Platform cairn on Priddacombe Downs


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015214

Date first listed: 10-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Platform cairn on Priddacombe Downs
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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 16276 77121


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 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. Platform cairns are funerary monuments covering single or multiple burials and dating to the Early Bronze Age (c.2000-1600 BC). They were constructed as low flat-topped mounds of stone rubble up to 40m in external diameter. Some examples have other features, including peripheral banks and internal mounds, constructed on this platform. A kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edges of the platform, bank or mound, or all three. Platform cairns occur as isolated monuments, in small groups, or in cairn cemeteries. In the latter instances they are normally found alongside cairns of other types. Although no precise figure is available, current evidence indicates that there are under 250 known examples of this monument class nationally. As a rare monument type exhibiting considerable variation in form, a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

This platform cairn on Priddacombe Downs survives well, with no recorded archaeological excavation and only limited disturbance evident from the much later peat-cutting. In diameter it is one of the largest cairns on Bodmin Moor and is the largest of the moor's platform cairns, displaying clearly its distinctive form, the off-centre internal mound being an unusual feature. Its summit location, reflected also by cairns on neighbouring hills, shows well the importance of, and respect for, landforms in prehistoric funerary and ritual activity. The relationship between such activity and broadly contemporary settlement is demonstrated by a good survival of hut circles and prehistoric field systems on nearby slopes and spurs.


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


The monument includes a large platform cairn with a perimeter bank and internal mound situated on the summit of Priddacombe Downs in the central part of Bodmin Moor. The cairn is visible as a large low mound, 33m in diameter, rising to a flattened platform generally 0.4m high. The platform's western perimeter is defined by a slight bank, 2.5m wide and rising 0.1m above the platform surface except where a small incursion of much later peat-cutting causes a break in the south west sector. Traces of the perimeter bank around the platform's eastern side are also visible on air photographs of the cairn. Where adjacent peat-cuts abut the cairn's edge on the north and north east, they expose a line of contiguous laid slabs forming a kerb along the outer edge of the cairn's perimeter bank. The kerb line also includes three spaced slabs projecting through the turf on the west and north west edge of the cairn. Within the perimeter bank is a markedly off-centre, oval, internal mound measuring 17.5m WNW-ESE by 13m NNE-SSW and rising 0.2m high on the SSW sector of the cairn's platform. This cairn on the domed summit of Priddacombe Downs forms one of a series of surviving broadly contemporary cairns situated on or about the summits of adjacent hills in this part of Bodmin Moor; several of those cairns are inter-visible with this cairn and others were visible prior to the recent forestry plantation on the south and west slopes of the downs. This pattern of summit cairns is complemented by surviving prehistoric hut circle settlements and field systems on the neighbouring lower slopes and spurs, including examples on Stanning Hill to the SSE of this scheduling, on the Butterstor Downs to the west and on the Catshole Downs to the NNE.

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: 15475

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Trahair, J E R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A survey of cairns on Bodmin Moor, , Vol. 17, (1978), 3-24
CUC air photos: RC8 BU 50 & 51; SX 1677, Priddacombe Downs, (1976)
Fletcher, M J, NAR entry for Antiquity No. SX 17 NE 25, (1973)
Quinnell, N V, RCHME Record, Field Report and Survey Plan; NAR entry SX17NE 25, (1984)
SMR printout on 4th June 1996, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3164; Priddacombe Downs Cairn,
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map: SX 17 NE Source Date: 1988 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map: SX 07/17, Pathfinder 1338, Bodmin Moor (West) Source Date: 1988 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing