The Rillaton Barrow, 500m NNE of The Hurlers stone circles


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)
National Grid Reference:
SX 26021 71911

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. Round cairns are funerary monuments covering single or multiple burials and dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as mounds of earth and stone rubble up to 40m in external diameter but usually considerably smaller; a kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edges of the mound. Burials were placed in small pits, or on occasion within a box-like structure of stone slabs called a cist, let 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. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provides important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social organisation in the Bronze Age. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

The Rillaton Barrow is reasonably well preserved and, despite the actions of stone robbers, a substantial proportion of the mound survives undisturbed and hence it will retain many of its original features, including burial deposits. Although it has not been archaeologically excavated, this cairn is well-known as the provenance of the gold cup and receives frequent mention in national reviews as one of the richest and most westerly of the early Bronze Age prestigious graves. The cairn's importance is further enhanced by its position within a wider grouping of differing but broadly contemporary classes of funerary and ceremonial monuments on Craddock Moor, demonstrating well both the diversity and the organisation of burial practice and ritual during the Bronze Age.


The monument comprises a very large round cairn, with a long cist exposed in its east side, on Rillaton Moor on south-east Bodmin Moor. The Rillaton Barrow survives as a massive circular mound, 34m in diameter and up to 2.7m high, composed of heaped stone rubble and earth. The sides of the mound rise to the edge of a large trough dug into the central area, measuring 15m E-W by 10m N-S and 1.75m deep, the result of relatively recent stone-robbing. Another much smaller cutting into the east side of the cairn exposes the east side of a long cist, a box-like burial structure built of stone slabs. The cist is orientated north-south and measures internally 2.2m by 1.1m, by 0.9m high. Single slabs form the northern and southern sides and the top, the coverstone, while the western side and the exposed eastern side comprise three smaller slabs each. The cist was originally discovered by stone-robbers in 1818 or 1837, early accounts differing on the date. Within the cist were remains of a skeleton accompanied, beneath a leaning stone slab, by a decorated pot containing a small cup of sheet gold with a slightly bulbous, corrugated body, a flared rim, and a rivetted strip-handle. Other grave goods in the cist included a large dagger and a rivet, both of a copper alloy; some fragments of ivory or bone; several beads, probably of the crystalline blue-green glass called faience, and a fragment described as `ornamental earthenware'. Unfortunately all of these finds except the gold cup and dagger are now lost, the surviving finds being in the British Museum. The gold cup is a rare and important find which has been compared in shape with the pottery beakers found with burials and on domestic sites in the early Bronze Age (c.2000 - 1500 BC). This date also accords with a number of other similarly richly-furnished burials in cairns and barrows, best known from examples further east in central southern England and considered to reflect the emergence of a prestigious elite at this period. The peripheral position of the cist and its location well above ground level at the eastern side indicate that this was not the original, or primary, burial which caused the cairn's mound to be constructed. The site of such a primary and any other secondary burials remain undiscovered in the considerable volume of this cairn that remains undisturbed. The cist was slightly restored in 1900 but otherwise this cairn has not been archaeologically excavated. It is the largest round cairn on Bodmin Moor, and is situated in a prominent position on the east crest of Rillaton Moor with an uninterrupted prospect east across south-east Cornwall and the Tamar Valley to Dartmoor.

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
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 213-4
Borlase, W C, Naenia Cornubiae, (1872), 36-40
Fox, A, South West England, (1964), 70-1
Megaw, J V S, Simpson, D D A, Introduction to British Prehistory, (1979), 218
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological Survey and Management (Volume 2), (1989), 435-440
Todd, M, The South-West to A.D. 1000, (1987), 142-3
Ashbee, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in The Silver Cup from Saint-Adrien, Cotes du Nord, Brittany, , Vol. 18, (1979), 57-60
Fletcher, M J, 'From Cornwall to Caithness. Papers presented to Norman Quinnell' in Stowe's Pound, , Vol. 209, (1989), 71-7
Fletcher, M J, 'From Cornwall to Caithness. Papers presented to Norman Quinnell' in Stowe's Pound, , Vol. 209, (1989), 71-77
Gerloff, S, 'Prahistorische Bronzefunde' in The early Bronze Age dagger in Great Britain, , Vol. 6:2, (1975), 107
Grinsell, L V, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A Note On The Rillaton Barrow, , Vol. 8, (1969), 126-7
Trahair, J E R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A survey of cairns on Bodmin Moor, , Vol. 17, (1978), 3-24
CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text. Ch.4, 1.3, fig 17
consulted 3/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription, SX 2671,
Consulted 3/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1403,
consulted 3/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1415,
consulted 3/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1420,
Monument Description in AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 484, consulted 3/1991


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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