St Breock Downs monolith and surrounding cairn


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012119

Date first listed: 06-May-1963

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Feb-1992


Ordnance survey map of St Breock Downs monolith and surrounding cairn
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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. Breock

National Grid Reference: SW 96788 68312


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

Reasons for Designation

Standing stones are prehistoric ritual or ceremonial monuments with dates ranging from the late neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age for the few excavated examples. They comprise single or paired upright orthostatic slabs, ranging from under 1m to over 6m high where still erect. They are often conspicuously sited and close to other contemporary monument classes. They can be accompanied by various features: many occur in or on the edge of round barrows, and where excavated, associated sub-surface features have included stone cists, stone settings, and various pits and hollows filled in some cases with earth containing human bone, cremations, charcoal, flints, pots and pot sherds. Similar deposits have been found in excavated sockets for standing stones, which range considerably in depth. Several standing stones also bear cup and ring marks. Standing stones may have functioned as markers for routeways, territories, graves or meeting points, but their accompanying features show they also bore a ritual function and that they form one of several ritual monument classes of their period that often contain a deposit of cremation and domestic debris as a integral component. No national survey of standing stones has been undertaken, and estimates range from 50 to 250 extant examples, widely distributed throughout England, but with concentrations in Cornwall, the North Yorks Moors, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the Cotswolds. Standing stones are important as nationally rare monuments, with a longevity and demonstrating the diversity of ritual practices in the late Neolithic and Bronze Age. Consequently all undisturbed standing stones and those which represent the main range of types and locations would normally be considered to be of national importance. The St Breock Downs monolith is an especially large standing stone, the most massive example in Cornwall, and will always have been a dominant feature of its open environment where it is closely associated with a much larger grouping of contemporary ritual and burial monuments. Its prominence is reflected by the occurrence in local folklore and by antiquarian records of the site dating back to 1613. Its importance is enhanced by the surrounding low cairn and by limited excavation which has confirmed the status of the monument and shown it to be accompanied by an artifical stone setting and other ritual features.


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


The monument comprises a massive standing stone located slightly SW of the centre of a low stone cairn. The standing stone is formed from the local Devonian shale with extensive feldspar veining. It stands 3.05m high but leans markedly to the N and measures 4.92m long and 1.51m by 1.07m at the base. Limited excavation of the cairn in 1956 revealed that the stone stood in a setting of quartz pebbles measuring 4.89m by 3.67m. Two small, shallow, empty hollows occurred in the subsoil beneath the pebble layer. The cairn extends to a visible diameter of c.10m and the monolith base is centred c.1.5m SW of the cairn's centre. The monument is located near the summit of the St Breock Downs in an open landscape of heath and recently improved pasture which contains many other Bronze Age ritual monuments with which this monument was probably associated, including at least, one other standing stone and a series of barrow cemeteries that extend up to 7km to the west. The monument figures in local folklore as a meeting place and it was formerly adopted as a parish boundary marker. It has been recorded by antiquarian accounts since 1613 and features in most archaeological reviews of Cornwall's monuments. The modern information sign and its concrete plinth 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: 15002

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 87, 236
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 87 & 97
Russell, V, Pool, P A S, Excavation of a Menhir at Try, Gulval, (1964), 15-26
Anc Monuments Terrier for St Breock Downs monolith, CO 335,
SMR entry for the `Longstone', St Breock Downs, PRN 26103,

End of official listing