Fernacre stone circle and two outlying stones


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011499

Date first listed: 26-Nov-1928

Date of most recent amendment: 08-Sep-1993


Ordnance survey map of Fernacre stone circle and two outlying stones
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Breward

National Grid Reference: SX 14495 79956


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. Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout England, although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and laid out carefully, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. Of the 150 or so stone circles identified in England sixteen are located on Bodmin Moor. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

The Fernacre stone circle has survived well as one of the largest stone circles in Cornwall. Its proximity to other broadly contemporary ritual and funerary monuments, settlements and field systems demonstrates well the nature of ritual practices, their relationship to farming activity and the organisation of land use during the later Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Its importance as a good example of a large irregular stone circle is reflected in its frequent reference in national reviews of this monument type.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a prehistoric ritual stone circle; its surrounding bank and two outlying stones, situated near the centre of a broad natural basin between Roughtor, Garrow Tor, Brown Willy and Louden Hill on north-west Bodmin Moor. The stone circle is situated near the earlier prehistoric hillfort on Roughtor and other broadly contemporary ritual and funerary monuments, including two other stone circles, and is located close to extensive areas of prehistoric settlement and field systems on the southern Roughtor Moors. The stone circle is visible as a ring of at least 63 granite slabs, 0.3m to 1.3m long, their spacing ranging from adjacent touching slabs to one pair 7m apart. The slabs are distributed about a sub-circular course measuring 46.5m NE-SW by 44.5m NW-SE. In plan, the stone circle varies greatly from a true circular course, with an especially marked flattening of its south-eastern sector. There is no regularity in the arrangement of the larger and smaller stones in the circle and their surfaces show no evidence for any form of prehistoric working or dressing. A 20th century attempt to split a large recumbent slab in the circle's NNW sector has left drill-marks on its surface. Thirty-eight of the stones survive as upright end- or edge-set slabs, though some lean markedly; the remainder are recumbent, several of these are partly submerged beneath the peaty turf. Slight traces of an earthen bank, up to 1.75m wide and 0.2m high, are visible along the outer side of two lengths, up to 5m long, of the circle's slabs in its SSE sector; elsewhere the bank is likely to survive as a buried feature. A small recumbent slab, 0.5m long, is situated 2m east of the stone circle's centre. A survey of the stone circle made in 1906 indicates that this slab was formerly accompanied by another recumbent slab, approximately 1m long, situated 3m to the west. Two outlying slabs are visible to the east and SSE of the stone circle, prominent in this otherwise virtually stone-free area. The larger slab, measuring 0.5m wide by 0.4m thick and 0.5m high, is situated 48m beyond the stone circle's eastern sector; the other slab, also 0.5m wide and 0.4m thick, and standing 0.3m high, is situated 41m beyond the stone circle's SSE sector. The topographical location of this stone circle is such that its skyline includes four prominent hills at cardinal points of the compass: Roughtor to the north, Brown Willy to the east, Garrow Tor to the south and Louden Hill to the west. Its highly visible location resulted in its early record on a mid- 18th century map and it has been discussed in most national reviews of stone circles from the later 19th century onwards. This monument is located in an area containing many other surviving prehistoric monuments. The Neolithic (c.4500-2000 BC) hilltop enclosure on Roughtor is situated 750m to the north, 525m to the north-west. Two other broadly contemporary stone circles are situated 1.5km to the WSW and 1.75km to the west. Extensive field systems and settlement sites from successive phases of Bronze Age occupation on the Roughtor Moors are situated 165m to the east.

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: 15214

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982)
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982)
Burl, A, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, (1976)
Thom, A, Megalithic Sites in Britain, (1967)
Gray, H St G, 'Archaeologia' in On The Stone Circles Of East Cornwall, , Vol. 61 (i), (1907)
consulted 10/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 1479,
consulted 10/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcriptions for SX1379-80 & SX1479-80,
consulted 10/1991, CCRA SMR entry for SX17NW/34,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1975,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1975.1,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1978,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3337,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3354,
consulted 5/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3384,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Maps: SX07/17 & SX08/18 Source Date: 1988 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Martyn's Map of Cornwall Source Date: 1748 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: CAU copy, consulted 10/1991

End of official listing