Selworthy Beacon cairn


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020793

Date first listed: 03-Sep-2002


Ordnance survey map of Selworthy Beacon cairn
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset (District Authority)

Parish: Minehead Without

National Park: EXMOOR

National Grid Reference: SS 91868 47981


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

Reasons for Designation

Exmoor is the most easterly of the three main upland areas in the south western peninsula of England. In contrast to the other two areas, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, there has been no history of antiquarian research and little excavation of Exmoor monuments. However, survey work has confirmed a comparable richness of archaeological remains, with evidence of human exploitation and occupation from the Mesolithic period to the present day. Many of the field monuments surviving on Exmoor date from the later prehistoric period, examples including stone settings, stone alignments, standing stones, and burial mounds (barrows or cairns). Round cairns are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500BC. They were constructed as rubble mounds which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries, and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Over 370 barrows or cairns, varying in diameter from 2m to 35m, have been recorded on Exmoor, with many of these found on or close to the summits of the three east-west ridges which cross the moor - the southern escarpment, the central ridge, and the northern ridge. Individual cairns and groups may also be found on lower lying ground and hillslopes. Those which occupy prominent locations form a major visual element in the modern landscape. Their longevity as a monument type can provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Selworthy Beacon cairn is believed to be an outlying member of a round cairn cemetery (a group of cairns sited in close proximity to one another), and it survives well beneath the deposits of the modern stone heap which has helped to preserve its original form. The cairn will contain archaeological deposits and environmental evidence relating to the cairn and the wider landscape in which it was constructed.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric cairn located at Selworthy Beacon, a post-medieval beacon site situated on a high ridge which extends eastwards from Minehead to Bossington Hill. The cairn is considered to be an outlying member of a round cairn cemetery, the centre of which is located some 500m to the east. The cairn is formed by a near-circular stone and earthen platform which has a maximum diameter of 11.5m and a maximum height of 1.1m. The cairn has been modified, as its name suggests, for use as a fire beacon probably during the 16th century when the original cairn mound was truncated. It is now topped with a modern stone heap of approximately 7m in diameter which lies at the centre of the platform.

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: 35326

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113 pt 1, (1969), 36
SS 94 NW 102, National Monuments Record,

End of official listing