Ancient Monuments

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Hameldown Beacon barrow

A Scheduled Monument in Widecombe in the Moor, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5956 / 50°35'44"N

Longitude: -3.8264 / 3°49'35"W

OS Eastings: 270826.150793

OS Northings: 78915.973245

OS Grid: SX708789

Mapcode National: GBR QD.9SXX

Mapcode Global: FRA 27WH.F3K

Entry Name: Hameldown Beacon barrow

Scheduled Date: 1 January 1900

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1003284

English Heritage Legacy ID: DV 284

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Widecombe in the Moor

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Widecombe-in-the-Moor St Pancras

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


Round cairn known as Hameldown Beacon, forming part of a linear cairn cemetery on Hamel Down.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 5 November 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes a round cairn situated on the summit ridge of Hamel Down. The cairn forms part of a cemetery including at least nine cairns. This cairn survives as a steep sided stoney mound measuring 18m in diameter and standing up to 2.2m high. A hollow in the eastern side of the mound represents the site of a partial early excavation. A boundary stone on the top of the mound reads “Hamiton Beacon” and the cairn is crossed by a granite boundary wall. The name of the cairn is derived from its use as a beacon in medieval times. Some cairns forming part of this cairn cemetery are protected by separate schedulings, whilst others are not because they have not been formally assessed.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and, because of exceptional conditions of preservation; it is also one of the most complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, major land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time. Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, the latter predominating in areas of upland Britain where such raw materials were locally available in abundance. Round cairns may cover single or multiple burials and are sometimes surrounded by an outer ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major visual element in the modern landscape. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type 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. Dartmoor provides one of the best preserved and most dense concentrations of round cairns in south-western Britain. Twenty-three beacon sites are recorded on Dartmoor, all of which are sited on hills around the fringes of the Moor, where they were visible from large parts of Devon. Two beacons were built upon earlier round cairns and at these two sites the beacon attendant's shelter also survives. Most of the beacons recorded on Dartmoor, however, are known only from documentary referencesand/or place names, and their precise location can rarely be established with certainty. Many of the Dartmoor beacons are considered to have medieval origins, while most are known to have been used during the 16th century. At least two beacons were reused during the Napoleonic War.

The Dartmoor beacons formed part of a larger scale, county-wide and national warning system. As a discrete group within the wider distribution, all positively identified examples with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.
Despite partial early excavation the round cairn known as Hameldown Beacon survives comparatively well and forms part of a linear cairn cemetery on Hamel Down. The cairn will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was erected. The prominent position of the cairn suggests that it was an important territorial marker and this is reflected in its later use a beacon.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Volume One - The East , (1991), 148
PastScape Monument No:- 445096

Source: Historic England

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