Two Bronze Age settlements, associated field enclosures, small cairns, a cist and a propped stone on the south and western slopes of Leskernick Hill

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1464798
Date first listed:
16-Oct-2019
Location Description:
Leskernick Hill, Bodmin Moor. NGR (centered): SX1825279925.

Map

Ordnance survey map of Two Bronze Age settlements, associated field enclosures, small cairns, a cist and a propped stone on the south and western slopes of Leskernick Hill
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Leskernick Hill, Bodmin Moor. NGR (centered): SX1825279925.
District:
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Altarnun
National Grid Reference:
SX1827980091

Summary

Two Bronze Age settlements on the south and western slopes of Leskernick Hill, a number of contemporary small cairns and a cist, and a propped stone near the summit of the hill, thought to be of Prehistoric date.

Reasons for Designation

The two Bronze Age settlements, associated field enclosures, small cairns, a cist and a propped stone on the south and western slopes of Leskernick Hill are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: the settlement round houses and their associated field boundaries retain a large proportion of their stones and their layout and relationships can be read very well;

* Potential: the settlement area will contain important environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, and any ritual significance or landscape context;

* Documentation: the settlements have been surveyed a number of times, and contextualised within the archaeology of Bodmin Moor;

* Group value: for their close proximity to other related contemporary scheduled monuments;

* Rarity: as a well-preserved example of a hill top settlement on Bodmin Moor.

History

The site comprises two Bronze Age settlements focused on the southern and western slopes of Leskernick Hill within a landscape scattered with other prehistoric monuments, including two stone circles and a stone alignment to the south-east and a round cairn at the summit of the hill; these are not within the scheduled area of the settlements. The two settlements are discrete but adjoining and comprise round houses set within walled enclosures. Within the scheduled area and contemporary to the Bronze Age settlements are a number of small cairns and a cist, and near to the summit of the hill is a large propped stone.

Stone hut circles (or round houses) were the dwelling places of prehistoric people on Bodmin Moor and represent the remains of circular buildings, usually domestic in function. They occur in isolation, or as part of a bigger group which can be either enclosed or unenclosed to form a settlement. When enclosed a single bank or rubble wall will delimit the settlement, with one major entrance. As the hut circle is the remnant of a more substantial wall, it will reflect the availability of local resources and contain upright stones (such as upright slabs forming the inner and outer faces of a wall), courses of stone slabs or low mounds of rubble and soil intermixed with turf. In their simplest form stone hut circles consist of walls broken by a single entrance, and sometimes with evidence of internal structures such as a hearth or stone flooring. Small annexes or forecourts, or two hut circles conjoined are less common. Stone hut circles are usually found in association with a wide range of monuments including field systems and enclosures, and 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.

The Leskernick settlements have been known since the late C19, and a scattering of hut circles is shown on the first and second edition Ordnance Survey maps. The settlements were first shown fully, with most of their fields, on the 1962 Ordnance Survey map, and were re-surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1973 and 1976; the survey details for each round house are recorded on the Cornwall and Scilly Historic Environment Record. A field survey of the settlements was carried out in 1984 during an extensive survey of Bodmin Moor by English Heritage and RCHME (published 1994, see Sources), when 41 round houses were recorded.

University College London Institute of Archaeology led a programme of archaeological work at the Leskernick settlements from 1995 to 1999 which included excavation and sketch survey of specific features, and the accurate plotting of all features across the settlements. This work confirmed the identification of the houses recorded in 1984, and revealed a further ten houses. Radiocarbon dating of oak charcoal excavated in both settlements produced the date range of 1670-1490 BC to 1030-810 BC in the western settlement, and 1525-1375 BC to 1430-1265 BC in the southern settlement. This suggests that the western settlement was the first to be established and that the settlements may have been inhabited for over 800 years across the Bronze Age. However, there is also evidence from excavation that the later dates are related to features created within abandoned round houses by people practicing transhumance.

An assessment of a propped stone towards the summit of the hill within its landscape was published in Cornish Archaeology in 1997 (Herring, 1997, see Sources), where it was suggested that it was an early Neolithic man made structure, and the western settlement was purposefully designed to relate to it. At midsummer the setting sun can be viewed through a frame created by the propped stone, but its purpose is unconfirmed.

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS Two discrete but adjoining Bronze Age settlements, of which the western settlement is the earliest, covering an area of around 21 hectares on the south and western sides of Leskernick Hill. Investigation has identified a total of 51 round houses with associated enclosures and compounds. Around the south and east side of the settlement remains are a number of contemporary small cairns and cists. Towards the summit of the hill is a propped stone considered to be of Prehistoric date.

A lengthy description of the settlements and the associated cairns, cists and propped stone is beyond the scope of this document. They are covered in detail principally by Herring (1997), and Bender B, Hamilton S & Tilley C. (2007) (see Sources) from which the following summary draws. This description does not attempt to describe every feature present, but rather will characterise briefly the settlement remains.

DESCRIPTION Two settlements constructed from within spreads of rubble stone (known locally as clitter) located on the lower slopes of the west and southern sides of Leskernick Hill. The two settlements are divided by a linear band of clitter. Approximately half of the walls to the round houses are of double-faced stone construction with large upright orthostats and rubble cores. Others are simply-built of dry-stone walling and some incorporate large earth-fast boulders. Many have a large stone on the wall opposite the entrance, in most cases set into a niche and some with small platforms in front. Some have cobbled floors and retain evidence of subdivision, and some have integral annexes or corridors. The houses vary in size from 4m to over 10m in diameter, with stones ranging from 0.4m to 0.7m high. The tallest stones suggest that the house walls originally stood up to 1.5m high. All the round houses are circular and have a single entrance placed at the south or south-east side of the house, with one exception in the western settlement. Some doors were blocked after abandonment, perhaps as their occupants decommissioned them, or perhaps as later people adapted them for reuse, as pens or similar. Several round houses have secondary features built within them and some of these may relate to the practice of transhumance.

SOUTHERN SETTLEMENT Twenty round houses are located within the southern settlement. These include one cluster of nine forming a loose circle; 25m to their east a group of three within an enclosure; and four more discrete round houses which adjoin enclosure walls, downslope from the two main house clusters. An additional two isolated round houses stand within their own enclosures in the south-western part of the settlement and are the largest, with internal diameters exceeding 8m.

Some structures which occur on the downslope enclosure boundaries are irregular in form, generally smaller, less-carefully built and are likely to be ancillary buildings for animals or storage. Those enclosures without round houses are thought to be paddocks.

Along the south and south-west enclosure walls of the southern settlement, are five small cairns, each approximately 2 to 3m in diameter and 0.5m high, and a cist. The cist and two of the cairns are incorporated into the enclosure walls, and the remainder are located outside entrance gaps to the enclosures. A further isolated cairn is located high up the slope approximately 60m from the cluster of nine round houses. It is possible that further stone mounds may also be cairns, but this is unconfirmed.

WESTERN SETTLEMENT There are 31 huts in the western settlement, which is fully enclosed by rubble stone walls. Eighteen huts are loosely arranged in one large compound approximately 50m in diameter, enclosed with a rubble-stone wall along the contours of the hill. Four other huts occur in a similar-sized compound to the south. Other more isolated huts lie to the north including one which has its entrance aligned west towards Rough Tor. The associated enclosures vary in size from 0.25 to 1 hectare with their curvilinear boundaries comprising placed upright orthostats and linear banks of boulders, linked with earth-fast boulders, rocky outcrops and concentrations of clitter. The boundaries range from 0.6-2m in width and up to 1.2m in height. The field enclosures have entrance gaps and a defined simple entrance survives within one within the eastern part of the western settlement system.

PROPPED STONE To the north of the two settlements, and located approximately 120m from the summit of the hill, is a large sub-rectangular flat-topped stone approximately 2.8m long, 1.8m wide and 0.3m thick, propped at an angle using three small boulders on a rock outlier. The structure is thought to be man made and early Neolithic in date, constructed to relate to the surrounding tors visible from Leskernick Hill.

Sources

Books and journals
Bender, B, Hamilton, S, Tilley, C, Stone Worlds: Narrative and Reflexivity in Landscape Archaeology, (2007)
Bender, B, Hamilton, S, Tilley, C, 'Leskernick: the biography of an excavation' in Cornish Archaeology, , Vol. 34, (1995), 58-73
Herring, P, 'Early prehistoric sites at Leskernick, Altarnun' in Cornish Archaeology, , Vol. 36, (1997), 176-185
Bender, B , Hamilton, S, Tilley, C, 'Leskernick: Stone Worlds; Alternative Narratives; Nested Landscapes' in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, , Vol. 63, (1997), 147-178
Websites
Heritage Gateway: Leskernick Hill - Bronze Age hut circle settlement, Bronze Age hut circle, Bronze Age field system, HER number 3158 (links through to individual round house surveys) , accessed 29/05/2019 from https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MCO19921&resourceID=1020
Other
Johnson, N, and Rose, P, Bodmin Moor: An Archaeological Survey: Volume 1: The Human Landscape to 1800, 1994.
Ordnance Survey, Cornwall (1906) (1:2500)
Ordnance Survey, Cornwall (1977) (1:2500)
Young, A, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Mapping Project: A Report for The National Mapping Programme, 2007

Legal

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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