Prehistoric irregular field system with incorporated cairnfield and round cairn 1.08km north-west of Showery Tor


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric irregular field system with incorporated cairnfield and round cairn 1.08km north-west of Showery Tor
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Breward
National Grid Reference:
SX 14082 81895

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.

Elaborate complexes of fields, field boundaries and enclosures 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.20000 BC - 400 AD). These include irregular aggregate field systems which comprise a collection of field plots, generally lacking in conformity of orientation and arrangement, containing fields with sinuous outlines and varying shapes and sizes and bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches or fences. They are frequently associated with small heaps of stone, usually cleared from the surface before or during the plots' use, called clearance cairns, which may form dense concentrations, called cairnfields. The field systems are often located around or near settlement sites and they sometimes incorporate, or occur near, ceremonial or funerary monuments. Among the funerary monuments, round cairns date to the Bronze Age (c.2000 - 700 BC) and cover single or multiple burials. They were constructed as mounds of earth and rubble up to 40m in diameter but usually much 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 called a cist, set into the old ground surface or dug into the body of the cairn. Round cairns can occur as isolated monuments or in small groups or larger cemeteries. Each of these types of monument forms an important element of the existing landscape and is representative of its period. Their longevity of use and their relationships with other monument types provide important information on the organisation of farming activities and on the nature and diversity of funerary practices among prehistoric communities. This monument on the lower north-west slope of Showery Tor survives well, with only minor and limited disturbance from the actions of recent stone-robbers. The monument's walling and cairns have been surveyed in detail. The monument contains rare visible evidence for a sequence of land-use changes affecting one area during the Bronze Age. The inclusion of a field system and funerary cairn into that sequence demonstrates well the nature and development of farming practices and the relationship between farming and funerary activities during the Bronze Age. The proximity of the monument to other broadly contemporary field systems, settlement sites, linear boundaries and cairns preserves unusually intact the wider context within which those important developments and relationships in the monument were formed. The considerable lynchetting present in parts of the monument will preserve old land surfaces and environmental evidence contemporary with its sequence of construction and use.


The monument includes a prehistoric irregular aggregate field system incorporating a broadly contemporary cairnfield and a prehistoric round funerary cairn. The monument is situated near other broadly contemporary cairns, settlement sites, field systems and linear boundaries on the lower north-western slope of the Showery Tor ridge on north-west Bodmin Moor. The field system contained in this monument forms the north-western sector of a formerly more extensive prehistoric field system which was partly dismantled during the Bronze Age in the earliest of at least three successive changes in prehistoric land-use indicated by the relationships of nearby prehistoric monuments on this hillside. The prehistoric field system is defined by walling of heaped rubble, up to 2m wide and 0.4m high. The wavering course of the walls define one complete ovoid plot in the north-east part of the monument. The plot measures 108m north-south by up to 68m east-west and encompasses 0.6 hectares. An entrance in this plot's northern edge is marked by two edge-set slabs spaced 1.75m apart in the wall-line. Similarly walling of an adjoining plot extends from the north-west and western edges of the ovoid plot, encompassing 0.14 hectares, to a line where its north-western sector has been truncated by medieval tin mining along the valley floor. Another wall dividing former plots adjoining to the south and south-west extends from the ovoid plot's south-west edge, visible for 50m to the south to where its partly dismantled course becomes submerged beneath the peaty turf. Forty metres beyond that point, its projected course is crossed by a similar rubble wall defining the northern side of another plot. The latter wall survives for 150m on an ENE- WSW axis, curving towards the south at each end where it also becomes progressively slight due to its partial dismantling in prehistory. The eastern, uphill, sides of most of the field system walls have a substantial build-up of soil against the wall rubble resulting from the combined effects of prehistoric cultivation and gravity on the slope, a process called lynchetting. The area encompassed by the irregular field system walling contains at least eleven small mounds of heaped rubble, called clearance cairns. These result from the accumulation of surface stone within the field plots during prehistoric cultivation and from the aggregation of the field-wall rubble on the former wall-lines during the later partial dismantling of the field system. Nine of the clearance cairns are near-circular, up to 3.75m in diameter and 0.3m high, and two are formed as short linear mounds, up to 7.5m long, 1.75m wide and 0.2m high. Four are situated on the wall-line of the irregular ovoid plot and the truncated plot to its north-west; the others are located over 0.6 hectares in the eastern part of the prehistoric field south- west of the ovoid plot. Such an aggregation of small clearance cairns is called a cairnfield. The monument also contains a larger round funerary cairn, situated on the junction of the south-west sector wall of the ovoid plot with the wall extending to the south. The cairn survives as a near-circular mound of heaped rubble, 7.3m in diameter and up to 0.4m high. Partial clearance of the prehistoric field walls on their approach to the cairn demonstrates the cairn's construction during the later phase when the irregular field system was being dismantled. Relatively recent stone robbing from the cairn has produced shallow hollows in its upper surface and has spread some of its mound rubble on its northern and western peripheries. Beyond this monument, traces of the early irregular field system reappear from 175m to the south and 300m to the south-east, while further, broadly contemporary, funerary cairns are situated from 70m to the south. Extensive and broadly contemporary hut circle settlements spread along the hillslope from 150m to the south, while a major prehistoric linear boundary runs up the slope from 50m south of the monument.

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.

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Books and journals
Woolf, C, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Dorothy Dudley - ... An Appreciation, , Vol. 14, (1975)
consulted 10/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP trancriptions for SX 1481-2,
consulted 10/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 1481,
consulted 10/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcriptions for SX 1482,
Consulted 10/1991, CAU, 1:1000 AP trancriptions for SX 1481 NW and SX 1482 SW,
consulted 10/1991, CAU, 1:1000 Survey, SX 1481 NW,
consulted 10/1991, CAU, 1:1000 Survey, SX 1482 SW,
consulted 10/1991, CAU, 1:1000 Surveys, SX 1481 NW and SX 1482 SW,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entries for PRN 3292-3,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3286.1,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3286.2 - 3286.12,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3290,
consulted 10/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3291,
consulted 10/19991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3299.1,
Rees, S, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1044, 1976,


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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