Co-axial field system, hut circle settlements, cairnfield and land boundaries on Carne Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011726

Date first listed: 25-Jul-1975

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Sep-1991


Ordnance survey map of Co-axial field system, hut circle settlements, cairnfield and land boundaries on Carne Down
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Altarnun

National Grid Reference: SX 20095 82080, SX 20132 82046, SX 20200 81568


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 quality and diversity of the evidence is such that the moor has been the subject of detailed archaeological survey and hence it forms one of the best recorded upland landscapes in England. Of particular note are the extensive relict landscapes of Prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date. Together these 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 and field boundaries are some of the major features of the Bodmin Moor landscape. Co-axial field systems are one of several methods of land division employed on the moor during the Bronze Age; evidence from nearby Dartmoor suggests their introduction around 1700 BC, continuing in use to around 1000 BC. They consist of linear stone banks forming parallel boundaries rising to a similar boundary running approximately along a contour, separating the lower land from the grazing zones of the higher moor. The long strips formed by the parallel boundaries are subdivided by cross-banks into rectangular field plots sharing a common long axis. Occupation sites and funerary or ceremonial monuments are often incorporated in, or associated with, co-axial field systems. Their longevity and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation, land use and farming practices amongst Prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. The monument on Carne Down has a range of incorporated, well- preserved, contemporary settlement features and is associated with funerary monuments on Carne Down summit and other Prehistoric settlement sites on the W slope. There is evidence for the development of the field system within the Prehistoric period, a rare feature of this monument type.


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


The monument consists of a block of rectangular, parallel, Prehistoric fields extending beyond the present moorland edge and containing two hut circle settlements, two small clearance cairns and five scattered hut circles; two linear boundaries extend from the field system, towards the summit of Carne Down and around the northern upper slope, the latter also having an isolated hut circle attached to it. This monument is divided into three separate constraint areas. The field system survives as a network of boundaries, variously formed as banks of piled stone or boulder walls, 1-1.5m wide and 0.5m high. They are arranged as a series of parallel NE-SW boundaries, 20-42m apart, ending on the upper slope along the SE-NW boundary approximately following the 280m contour line; the individual fields are formed by SE-NW subdivisions of the parallel boundaries, giving plots of 0.04ha to 0.45ha in size. This arrangement is called a co-axial field system. Within the field system, two areas at the 260m contour line contain hut circle settlements, disrupting the parallel boundaries and with short lengths of walling linking some hut circles. The settlement near the E corner of the monument covers 0.5ha and contains eight hut circles with double- or internally-faced boulder walls 1.5m-2m wide, up to 1m high, and ranging 4m-8.5m in internal diameter. Two routeways, defined by parallel stone boundaries 5-7.5m apart, run uphill through the field system from the settlement to the Prehistoric moor-edge boundary. The other settlement is centred 185m to the NW and is more dispersed, covering 1ha; it contains seven hut circles of similar construction but all internally-faced only, ranging 5m-9.5m in internal diameter, one hut circle being contained within a small `D-shaped' enclosure; two small mounds of small stones piled around natural boulders - called clearance cairns - are situated near the centre of this settlement. A single routeway links this settlement with the former moor-edge boundary, and where it meets that boundary, a small narrow field projects into the moor. In addition to the settlements, a further five hut circles of similar construction occur as scattered isolated examples within this field system. A Prehistoric extension of the field system beyond its former upper boundary is evident at the S end of the monument where further field boundaries, of slighter form than those at lower levels but orientated on the same major axes, extend to the Carne Down- West Moor watershed and rise to 290m contour line. This extension cuts across one routeway to the moor from the eastern hut circle settlement and results in the presence of its second routeway. The field boundary forming the watershed limit of this extension continues N for 160m beyond the uphill limit of the fields, and ends 15m from a pair of Bronze Age funerary cairns on the summit of Carne Down. The moor-edge boundary of the main field system ends as it begins to descend the N slope of Carne Down, near a junction with another similar boundary which maintains the 280m level, running for 110m to the WSW; no field walls run off this boundary but a single hut circle is situated against its uphill side near its centre. Another similar boundary runs SSW- NNE down the N slope, crossing the boundary along the contour near the hut circle. This field system and its associated features are located predominantly on the E upper slopes of Carne Down, a large rounded hill rising to 297m on the NE edge of Bodmin Moor. In two places, at the E and the NE corners of the monument, the field plots of the co-axial field system can be seen to extend below the modern moorland-edge walling, visible as rectangular areas marked by steep slopes, called lynchets, c 0.5-1m high around their edges, which occur in the upper margins of the improved pasture bordering the moorland edge. The modern drystone walls, hedges and fences along the SE and NE sides of the monument are excluded from the scheduling but the land beneath them 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: 15037

Legacy System: RSM


2/1991, 1:2500 Air Photo Transcriptions; SX 2082,
Carter, A/RCHME, 1:2500 Air Photo Transcription & Suppl. Field Trace, SX 2081,
Consulted 2/1991, Carter, A/RCHME, 1:2500 Air Photo Transcription; SX 2081,
Consulted 2/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1518.01-.06,. 1518.08,
Consulted 2/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1518.09, .10, .14 -.16,

End of official listing