Windmill Hill Cave, Brixham
- 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.
- Torbay (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SX 92457 55983
Reasons for Designation
Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters provide some of the earliest evidence of
human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 10,000 years ago. The
sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the
north and west of the country, although examples also exist in the softer
rocks of south-east England. Evidence for human occupation is often located
near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms.
The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or
were places where material naturally accumulated from the outside. Because of
the special conditions of deposition and preservation, organic and other
fragile materials often survive well and in stratigraphic association. Caves
and rock shelters are therefore of major importance for understanding this
period. Due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their
longevity as a monument type, all examples with good survival of deposits are
considered to be nationally important.
Windmill Hill Cave preserves intact deposits of Late Glacial and Postglacial origin, which have been shown by earlier excavations to be extremely rich in palaeoenvironmental and lithic remains. The site is also of particular significance as it provided the first professionally accepted evidence for the contemporaneity of man and extinct species of fauna.
Windmill Hill Cave is a system of galleries and smaller chambers, orientated
NW-SE and extending some 40m into the Devonian limestone outcrop of Windmill
Hill, overlooking Brixham Harbour. The cave lies mostly beneath 107, Mount
Pleasant Road and is accessible via a gated north entrance below the pavement
in front of the house. There are four other entrances, all blocked and on the
west side of the complex. The galleries are up to 4.5m in height and the
maximum width of the cave system is about 30m east to west.
The cave was discovered in 1858 and investigations revealed rich faunal
remains associated with Palaeolithic flint implements. The discovery of flint
implements and extinct faunal remains in a cave earth deposit sealed beneath a
stalagmite floor provided the first scientifically accepted proof of
contemporaneity between humans and various extinct animal species in Britain.
Over 1600 bones, some apparently split for marrow, others gnawed by animals,
and 32 flints were found in the 19th century excavations by Pengelly. Flints
of Middle Palaeolithic and post-Palaeolithic type have been identified in the
collection. The Palaeolithic finds are believed to come from gravels beneath
the cave earth and also from within the cave earth itself. Undisturbed
deposits of the cave earth remain in the galleries and chambers. The site has
been in use as a show cave in the past, but is unused at present. The monument
includes the whole of the interior of the cave and its deposits, but excludes
the houses and gardens above the cave. Soil levels overlying the bedrock are
also excluded, although the fissures within the bedrock are included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Delderfield, E, The Story of Brixham Cave
Unpublished record - extended AM107, Barton, RN, (1990)
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