Two ring cairns 330m south east of Coldharbour Cross


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Two ring cairns 330m south east of Coldharbour Cross
© 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.

South Hams (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 71404 52063

Reasons for Designation

A ring cairn is a prehistoric ritual monument comprising a circular bank of stones up to 20m in diameter surrounding a hollow central area. The bank may be kerbed on the inside, and sometimes on the outside as well, with small uprights or laid boulders. Ring cairns are found mainly in upland areas of England and are mostly discovered and authenticated by fieldwork and ground level survey, although a few are large enough to be visible on aerial photographs. They often occur in pairs or small groups of up to four examples. Occasionally they lie within round barrow cemeteries. Ring cairns are interpreted as ritual monuments of Early and Middle Bronze Age date. The exact nature of the rituals concerned is not fully understood, but excavation has revealed pits, some containing burials and others containing charcoal and pottery, taken to indicate feasting activities associated with the burial rituals. Many areas of upland have not yet been surveyed in detail and the number of ring cairns in England is not accurately known. However, available evidence indicates a population of between 250 and 500 examples. As a relatively rare class of monument exhibiting considerable variation in form, all positively identified examples retaining significant archaeological deposits are considered worthy of preservation.

The two ring cairns remain reasonably well preserved examples of this class of monument. Although superficially damaged, their banks are largely intact and the buried features will survive in good condition. They exhibit a number of the features characteristic of this class of monument including their topographic location and paired setting. They are an unusual survival in an area of the county where burial monuments are not common.


The monument includes two ring cairns and the archaeologically sensitive area of ground between them situated in the South Hams some 3.5km north of the village of Loddiswell on a hill to the west of the River Avon. It lies towards the western end of the hill crest on ground with a slight downwards slope to the south west. The ring cairns are aligned north west-south east. The south east ring cairn, with an overall diameter of 24m, is formed by a low bank 3m in width and c.0.2m in height. The bank is most clearly visible on the inside. Within the ring and offset to the south of the centre, there is a low and uneven mound, 6m in diameter and c.0.3m in height, which has a number of stones protruding through the turf, ranging in size from 20cm to 50cm x 30cm. The north west ring cairn, with an overall diameter of 21m, is formed by a low bank 3m in width and c.0.2m in height. The bank is most clearly visible on the inside. The distance between the ring cairns is 12m. The area of ground between them is archaeologically sensitive in that it will contain burials, evidence of related activity, and archaeological evidence for the chronological relationship between the two ring cairns. The ring cairns appear to have been first identified from RAF vertical aerial photographs taken in 1946. At that time, and when they were surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1961, they lay within an area of heath and were partly overgrown with gorse. Clearance of the heath and subsequent ploughing have made this monument less distinct than when first recorded.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in The Barrows of South and East Devon, , Vol. 41, (1983), 5-46


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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