Neolithic long cairn, Prehistoric regular and irregular aggregate field systems, linear boundaries and medieval enclosure 625m W of Blackcoombe Farm
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010221
Date first listed: 04-Dec-1992
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
Parish: North Hill
National Grid Reference: SX 26296 73871
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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.
Long cairns were constructed as elongated rubble mounds and acted as funerary monuments during the Early Neolithic period (c 4000-2400 BC). They represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, long cairns appear to have been used for communal burial, often with only parts of the human remains having been selected for interment. Long cairns sometimes display evidence of internal structural arrangements, including stone-lined compartments and tomb chambers constructed from massive slabs. Some examples also show edge-set kerb stones bounding parts of the cairn perimeter. Certain sites provide evidence for several phases of funerary activity preceding construction of the cairn and, consequently, it is probable that long cairns acted as important ritual sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Some 500 examples of long cairns and long barrows, their counterparts in central and eastern England, are recorded nationally, of which six are known from Bodmin Moor. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as a visible monument and due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all long cairns are considered to be nationally important. Elaborate complexes of fields, field boundaries and linear boundaries are a major feature of the Moor landscape. Several methods of field layout are known to have been employed in south-west England from the Bronze Age to the Roman period (c.2000 BC - 400 AD). These include both irregular and regular aggregate field-systems. Irregular aggregate field-systems comprise a collection of field plots, generally lacking in conformity of orientation and arrangement, containing fields with sinuous outlines and varying shapes and sizes. By contrast, regular aggregate field systems comprise a collection of field plots defined by boundaries laid out in a consistent manner, along two axes at right angles to each other. Both types of field-system are bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches or fences. They frequently contain small heaps of stone cleared from the surface before or during the plots' use, called clearance cairns. Linear boundaries form land divisions on a larger scale than the field-systems. Built during the Bronze Age (c.2000 - 750 BC), they fulfilled a variety of functions, including separation of cultivated from grazing lands, areas regularly cultivated from those intermittently cultivated, agricultural from ceremonial areas, and territorial markers - separating lands over which rights were exercised by different social groups. Field-systems and linear boundaries are often located around or near settlement sites, visible as stone hut circles, and they sometimes incorporate or occur near ceremonial or funerary monuments which may be earlier than, or contemporary with, the use of the plots and boundaries. Both field-systems and linear boundaries form an important element in the existing landscape and are representative of their period. Their longevity of use and their relationships with other monument types provide important information on the diversity of farming practices and social organisation among prehistoric communities. This monument on Bearah Common has survived well; the long cairn survives substantially intact despite the limited actions of stone robbers and it retains many original features. The field-systems and linear boundaries similarly survive well, preserving their original layout and a good range of broadly contemporary inter-related features including stone hut circles and clearance cairns, with only minor breaks due to stone-splitting and track formation. The presence within the monument of Neolithic, Bronze Age and medieval elements demonstrates well the development of land use over a very considerable time since the Early Prehistoric period. The monument's extensive and varied Prehistoric field-systems and linear boundaries show the nature of farming practices during the Bronze Age and contain rare evidence for their development within the Prehistoric period.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument is situated across the broad valley of Bearah Common between
Bearah Tor and the Langstone Downs on eastern Bodmin Moor. On the southern
slope of Bearah Tor it includes a Neolithic chambered long cairn incorporated
within a field of a later Prehistoric regular aggregate field system, itself
partly encompassed by a medieval enclosure wall. A wall from the regular
field system extends across the valley floor to form one wall of an irregular
aggregate field system on the lower northern flank of the Langstone Downs.
Another wall from the irregular field system extends as a linear boundary
directly up the slope of the Downs, forming a base-line from which four other
linear boundaries emerge at intervals running east, dividing the eastern spur
of the Downs into near-parallel zones.
The Neolithic long cairn survives as a trapezoidal, flat-topped mound of
heaped rubble, up to 0.6m high and measuring 28m east-west by 14.5m wide at
the east end, tapering to 3m wide at the west end. Limited stone-robbing has
produced a hollow, 9m long, 2.5m wide and 0.3m deep, near the centre of the
mound's western half and the SW edge of the mound has been truncated by a
recently-cut ditch alongside a vehicle track that passes the cairn's southern
side. An edge-set slab, 0.5m high, and three contiguous small boulders form a
projecting kerb around the NE corner of the platform. The partly collapsed
remains of a large slab-built burial chamber are centred 5.5m from the mound's
eastern edge. The chamber survives with an edge-set slab, 2.7m long and 1m
deep along its north side, against whose southern face leans another slab of
the same dimensions which formed the chamber's south side when upright, giving
a chamber 2.7m east-west by 1m north-south internally. Against the west and
SW edges of the chamber's southern slab are two end-set slabs, called
orthostats, each 2.4m long but now reaching 1m and 2m high respectively due to
their angle of lean. Three further slabs are laid flat and embedded in the
mound's surface to the immediate NE of the chamber, while at least eight more
edge-set slabs and small orthostats are visible in the surface of the mound's
eastern half, evidence for the internal structuring of the mound common among
Neolithic long cairns. One slab lying flat on the mound's SE corner has been
fashioned into a millstone roughout during the 19th century.
The long cairn is situated near the centre of the eastern field of a
Prehistoric regular aggregate field system. This field system includes three
rectangular plots bounded by walls of heaped rubble and boulders, generally
1.5m wide and 0.4m high but rising to 3m wide and 1m high in parts, and
containing occasional facing slabs and orthostats. The field plots are
arranged in a row, WSW-ENE. The smaller eastern pair are defined by three
walls, 60-90m apart, sub-dividing the land between two near-parallel walls
running 105-125m apart on a WSW-ENE axis, giving plots of 1 hectare and 0.9
hectare respectively. Short lengths of walling extending east from the NE and
SE corners of the eastern plot indicate the former presence of further plots
in that direction. The western plot comprises a sub-rectangular area of 3.3
hectares, measuring a maximum 197m WSW-ENE by 215m NNW-SSE, its northern wall
sharing a similar alignment to that of the eastern plots but its southern wall
projecting a further 75m to the SSE. Shorter lengths of rubble walling
survive near the centre of its western half, providing evidence for its former
sub-division. This field system contains five stone hut circles, surviving
with circular rubble walls, up to 2m wide and 0.7m high, around levelled
internal areas ranging 5.5-12.5m in diameter. Occasional inner and outer
facing slabs are present and one hut circle has a low internal wall marking
off the SW third of its interior. One hut circle is located near the northern
edge of the eastern field, another is near the SW corner of the western field,
and the other three form an east-west line in the NW quarter of the western
field. This field system also contains at least 16 large heaps of cleared
rubble, called clearance cairns. These range 2-8m in diameter and 0.4-1.2m
high, showing a similar distribution to the hut circles with isolated examples
at the northern edge and beyond the NE side of the eastern field, one near the
SW corner of the western field, and the remainder in the NW quarter of the
western field. This field system shows some evidence for re-use as an
enclosure during the medieval period; the enclosure wall follows the field
system walling along its northern side, then curves south, up to 45m beyond
the west wall of the western plot, returning along the southern side of the
western plot. No closure of its eastern side is visible. Where the medieval
enclosure wall overlies the Prehistoric wall, the latter has been converted
into an earth and rubble bank, up to 2m wide and 1m high, ditched along the
The west wall of the Prehistoric regular field system extends south, beyond
the field system, to the valley floor where it turns east for 75m, then curves
south, rising up the northern lower slope of the Langstone Downs to form the
western wall of an irregular aggregate field system. This field system is
similarly walled to the regular system and comprises two complete plots. The
northern plot is rectangular, 130m long east-west, bounded by parallel walls
45-52m apart to north and south. The southern plot is almost semi-circular,
its curving southern wall extending the northern plot's west wall southwards
and eastwards to give a length of 110m east-west by 45m north-south. A partly
cleared wall marks off a western sector in each plot. The northern wall of
the northern plot extends to both east and west. To the east it disappears
after 60m into natural rubble deposits. To the west, it continues for 15m
beyond the wall extending from the regular system, then turns sharply south,
continuing as a major linear boundary described below. A small subrectangular
field plot, of 0.04 hectares, is built against this linear boundary's east
side, opposite the field system's southern plot. The irregular field system
incorporates two stone hut circles, each with rubble walling 2m wide and 1m
high, with both inner and outer facing slabs, around levelled interior areas
6.5m in diameter.
One hut circle, built into the southern wall of the southern plot, has an
entrance gap facing NNW; the other, in the narrow gap between the western
plot's west wall and the linear boundary wall, has a south-facing entrance
gap. A small clearance cairn is situated 12m north of the latter hut circle,
with two others situated adjacent to, and 10m beyond, the southern plot's SE
edge. These cairns are up to 4m in diameter and 0.75m high.
The linear boundary extending from the northern edge of the irregular field
system continues for 357m from its turn southwards, running almost directly
uphill for 207m to the shallow summit dome of the spur, and then curving to
the SW over its final 150m, ending in the natural boulder scree to the north
of Sharptor. The boundary survives as a rubble bank, up to 1.75m wide and
0.4m high, with orthostats up to 0.7m high forming contiguous rows in parts.
The boundary forms a base-line from which four other, similarly constructed,
linear boundaries extend east and south-east, at intervals of 25-75m, dividing
the slope of the spur into broad strips. Shorter cross-walls run SSW from the
central two of these boundaries. The parallel walls bounding the northern and
southern sides of the irregular field system's northern plot also derive from
this earlier phase of land division.
The surface of the metalled track running ESE from the Bearah Tor granite
quarry is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it 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: 15145
Legacy System: RSM
9/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1425,
CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text. Ch.4, 1.3, fig 17
consulted 7/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 2674,
consulted 7/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcriptions for SX 2673 & SX 2674,
consulted 7/1991, Cornwall SMR entries for PRN 1397 & 1423,
consulted 7/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1423,
consulted 7/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1424,
consulted 7/1991, Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:2500 Supplementary Field Trace for SX 2674,
Darvill, T., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Long Barrows, (1989)
Plan copy appended to CAU PRN 1425, Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:200 plan of the Bearah Common long cairn, (1985)
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