Two adjacent prehistoric coaxial field systems incorporating regular field systems, stone hut circles, cairns and medieval fields on East Moor and Ridge
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
- Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
- North Hill
- National Grid Reference:
- SX 24079 77239
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.
Elaborate complexes of fields and field boundaries are a major feature of the moor landscape. Coaxial field systems are one of several methods of land division employed during the Bronze Age. Evidence from nearby Dartmoor, where they are more common, indicates their introduction about 1700 BC and their continued use until about 1000 BC. They consist of linear stone banks forming parallel boundaries running upslope to meet similar boundaries which run along the contours of higher slopes, thereby separating the lower enclosed fields from the open grazing grounds of the higher moor. The long strips formed by the parallel boundaries may be subdivided by cross-banks to form a series of rectangular field plots, each sharing a common long axis.
Coaxial field systems frequently incorporate discrete areas subdivided by other forms of field systems and various enclosures, some of which may be shown to have been laid out prior to the construction of the coaxial system. Regular aggregate field systems are one such form, comprising a collection of field plots defined by boundaries laid out in a consistent manner and meeting at approximate right-angles to each other. Enclosures are discrete plots of land defined by stone walls or banks of stone and earth, constructed as stock pens or as protected areas for crop growing. They were sometimes subdivided to accommodate animal shelters and hut circles. The size and form of enclosures varies considerably depending on their particular function. Broadly contemporary occupation sites comprising stone hut circles, sometimes grouped to form hut circle settlements, may be found within coaxial field systems, both dispersed throughout their area and in close association with their discrete areas of field-plot subdivision. Stone hut circles were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on the moor and consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; remains of a turf or thatch roof are not preserved. House platforms were another form of occupation site, of which examples are known in upland areas from the Neolithic to the Roman periods (from c.3000 BC to c.AD 400). They consist of levelled areas, variously circular, ovoid or sub-rectangular in shape, on which rectangular or circular timber buildings were constructed. The timber uprights forming the buildings frameworks have not survived but excavations have revealed their postholes and associated domestic debris. House platforms may occur singly or in groups, in the open or enclosed by a boulder and rubble wall.
Coaxial field systems may also incorporate earlier and broadly contemporary funerary monuments, including round cairns. Round cairns covered single or multiple burials and were constructed as mounds of earth and stone rubble up to 40m in external diameter but usually much smaller; a kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the mound. Burials were placed in small pits, 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 in larger cemeteries.
The reuse of parts of some coaxial field systems during the medieval (c.AD 400 - 1550) and post-medieval periods may result in a variety of earthworks and structures of these later dates overlying the prehistoric field systems and their contained features. Such later activity is often agricultural, resulting in cultivation ridging, field boundaries and enclosures, together (sometimes) with remains of farm buildings that serviced this activity. Coaxial field systems are highly representative of their period and form an important element in the existing landscape where they occur. Their relationships with other monument types within and beyond their boundaries provide important information on the nature and development of land use and farming practices among prehistoric communities.
The adjoining coaxial field systems on East Moor and Ridge hill have survived well, containing a diversity of broadly contemporary internal arrangements and settlement sites and preserving unusual evidence for the nature and sequence of their development across and along these hillsides. The intact survival in the monument of a junction between two adjoining coaxial field systems is rare.
Coaxial field systems are uncommon on Bodmin Moor, the examples included in this scheduling forming by far the largest and best preserved area of coaxial field system to have survived west of Dartmoor. The integration of the coaxial field systems in this monument with the other forms of broadly contemporary field system about the periphery of Bodmin Moor is a unique relationship, differing markedly from the dominance of coaxial field systems and closely related linear boundaries about the periphery of Dartmoor. The incorporation of earlier funerary cairns into the coaxial field systems and the rare reuse of one cairn to construct a hut circle demonstrates major changes in land use during the prehistoric period, with finer developments evident from the internal arrangements of the coaxial field systems themselves. This unusually detailed surviving evidence for successive phases in land use and organisation is carried through to the post-medieval period by the medieval and later cultivation ridging, field boundaries, peat stack platforms, herdsman's shelter and parish boundary markers.
The monument's prehistoric and medieval features have been subject to recent detailed air and ground survey. In addition, the extensive and published environmental sampling at the monument and the published limited excavation about the Clitters Cairn in the 1970s provide an unusually good range of available archaeological data about this monument, which has consequently received frequent mention in published articles on coaxial field systems.
The monument includes two adjacent prehistoric coaxial field systems on East
Moor and Ridge hill on eastern Bodmin Moor. The coaxial field systems
incorporate six broadly contemporary regular aggregate field systems
containing 19 stone hut circles. A further nine hut circles are dispersed
throughout the coaxial field systems, including two situated within an
enclosure at the monument's eastern edge. A second enclosure further north
along the monument's eastern edge contains six of the nine house platforms
forming a small prehistoric settlement. The coaxial field systems also
incorporate four prehistoric cairns and six medieval clearance cairns. The
monument also includes medieval enclosures, field systems and cultivation
ridges overlying parts of the coaxial field systems while at its southern edge
several of the prehistoric coaxial boundaries are overlain by modern field
boundaries. Post-medieval features within the monument include part of a row
of parish boundary slabs, two peat stack platforms, a herdsman's shelter and a
small memorial cross.
The coaxial field systems survive as a series of near-parallel heaped-rubble walls, up to 150m apart, running from the periphery of East Moor towards its interior where a terminal boundary crosses their ends at approximate right- angles. Few cross-walls link the parallel walls below the terminal boundary except in discrete sectors infilled by areas of regular aggregate field system. The prehistoric field system walls survive up to 2m wide and 0.6m high, incorporating edge- and end-set slabs up to 0.75m high. Beyond the present moorland edge, relatively recent clearance has removed most surface evidence for the prehistoric field systems except along parts of the monument's southern, eastern and north western edges.
The East Moor field system is visible over 2.9km along the entire north eastern periphery of East Moor, including two major breaks due to recent enclosure and clearance. This monument includes only the 1.7km length visible to the south east of these major breaks, the other surviving parts being included in other monuments. The parallel boundaries of this field system share a north east-south west axis, running downslope from a WNW-ESE terminal boundary along the north eastern crest of the moor's plateau. Its layout and boundary details show successive phases in the prehistoric development of this field system across and along the hillside.
This monument contains four areas of the East Moor coaxial field system infilled by regular aggregate field systems, variously encompassing 0.95ha - 1.7ha. Each regular system contains up to ten polygonal field plots, of 0.04ha - 0.4ha each, with some boundaries conforming to the coaxial system's alignment, though none are entirely dictated by that parallel axis. Three of the regular field systems are situated 170m - 250m apart, well below the level of the terminal boundary in the north western half of the monument; the fourth is located towards the south eastern part of the system near its junction with the Ridge coaxial system.
These regular field systems contain one to four stone hut circles each, surviving with heaped-rubble walls, up to 2m wide and 1m high, defining levelled circular internal areas ranging from 5.5m to 10.3m in diameter. Most of their walls incorporate inner and outer facing slabs. Entrance gaps are visible in three hut circles, facing between south and south east. The monument contains a further seven hut circles, similarly constructed, dispersed throughout the East Moor field system. These range from 5m to 9m in internal diameter but some walling was partly robbed of stone during medieval cultivation. Entrances are visible in two, facing south. Six of these hut circles are located near, and immediately below, the terminal boundary; the other adjoins the outer side of the terminal boundary near a drove-way and is embellished by a concentric annexe on two sides.
The Ridge coaxial field system extends 1.2km south west from the south eastern sector of the East Moor system's terminal boundary encompassing almost all of Ridge hill. It is organised similarly to the field system on East Moor but with parallel boundaries orientated north east-south west, passing over the top of Ridge hill to meet a north east-south west terminal boundary on the hill's north western slope. Its boundaries and layout also denote successive prehistoric phases in this field system's construction. Five coaxial boundaries in the southern sector of the Ridge system are partly overlain by modern field banks which preserve their alignments and courses. The south western half of the Ridge system also contains scattered, discontinuous traces of slight rubble walling from an earlier, and largely dismantled, prehistoric field system. The Ridge coaxial system contains two areas infilled by regular aggregate field systems. The largest encompasses over 7.5ha, surviving for 630m south west-north east and spanning six coaxial boundaries as a broad strip up to 160m wide on the south east facing lower slope of Ridge hill. A medieval field system and clearance overlapping its visible eastern sector, and modern enclosure and clearance to its immediate west and south, partly mask its original extent. This regular system is strongly influenced by the coaxial boundaries, with cross-walls linking successive coaxial walls to form rectilinear blocks of up to 1.5ha, each block then being subdivided by a grid- pattern of rubble walls to form plots of up to 0.04ha - 0.3ha. This regular system incorporates 11 hut circles similar to those in the East Moor regular systems but ranging from 3m to 7.5m in internal diameter. Seven hut circles have visible entrance gaps, showing no consistent orientation. The hut circles are spaced along a nearly straight line running the length of the regular field system, built on or near the field system's cross-walls.
The other regular field system infill, at the north eastern edge of the Ridge system, has survived modern clearance over only 0.1ha, retaining only one cross-wall linking coaxial boundaries and a single rectangular plot of 0.06ha. The Ridge coaxial system contains one other hut circle, built into an earlier funerary cairn behind the terminal boundary. This ovoid cairn has a rubble mound measuring 8m east-west by 6.5m north-south and rises to 0.6m high. The hut circle is centred east of the cairn's centre, with an internal diameter of 4m and a south east facing entrance gap in rubble walls generally 1.4m wide; on the western side, the cairn mound extends up to 3.25m beyond the hut circle's inner edge.
At the surviving south eastern end of the north west-south east junction between the East Moor and Ridge coaxial field systems, a large sub-circular prehistoric enclosure extends into and narrows a prehistoric drove-way following the course of that junction, directly opposite the fragmentary regular field system of the Ridge coaxial system. The enclosure survives with a rubble and boulder wall, up to 2.5m wide and 1m high, defining an internal area measuring 53m north-south by 44m east-west. A modern field bank overlies the south western third of the enclosure wall. The enclosure's western sector contains two adjoining hut circles, each 8m in internal diameter, levelled into the hillslope, with rubble walling, up to 2.5m wide and 1.3m high, whose north eastern sector encompasses both hut circles in an even curve.
A second enclosure is situated 300m to the NNW and survives with a boulder and rubble wall, up to 1.5m wide and 0.6m high, defining an ovoid internal area measuring 40m east-west by 65m north-south. Within the enclosure are six house platforms, visible as turf-covered sub-circular areas, each up to 8m in diameter and levelled both by cutting into the hillslope on their uphill edges and by using the resulting rubble to terrace their surfaces out on the downhill side. A further three similar house platforms, measuring up to 15m by 11m, are situated beyond the enclosure in the 0.25ha area adjacent to its north west side.
The Ridge coaxial field system incorporates two of the monument's four prehistoric funerary cairns. The smaller cairn, containing a later hut circle, is described above. The other, known as the Ridge Cairn, is situated between two coaxial boundaries, 100m ENE of the summit of Ridge hill. It survives as a mound of heaped rubble, 22.7m in diameter and up to 1.3m high. Stone robbing and partial excavation in the 19th century revealed a central slab over a cremation burial, surrounded by concentric rings of slabs in the cairn's mound, two of which, respectively 17m and 10m in diameter, remain visible in the mound surface. The mound's central rubble has been largely cleared to ground level within a recent drystone-walled shelter which reuses part of the inner ring for its wall-base.
A third round cairn, the Clitters Cairn, is located on the highest point along the north eastern scarp of East Moor, 400m north west of the Ridge Cairn. The cairn survives as a mound of heaped rubble, 15m in diameter and up to 1.4m high. An antiquarian excavation produced a central hollow 5m in diameter and up to 1m deep. The East Moor coaxial system's terminal boundary incorporates and changes angle on the cairn. Limited excavation in 1976 at its north western junction with the terminal boundary showed the cairn was constructed earlier, revealed coursed slabs about part of the cairn's perimeter and located a small burnt area 1m beyond the cairn's north west edge. Flint and stone artefacts were also recovered. Pollen analysis demonstrated the cairn to have been constructed directly on a surface of uncultivated grassland. The fourth prehistoric round cairn is also incorporated into the East Moor coaxial system's terminal boundary, 560m north west of the Clitters Cairn, and again the terminal boundary changes angle on the cairn. This cairn survives with a mound of heaped rubble 4m in diameter and 0.3m high, with a central hollow, 1m in diameter and 0.1m deep, from an antiquarian excavation. Seven further cairns are spaced 15m - 125m apart over a limited sector of the north eastern slope of East Moor, from 60m north of Clitters Cairn. These cairns survive as small mounds of heaped rubble, ranging from 3m in diameter and 0.3m high to 9m in diameter and 0.75m high. All occur near the south eastern edge of an area of medieval cultivation ridging overlying and partly disrupting the prehistoric coaxial system and are considered to derive from medieval surface-stone gathering.
Medieval exploitation both reused the monument's prehistoric boundaries and created new features. Medieval cultivation ridges, 2m-3m wide and up to 0.2m high, extend over 25ha in the central part of the East Moor field system, generally sharing the north east-south west orientation of the coaxial field system, reusing the prehistoric boundaries for internal subdivisions and ending on the prehistoric terminal boundary, but partially disrupting some boundaries and hut circles within their area. Small areas of similar ridging, each under 0.25ha, also respect prehistoric walls in the easternmost regular field system infill in this coaxial system. Medieval cultivation ridges on an ENE-WSW alignment, traversed by medieval and later hollowed route-ways, cross the sector between the eastern prehistoric regular field system and the northern of the prehistoric enclosures. This sector is bounded to the north by earthen medieval field banks which partly conform with the alignment of the East Moor coaxial field system and which survive up to 1.5m wide and 0.6m high, with outer ditches up to 0.75m wide and 0.4m deep.
By contrast, medieval ridging in the Ridge coaxial system is contained within large medieval enclosures and fields bounded by earth-and-rubble banks up to 3m wide and 0.7m high, with outer ditches up to 2m wide and 0.2m deep. A sub- rectangular enclosure of 6.5ha, with traces of ENE-WSW ridging, overlies the north eastern edge of the Ridge coaxial system. A second enclosure of 10.5ha, containing north east-south west ridging, is situated at the south western end of the Ridge coaxial system and reuses part of a coaxial boundary as its north east side. At the south eastern edge of the coaxial system's central sector, medieval banks define two large fields of 4.5ha each, created successively north eastwards from the area of modern enclosed land to the west. Subdividing banks in these fields largely conform with the lines of the prehistoric coaxial system and its regular field system infill overlain by these medieval fields. The ridging in these fields also mostly follows the north west-south east axis of the coaxial boundaries.
Evidence for post-medieval activities in the monument includes a small herdsman's shelter on the eastern slope of Ridge hill; a row of end-set slabs, 38m-95m apart, marking the boundary between North Hill and Altarnun parishes; two small rectilinear platforms, called peat stack platforms, near the north western edge of the monument where cut peat was stored, each defined by a slight ditch and outer bank and measuring up to 6.5m by 5m externally, and a small granite memorial cross near the centre of the south east facing slope of Ridge hill.
Complementary to the surface remains, extensive environmental analysis throughout this monument during the 1970s indicated prehistoric woodland clearance producing grassland prior to the Bronze Age construction of the Clitters Cairn. Leaching of soil minerals, underway by the time the cairn was constructed, led to the establishment of a grassland heath vegetation.
Evidence was recovered for a possible prehistoric cultivation phase and for areas of short-lived and longer-term medieval cultivation.
All modern post and wire fences, gates and gate fittings, stock feeding troughs and the Bowhayland and Tolcarne Farm leats are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them, including hedge banks, is included.
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
Fleming, A, The Dartmoor Reaves, (1988)
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological Survey and Management (Volume 2), (1989)
Brisbane, M, Clews, S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in The East Moor Systems, Altarnun and North Hill, Bodmin Moor, (1979), 33-56
Brisbane, M, Clews, S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in The East Moor Systems, Altarnun and North Hill, Bodmin Moor, (1979)
King, G, Sheppard, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parochial Checklist of Antiquities 10: Parish of North Hill, (1979), 128-132
King, G, Sheppard, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parochial Checklist of Antiquities 10: Parish of North Hill, (1979)
Trahair, J E R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A survey of cairns on Bodmin Moor, , Vol. 17, (1978)
AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 398,
CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text consulted 1993
consulted 1992, AM7 & AM 107 documentation for CO 398 (A),
consulted 1992, Carter, A./Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2377,
consulted 1992, Carter, A./Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2378 & SX 2478,
consulted 1992, Carter, A./Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2378,
consulted 1992, Carter, A./Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2477 & SX 2478,
consulted 1992, Carter, A./Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2477,
consulted 1992, Carter, A./Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2478,
consulted 1992, Carter, A./Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcriptions and field traces for SX 2377-8; SX 2477-8, (1983)
consulted 1992, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 2377,
Consulted 1992, Carter, A/Quinnell, N V/Fletcher, M J, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2378,
Consulted 1992, Carter, A/Quinnell, N V/Fletcher, M J, 1:2500 AP transcription and field trace for SX 2478,
Consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entries for PRN 1037 & 1037.1,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entries for PRN 1141; 1141.2 & 1148.1,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.01,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.02,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.03,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.04,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.05,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.06,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.07,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1020.08,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1021,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1022,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1023,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1023.01,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1023.02,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1024.01,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1024.02,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1024.03,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1024.04,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1024.05,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1025,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1026,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1027,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1027.01,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1027.02,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1029.1,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1029.2,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1029.3,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1029.4,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1029.5,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1029.8,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1032,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1035,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1037,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1037.01,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1059,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1141.1 & 1148,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1141.1,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1141.2,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1143.1 & 1143.2,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1143.3,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1143.4,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 12082,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for SX 27 NW 85 & PRN 1142,
consulted 4/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1030,
Mercer, R.J., AM7 Scheduling document for CO 879, 1972, File No. AA 75279
Mercer, R.J., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 877, consulted 1992
Mercer, R.J., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 878, 1972,
Mercer, R.J., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 879 A, 1972,
Mr Venning, Trekernell Farm, Lewannick, Information spoken to MPP field worker on 28/01/1992,
Mrs Smith of Treburland Farm, Altarnun, Information spoken to MPPFW, 08/05/1992, (1992)
p. 392; PRN 12069, Halvana Mine, Cornwall Arch. Unit, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. An evaluation for the MPP, (1990)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map, sheet SX 27 NW Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map, "Pathfinder 1339", SX27/37 Source Date: 1988 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 27 (Bodmin Moor (East)) Source Date: 1963 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