Earlier prehistoric hillfort with incorporated and adjacent cairns, chamber and medieval chapel on the summit ridge of Rough Tor and Little Rough Tor


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Earlier prehistoric hillfort with incorporated and adjacent cairns, chamber and medieval chapel on the summit ridge of Rough Tor and Little Rough Tor
© 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.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Breward
National Grid Reference:
SX 14715 80858

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.

Earlier prehistoric hillforts are large fortified settlement sites dating to the Neolithic period (c.3500-2000 BC). They may be recognized by single or multiple rubble walls or earthen banks enclosing all or part of a hilltop. The boundaries often vary in size, incorporate numerous small entrance gaps and commonly include substantial natural rock outcrops and scarps in their circuit. Ditches, sometimes similarly with intermittent breaks, occasionally accompany the enclosing banks. The hillfort enclosures, up to 10ha in extent, usually contain cleared and levelled house platforms. The few recent excavations of this class of monument have revealed numerous internal timber and stake-built structures and pits associated with large quantities of undisturbed Neolithic settlement debris including animal bone, charcoal, flint artefacts, pottery and stone tools. Many of these finds or their raw materials were originally brought to the hillforts from considerable distances away. Excavations have also produced evidence for warfare at some sites. Extensive outworks are associated with most of these hillforts, either roughly concentric with the inner enclosure or connecting a series of related enclosures. Under twenty earlier prehistoric hillforts are known nationally, concentrated in the uplands of south-western England from the Cotswolds and Dorset to west Cornwall, with a very few isolated possible examples elsewhere in southern England. They are a very rare monument type, highly representative of their period as one of the major sources of information on social organisation and interaction during the Neolithic period. Earlier prehistoric hillforts sometimes incorporate small cairns, heaped rubble mounds, some of which may be contemporary, but most of which are Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). These were constructed as mounds of earth and rubble up to 40m in diameter but usually considerably smaller. Sometimes a kerb of edge- set stones bounds the mound's edges or crest of the mound. Burials were placed in small pits, or on occasion within a slab-built box-like structure called a cist, set into the old ground surface or dug into the body of the cairn. Variations in cairn design include embanked examples surrounded wholly or partly by an earth and rubble bank, also kerbed on one or both sides in some cases. The considerable variation in form and associations of funerary cairns provides important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social organisation during the Bronze Age. Distinctive hilltops were also one of several types of favoured site for building chapels during the medieval period, mostly from the 12th-15th centuries though some have earlier origins. Chapels, buildings licensed for Christian worship but without parochial status, served a considerable range of functions, with a corresponding diversity of form and location. Their associations can be similarly diverse, including, for example, enclosures, cemeteries, holy wells, hermitages and bridges. Of these, hilltop chapels, commonly dedicated to St Michael, were one very small group. Although estimates suggest there were about 600 chapels in medieval Cornwall, these were thinly represented on Bodmin Moor where only 11 chapels are documented other than by field-names alone. Of these, only three are considered to retain medieval structural elements, and only one of these, on Rough Tor, is a hilltop chapel. This monument about the summit of Rough Tor has survived well. The earlier prehistoric hillfort has not been excavated and survives little disturbed by later activity, displaying intact many features distinctive to this class of monument. Its incorporated cairns also survive substantially intact, their range of size and visible detail demonstrating the nature and diversity of funerary practices among prehistoric communities. This diversity is further illustrated by the adjacent embanked and round cairns on the summit of the Rough Tor outcrop itself. The medieval chapel foundations built into the embanked cairn provide a rare example of a medieval hilltop chapel, the only one known on Bodmin Moor. The chapel's proximity to the other broadly contemporary ecclesiastical monuments on Rough Tor shows clearly an important relationship between religious activity and the topography in the medieval period. The development of that ritual relationship and of settlement with the topography from early in the prehistoric period is well illustrated by the superimposed presence within the monument of the prehistoric hillfort, the cairns and the chapel.


The monument includes an earlier prehistoric hillfort about the summit of the prominent hill of Rough Tor on north west Bodmin Moor. The hillfort contains numerous house platforms and includes multiple enclosing walls incorporating eight prehistoric funerary cairns and a small slab-built chamber. A further two cairns are located adjacent to the hillfort's south western end, the larger incorporating the foundations of a medieval chapel and its enclosure. Post-medieval activity within the monument is indicated by a number of millstone roughouts and a modern regimental war memorial is situated within the remains of the medieval chapel. The hillfort is visible as a large, ovoid enclosure measuring 365m north east- south west by up to 220m north west-south east externally, occupying a broad saddle between the tor outcrops of Rough Tor and Little Rough Tor. The enclosure is defined in most sectors by closely-spaced multiple lines of heaped rubble and boulder walling, generally 2m-3m wide and 0.5m high but up to 8m wide and 1m high, often incorporating inner and outer facing slabs. The walling meets the base of the dense scree around the Rough Tor and Little Rough Tor outcrops, incorporating them into the enclosure circuit but not extending over them. Similarly a scarp of dense boulder scree and bedrock outcrops completes the circuit over a break in the enclosure walling for 100m SSE of Little Rough Tor. Smaller breaks also occur at several other points where the walling incorporates natural spreads of boulders. The hillfort's north west walling contains variously three or four wall-lines over a combined width ranging from 15m to 35m. This north west wall incorporates two entrance gaps, separated by the 80m central sector of the wall. The north eastern entrance is an almost straight gap, 2m-5m wide, passing directly through the multiple wall-lines and flanked by slight rubble walls. The south west entrance, also 2m-5m wide, has a shallow `S-shaped', hollowed course with traces of rubble flanking walls in places, but its position is elaborated by several other features. These include a marked thickening of the defensive line and the incorporation of contiguous rows of large edge- and end-set slabs, called orthostats, up to 1.5m high, into the multiple wall-lines approaching the entrance from each side. The outer three wall-lines for 30m north east of the entrance are entirely formed of these orthostats. This entrance is flanked by three similar small round cairns, one on each side near its midpoint and one 6m to the south west. These survive with sub-circular mounds of heaped rubble, 4m-5m in diameter and 0.3m-1m high. The two cairns beside the entrance itself each have an outer kerb of edge-set slabs. A small medieval or later shelter, 3.5m in diameter, has been hollowed into the rubble where the outermost wall-line meets the entrance. The hillfort's south east walling generally contains two wall-lines, 2m-15m apart, with a third wall interposed between them at the southern end at the site of a third entrance. Here the inner wall curves inwards to a 3m wide break; minor breaks in the outer two walls produce a staggered approach. This entrance is also marked by two small round cairns, located 1.4m apart against the northern side of the interposed wall-line. The cairns survive with circular, heaped rubble mounds, 4.25m in diameter, the western 0.3m high and the eastern 0.6m high. The enclosure wall and its incorporated outcrops encompass an internal area of 4.4ha containing at least 30 small, rounded, levelled areas, 4m-15m across, from which stone has been cleared to the edges. These areas, called house platforms, were stances on which prehistoric timber houses and associated structures were built. Most visible house platforms cluster in two areas, 11 on the slope immediately behind the south western of the two entrances in the north west wall, and 13 similarly grouped behind the southern entrance. The others form isolated examples or pairs in the north east of the interior and against the south east wall. At least ten more house platforms and irregular cleared areas are located between the wall-lines forming the south east wall and against its outer side, while beyond this monument, at least another ten house platforms are located on the hillslope to the south. The hillfort's enclosure circuit incorporates three more broadly contemporary round cairns. The largest crowns the natural tor outcrop of Little Rough Tor at the hillfort's north east end. This cairn survives as a circular mound of heaped rubble, 25m in diameter and up to 5m high, with considerable spillage of cairn rubble down the steep sides of the outcrop. The top of the mound is roughly flattened over a sub-circular area up to 12m in diameter, defined on most sides by a kerb of edge-set slabs and coursed blocks protruding slightly from the rubble surface. Limited stone robbing has disrupted the kerb and the mound's surface on its ESE side. A much smaller round cairn is centred 40m to the WNW, within the outer wall-line of the enclosure wall where it meets the base of the Little Rough Tor outcrop. This cairn survives as a circular, heaped rubble mound, 1.8m in diameter and 0.2m high. The third round cairn is located at the south west end of the hillfort, on a small shelf among the boulder scree and jointed granite outcrops at the eastern side of the massive Rough Tor outcrop. It survives as a sub-circular heaped rubble mound, up to 11m in diameter and 0.6m high, from which some rubble has spilled down the rock face to the east. An unrecorded antiquarian excavation has produced a central hollow, 1m in diameter and 0.5m deep. Incorporated into the natural line of boulders and scree defining the hillfort interior south east of Little Rough Tor is a slab-built rectangular chamber under a 1m high overhang along the south west edge of a natural outcrop. The chamber's sides are defined by contiguous edge-set slabs, up to 0.8m high, giving an internal area measuring 2.3m north west-south east by up to 1.2m north east-south west. Adjacent to the hillfort's south west end, about the summit of the main outcrop of Rough Tor, are two more, adjoining cairns. The larger cairn has a central mound and an outer bank, both of heaped rubble and situated on a natural sloping terrace among the tor stacks of the summit itself. The central mound measures 18m north west-south east by 15m north east-south west, rising to 1.7m high on its north west side but level with the upper edge of the bedrock scarp which defines its south east edge. The outer bank is located on the edge of the terrace, 1m-5m beyond the mound's perimeter in the north west quadrant only. This bank survives up to 3m wide and 1.4m high above its outer, downslope, edge. A curving bank of rubble, 5m wide and 1m high, heaped against the foot of the scarp face beyond the central mound's southern edge continues the line of the outer bank in that sector. The adjoining cairn is located on a slightly lower, narrow outcrop projecting north east from that occupied by the larger cairn. It survives with a sub-circular heaped rubble mound, 12m in diameter and up to 0.3m high, with a slight central hollow due to unrecorded antiquarian excavation. The medieval chapel was built into the central mound of the larger, embanked cairn on the summit of Rough Tor. The southern part of the mound's rubble was dug away to bedrock over an 8m diameter area to insert the chapel's wall. This survives as a sub-rectangular foundation wall, 0.8m thick and up to 0.3m high, of coarsely mortared granite blocks defining an internal area measuring 6.2m east west by 2.9m north-south with an entrance gap 3.1m wide in the east of the north wall. Beyond its east and north walls are traces of the chapel's enclosure wall, surviving 0.7m wide and 0.3m along the east side and as a bank 1.7m wide and 1.5m high along the north side, defining an enclosure 9m square. A track approaches the south west corner of the enclosure rising through a cleft in the scarp face to the south via two rock-cut steps. In addition to the surviving remains, historical records document the chapel's dedication to St Michael and grants of licences for the chapel issued in 1378 and 1419. During the 20th century, a bronze plaque war memorial dedicated to the 43rd Division, Wessex Light Infantry, has been affixed within the southern part of the chapel's interior. Post-medieval stone-working activity within and beyond the monument is evident from numbers of polygonal rough-outs for millstones, at least two of which are located near the hillfort enclosure wall in the north east of the monument. Beyond the monument, all aspects of the prominent Rough Tor-Showery Tor ridge contain numerous and often extensive Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement, ritual and funerary sites, clearly visible from this monument. The distinctive hill of Rough Tor is also a focus for a small group of medieval religious monuments; beyond the monument a holy well is located 330m NNE of the chapel on Rough Tor's northern slope and a medieval grave marked by a roughly formed cross-slab is situated 220m to its north on the upper north western slope of Rough Tor.

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.

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Books and journals
Axford, E C, The Cornish Moor
Todd, M, The South-West to A.D. 1000, (1987)
Mercer, R J, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavations At Carn Brea, Illogan, Cornwall, , Vol. 20, (1981)
Mercer, R J, 'Univ. Edinburgh Dept. of Archaeology Project Paper' in The Excavation Of A Neolithic Enclosure At Helman Tor, Lanlivery, , Vol. 4, (1986)
Silvester, R J, 'Prehistoric Dartmoor in its Context. DAS Jubilee Conference Proc' in The Rel of 1st Millen Settlement to the Upland Areas of the SW, , Vol. 37, (1979)
Toulson, S, 'Exploring the ancient tracks of Dartmoor, Bodmin and Penwith' in The Moors of the Southwest, , Vol. 2, (1984)
CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text. Ch.4, 1.3, fig 17
consulted 1992, Carter, A./CAU/RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots for SX 1480-1,
consulted 1992, CCRA record No. SX 18 SW/135,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.1,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.2,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.3,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.4,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.5,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.6,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.7,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.8,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3381.9,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3382,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3383,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3390,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3391/CCRA entry SX 18 SW/81,
consulted 1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3400,
consulted 5/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3384,
p312-3; PRN 3390, CAU, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. An evaluation for the MPP, (1990)
Quinnell, N.V., 1:1000 Survey Plan of Roughtor, (1986)
Quinnell, N.V./RCHME, 1:1000 Survey Plan of Roughtor, (1986)
RCHME, 1:1000 Survey Plan of Roughtor, (1986)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 08/18; Pathfinder Series 1325; Camelford Source Date: 1986 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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.

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