Tor cairn on Showery Tor


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011544

Date first listed: 04-Jul-1973

Date of most recent amendment: 08-Sep-1993


Ordnance survey map of Tor cairn on Showery Tor
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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 14921 81316


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 relationships 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. Tor cairns are ceremonial monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1000 BC). They were constructed as a ring bank of stone rubble, up to 35m in external diameter, sometimes with an entrance and an external ditch, and roughly concentric around a natural rock outcrop or tor. In some cases a kerb of edge-set stones bounds the inner edge of the bank and the area between the bank and the outcrop was sometimes infilled by laying down a platform of stone rubble or turves. Excavated examples have revealed post-holes and pits within the area defined by the ring-bank, some containing burial evidence, and scatters of Bronze Age artefacts concentrated around the central tor. Tor cairns usually occur as isolated monuments, though several are associated with broadly contemporary cairn cemeteries. They are very rare nationally with only 40-50 known examples concentrated on the higher moors of Devon and Cornwall, where their situation in prominent locations makes them a major visual element in the modern landscape. As a rare monument type a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

This tor cairn on Showery Tor has survived well despite the relatively recent and well-defined actions of stone robbers. It is the largest known example of a tor cairn and retains intact many clear features distinctive to its class, including the peripheral bank, inner hollow, central natural outcrop and has a prominent location. Its proximity to other broadly contemporary ceremonial, funerary and settlement sites demonstrates well the nature of ritual practices and the organisation of land use during the Bronze Age, while the presence of the earlier prehistoric defended enclosure nearby shows the development of that land use from the Neolithic period.


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


The monument includes a large prehistoric tor cairn situated around the prominent granite stack of Showery Tor on north-west Bodmin Moor, near other earlier and broadly contemporary funerary and ritual monuments, settlement sites and field systems on the Roughtor Moors. The tor cairn survives as a near-circular bank of heaped rubble, up to 13m wide and 3m high, its external dimensions measuring 37m NNE-SSW by 30m WNW- ESE. The rubble bank encircles the natural granite stack which rises 5m high from the summit of Showery Tor, the crest of the bank following a course 5m- 10m beyond the outer faces of the stack. This results in a broad concentric interior hollow with a base of consolidated rubble between the bank and the stack. Relatively recent stone-robbing has produced several minor irregular hollows in the bank, especially in its southern sector, and has created rifts across the bank over a 15m length in its northern sector, where the main access was clearly gained for this stone robbing. At no point, however, has the robbing reached the base of the rubble forming the bank or the interior hollow. Beyond this monument, a prehistoric ritual avenue of stone banks, 150m to the west, is orientated on this prominent tor cairn, while 300m to the SSW and clearly visible from the tor cairn, the summit saddle of Roughtor is encompassed by the walls of an earlier, Neolithic, defended enclosure. Extensive settlements, field systems, linear boundaries and cairns broadly contemporary with this tor cairn survive nearby on the lower western slopes of the Roughtor-Showery Tor ridge.

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: 15200

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982)
Miles, H, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Barrows on the St Austell Granite, Cornwall, , Vol. 14, (1975)
CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text. Ch.4, 1.3, fig 17
consulted 10/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcriptions for SX 1480-1,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3298,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3307,
consulted 5/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3384,
Darvill, T C, MPP Monument Class Description for 'Tor Cairns', (1989)
Johnson, N D and Sharpe, A, 1:100 plans; Showery Tor Cairn, CAU Ref. Nos. GRH 124/7/5-6, (1984)
Mercer, R J, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 864, 1972,

End of official listing