-set slabs, up to 1.2m long and 0.2m high. Immediately within the eastern sector of the kerb is a single leaning end-set slab, 0.4m high and 0.1m thick, forming a grave marker crudely fashioned as a round-head cross. The cross has a neck 0.1m high and 0.2m wide, on which the round head measures 0.3m high by 0.4m wide. The slab's surface is extremely weathered, retaining no visible surface detail. Post-medieval stone-splitting activity within the monument is evidenced by at least five uncompleted rough-outs for millstones. These are pentagonal or hexagonal in shape, 1.2m-1.5m across, abandoned before their curved edges were worked. Several have a central hole or a low central boss. All examples show a sequence of broad grooves along their worked faces deriving from splitting by wedges, a method that went out of general use about AD 1800. The monument is situated near many other broadly contemporary and often extensive settlement, funerary and ritual monuments deriving from successive prehistoric phases of land use on the Roughtor Moors. Particularly close to this monument is an earlier prehistoric hillfort with incorporated cairns on the summit of Roughtor from 85m to the south-east, and another prehistoric linear boundary that extends from 40m to the north-west and runs down to the hill's lower slope to become integrated with one phase in the prehistoric settlement sequence there. The hill of Roughtor also forms a focus for a small group of medieval religious monuments, including the remains of St Michael's Chapel on the summit outcrop of Roughtor, 220m south of this monument's broadly contemporary grave, while the Roughtor holy well is located 170m to the north-east, also on the upper north-western slope of Roughtor.

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:


consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3296,
consulted 1992, Carter, A./CAU/RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots for SX 1480-1,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for 3296.01,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3289.1,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3289.2,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3296.02,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3296.03,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3304,
Discussion of item with Mr Andrew Langdon & Prof. Charles Thomas, (1992)
Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:1000 Survey Plan of Roughtor, (1986)
Title: 1:1000 Survey Maps for SX 1480 NW & NE & SX 1481 SW & SE Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:1000 Survey maps for SX 1480 NW & NE, 1481 SW & SE Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:1000 Survey maps for SX 1480 NW & NE, SX 1481 SW & SE Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:1000 Survey Maps: SX 1480 NW & NE; SX 1481 SW & SE Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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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