Prehistoric hut circles, enclosures and cairns 700m south east of Rushyford Gate


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016966

Date first listed: 12-Sep-1960

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Sep-1999


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric hut circles, enclosures and cairns 700m south east of Rushyford Gate
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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. Cleer

National Grid Reference: SX 22509 75730, SX 22653 75729, SX 22708 75569, SX 22743 75479


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. Stone hut circles were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on the Moor, mostly dating from the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). The stone-based round houses survive as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; remains of a turf or thatch roof are not preserved. The huts occur singly or in small or large groups and may occur in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Although they are common on the Moor, their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices among prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

The hut circles, enclosures and cairns 700m south east of Rushyford Gate on the north of Smallacoombe Downs survive reasonably well, displaying clearly their form and manner of construction. Despite limited disturbance from forestry operations, which have not resulted in deep ploughing of these features, and from antiquarian attentions at two of the cairns, internal deposits and structural features will remain substantially intact. The modifications evident at the south eastern hut circle in this scheduling are an unusually clear example of the continuing role which early settlement sites sometimes maintained in later periods. The survival of the associated enclosure walling provides evidence for the character and economy of the settlement. It also gives valuable field evidence to confirm and complement the early records and aerial photographs in enabling identification of this type of settlement as an early stage in the complex sequence of prehistoric to post-medieval land use that has produced a very extensive survival of settlement, field system and funerary remains along the north east side of Smallacoombe Downs.


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


The monument includes five hut circles associated with four enclosures and four small prehistoric cairns on the north east of Smallacoombe Downs on south east Bodmin Moor. The scheduling is divided in four separate areas of protection. The hut circles are irregularly spaced across the Downs' north easterly midslope, SSE of Rushyford Gate; in the north west and east of the scheduling are individual hut circles, with the other three grouped between them as a small settlement arranged in a closely-spaced line. Each hut circle has a circular or slightly ovoid interior, partly levelled into the slope and defined by a rubble wall with varying degrees of inner or outer facing. The associated enclosure walls appear as rubble banks, sometimes incorporating large boulders and edge-set slabs. The north western hut circle is 10.5m in diameter externally, its rubble bank averaging 1.5m wide; the bank rises up to 0.5m above the levelled interior on the SSW and is up to 0.7m high externally on the north. A large boulder is displaced into the interior. From 16m ENE of this hut circle, an enclosure wall is visible for 15m, curving south then south west before fading as a surface feature. Against the west side of the enclosure wall's northern end is a subrectangular walled structure, 5.5m WSW-ENE by 3.2m NNW-SSE. Its rubble walling, roughly coursed in places, on the west, south and east sides is 0.8m- 1.2m wide and 0.2m-0.6m high; it is open to the NNW and its interior is partitioned by a slighter rubble and slab wall, forming east and west compartments each about 2.5m long, NNW-SSE by 1.2m wide. The three closely-spaced hut circles forming the settlement further east extend as a north-south row over 35m. The northernmost is 7.5m in external diameter, its bank 0.2m-0.5m high around a 5.2m diameter interior. Centred 20m to the south, the next hut circle is 6.5m in external diameter with a bank to 0.5m high, with some inner facing slabs, around a 4.4m diameter interior; against the bank's outer face on the SSE is a small rectangular annexe, 2.1m long by 1.1m wide overall and defined by large edge-set slabs on its north east end and SSE side, but open to the south west. Only 2m beyond is the southern and smallest hut circle in the line, 4.75m in diameter externally and 2.5m diameter internally, its bank generally 0.4m-0.5m high with some inner and outer facing slabs and a large boulder displaced inwards on the north of the bank. The settlement of three hut circles is adjacent to walling of two enclosures. One is a small oval enclosure, 24m north-south by 16m east-west externally with slab and rubble walls generally 1.5m wide and 0.4m high. At its centre, several exposed slabs and a small levelled area give ill-defined indications of a circular internal feature about 4m in diameter. The south east curve of this enclosure's wall adjoins the western walling of the northern hut circle in the settlement. The second enclosure is closed on the east and north by the settlement's hut circles by the smaller enclosure, but is defined on the south and south west by a rubble and slab bank which appears 4.5m south of the southernmost hut circle and extends 5m south west before curving sharply to head NNW for 48m, fading close to the smaller enclosure. The fifth hut circle in the scheduling, 100m south east of the row of three, shows alterations to convert it to a medieval or early post-medieval building. Except on the north east, the hut circle wall is generally 0.8m-1.1m wide around a levelled interior 5.8m in diameter. Its western walling stands to 1m high, with coursed rubble inner and outer facing and a large inner facing slab on the north. Two large edge-set slabs, 1.1m apart across the wall line on the WNW, mark the original entrance. On the south east and east, the wall rises only 0.25m high, with small facing slabs on both faces and a slope of tumbled wall rubble outside. This slighter section of walling was partitioned from the rest of the hut circle in the later modification by a low flat-topped wall, 1m wide, running south west-north east across the south east of the interior, breaching the hut circle wall at both ends and extending 2.5m beyond the hut circle wall on the ENE to end as a rough stump. The hut circle's visible north east walling, 0.7m wide and up to 0.7m high, is straight and of double-faced roughly coursed rubble, entirely a later re-build marking the final phase of modification in which the hut circle wall line was reinstated, overriding the low, flat-topped partitioning wall. Small rubble heaps north of the hut circle also derive from the later alterations. The hut circle is in the north east of a large ovoid prehistoric enclosure, up to 100m north east-south west by 80m north west-south east, defined by rubble and boulder walls generally 1.5m-2m wide and 0.2m-0.5m high with occasional edge- set slabs; the wall is not evident across part of the south west end of the enclosure, while at the north east the enclosure wall turns inward towards the hut circle. Roughly central within the enclosure are two prehistoric cairns, visible as low rubble mounds 17m apart on a north east-south west axis. The north eastern cairn is 5.1m north west-south east by 4.8m north east-south west, with a shallow domed profile rising 0.6m; situated 1m beyond this cairn's south west perimeter are two small outlying rubble mounds, 0.5m apart and each 2m across and 0.4m high. The south western cairn is 5m in diameter and rises 0.6m to a flattened upper platform roughly 2.6m in diameter. The other two prehistoric funerary cairns are located at the south east of this scheduling and are also 17m apart on an east-west axis; each visible as a low rubble mound with an inner cavity resulting from an unrecorded antiquarian excavation. The western cairn is 5.5m in diameter and 0.7m high; a central excavation pit is 1.75m in diameter with an access trench through the western side of the cairn. The eastern cairn is 4m in diameter, rising up to 0.8m high from its eastern, downslope edge; a north east-south west excavation trench, 1.2m wide, extends 2.5m into the cairn from the north east edge and exposes large slabs in the sides and south west end which may derive from a box-like funerary structure called a cist. A short length of prehistoric rubble bank is visible extending 5m to the north west, 2.8m east of this cairn. The hut circles and enclosures in this scheduling are located in the north west of a zone of distinctive early prehistoric settlement encompassing the north east flank of the Downs and comprising scattered hut circles, often similarly associated with small rounded enclosures or discrete aggregations of curvilinear field plots, some still surviving beyond this scheduling and others evident from early aerial photographs and records, but subsequently damaged or destroyed by afforestation. Later in the prehistoric period, this settlement pattern influenced and became partly incorporated into an extensive regular rectilinear field system that occupies much of the Downs' lower north eastern slope along the valley of the Withey Brook. That field system in turn was much later reused and modified as the basis for medieval exploitation of the lower valley side from the deserted villages above Trewortha Marsh and at Smallacoombe Parks.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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: 15537

Legacy System: RSM


CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1065.02, .03, .05, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1065.12-.14, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1016.01, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1016.02, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1065.01, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1065.12, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1065.20, (1990)
Drawn to accompany EH Management Plan, Hooley, A D, 1:2500 Smallacoombe Downs survey plan on Ordnance Survey/ Landline Map base, (1998)
Saunders, A D, AM 7 scheduling documentation for CO 593, 1960,
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 27 NW Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 27 SW Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Smallacoombe Downs survey plan on OS/Landline map base Source Date: 1998 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing