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Stannon Stone Circle, prehistoric field system, hut circle settlement, cairns, cist, linear boundaries and medieval building north of Dinnever Hill

A Scheduled Monument in St. Breward, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5881 / 50°35'17"N

Longitude: -4.6478 / 4°38'51"W

OS Eastings: 212670.192043

OS Northings: 79833.1831

OS Grid: SX126798

Mapcode National: GBR N5.DCZ6

Mapcode Global: FRA 174J.53F

Entry Name: Stannon Stone Circle, prehistoric field system, hut circle settlement, cairns, cist, linear boundaries and medieval building north of Dinnever Hill

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 17 March 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007764

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15279

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Breward

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Breward

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a prehistoric ritual stone circle, the Stannon Stone
Circle, and a prehistoric irregular aggregate field system which extends south
and east from the stone circle. The monument is situated across a broad spur
and around an adjacent stream-head between Dinnever Hill and Louden Hill on
north-west Bodmin Moor. Incorporated within the prehistoric field system are a
hut circle settlement and a much later building, of Romano-British or medieval
date, in its north-east sector. A funerary platform cairn and a nearby
funerary cist are incorporated towards the centre of the field system, and a
platform cairn with a central mound and outer bank near its southern edge.
Later prehistoric land division resulted in two linear boundaries which cut
across parts of the field system and extend beyond it, one of which shows
evidence for partial re-use as a medieval boundary. Medieval and later
transport across the Moor has resulted in hollowed routeways crossing many
parts of the monument.
The Stannon Stone Circle is visible as a sub-circular arrangement of 68
granite slabs situated on a flat shelf near the north-west edge of the spur
containing much of the monument. The stone circle measures a maximum 42.7m
NE-SW by a minimum 39m north-south along the line of the erect slabs. Its
arrangement deviates markedly from a true circle, including four flattened
arcs in its south-east, south-west, WNW and north sectors. The circle contains
39 erect or leaning slabs and 29 fallen slabs. In addition many smaller
packing stones are visible about the bases of the slabs. The slabs are closely
spaced, generally in the range 0.1m to 2m apart, but some larger gaps, up to
5.5m wide, denote missing slabs, some of whose locations are visible as
hollows in the turf. The circle is considered originally to have contained up
to 82 slabs. The surviving slabs range in height from 0.3m to 1.16m but most
are under 0.75m high. No consistent grading of slab-height is evident in the
circle and the slabs show no evidence for surface dressing. The largest slab,
located in the western sector of the circle, is 1.25m wide and 1.4m long, but
leans outwards. An outlying edge-set slab is situated 8.5m beyond the NNE
sector of the circle. This slab measures 1.25m long NNW-SSE, by 0.25m thick
and leans, now standing 0.5m high but would be 0.7m high if erect.
The prehistoric irregular aggregate field system survives over 8.75ha along
the central and western parts of the spur and around the adjacent stream-head.
It contains four large plots defined by sinuous, largely turf-covered walls of
heaped rubble, up to 1.2m wide and 0.4m high. Near the south-west corner of
the field system, a river channel exposes a section of the wall 1m wide and
0.5m high, buried beneath a 0.5m thick peat deposit. The three intact field
plots - two across the central part of the field system and one across their
southern ends - range from 2.1ha-2.7ha in extent. The western of the central
plots approaches to within 20m of the Stannon Stone Circle. The northern
walling of the north-eastern plot has been destroyed by later stone-robbing.
The hut circle settlement is incorporated within the field system's north-east
plot and includes four stone hut circles, spaced 8m-33m apart in an east-west
linear arrangement. The hut circles survive with walls of heaped rubble and
small boulders, up to 1.1m wide and 0.4m high, defining circular or ovoid
internal areas ranging in size from 3.5m in diameter to 7.5m by 4.5m,
levelled into the slight slope. Parts of the huts' walls have been disrupted
and robbed for stone but three retain some small inner facing slabs.
The field system also incorporates two prehistoric funerary platform cairns,
part of a wider, dispersed, grouping including various types of cairn in the
vicinity and considered to derive from a different phase of prehistoric land
use from the field system. The cairn near the western wall of the field
system's eastern central plot survives with a largely turf-covered circular
platform of heaped rubble, 9m in diameter and up to 0.25m high. Two large
slabs, up to 1m long, lie flat in the turf on the southern and western
periphery of the cairn. The other platform cairn, 265m to the SSW and 10m
within the southern edge of the field system's southern plot, survives with a
circular platform, 11.5m in diameter and up to 0.3m high. The periphery of the
platform supports an outer bank, up to 1.5m wide and 0.4m high. At its centre,
the platform supports a small circular mound, 5m in diameter and rising 0.4m
from the platform surface. The mound had a central hollow, 2.5m in diameter
and up to 0.45m deep, resulting from an unrecorded antiquarian excavation. Two
large slabs, up to 1m long, lie on the northern edge of the central mound.
Situated 15m ENE of the northern platform cairn is a small, free-standing
prehistoric funerary cist: a box-like, slab-built structure within which a
burial was placed. The cist survives with an irregular ovoid covering slab,
called a capstone, measuring 1.3m NE-SW by 0.9m NW-SE and 0.11m thick. The
upper surface of the slab is up to 0.4m above the ground level and lies almost
flat. Projecting 0.35m beyond the south-west edge of the capstone, the corner
of the cist's south-eastern side-slab is visible, rising 0.35m high. The
turf-fast upper edge of the north-west side-slab of the cist is visible 0.5m
north-west of the other side-slab. There is no evidence for any covering mound
at this cist.
Later prehistoric land use resulted in the large scale division of the spur
and the adjoining parts of Dinnever Hill by three almost straight linear
boundaries radiating from the marshy stream-head in the western part of the
monument. The monument contains two of these boundaries which cut across the
irregular field system, partly robbing the adjacent sectors of the field
system walls of stone. The third linear boundary runs south, beyond the
monument, from a point 53m west of the field system's south-western plot
walling. The northern of the monument's linear boundaries survives for 410m on
a NE-SW course across the neck of the spur, descending into the marshy valley
at each end. The boundary is visible as a wall of heaped rubble and small
boulders, up to 1.7m wide and 0.5m high. Some parts retain contiguous laid
basal blocks from facing courses along each side of the wall. Near its
midpoint on the spur, the boundary incorporates an end-set slab, called an
orthostat, 1m high, considered to mark one side of an original gateway through
the boundary.
The southern linear boundary originates from a point 85m south-east of the
other boundary's terminal in the stream-head marsh and extends for 528m SSE
over the summit of the Dinnever Hill-Candra Hill ridge. The boundary survives
as a turf-covered bank of heaped rubble, up to 2m wide and 0.2m high, with
some traces of facing slabs along its eastern side. The bank is accompanied on
its eastern side by intermittent traces of a ditch, up to 1.7m wide and 0.1m
deep, denoting a medieval re-use when the boundary was incorporated into a
series of medieval pasture boundaries which enclose much of Dinnever Hill to
the west.
Romano-British or early medieval exploitation within the monument resulted in
a small sub-rectangular building with rounded corners situated near the centre
of the prehistoric hut circle settlement at the north-east edge of the
monument. The building survives with a wall of heaped rubble and boulders, up
to 1.75m wide and 0.6m high, defining an internal area measuring 13m east-west
by 6m north-south, levelled into the slope. The wall incorporates several
large edge-set inner facing slabs, up to 0.75m high and 1m long, and some
smaller outer facing slopes. A break, 0.75m wide, in the south-west corner may
mark the original entrance. Up to 2m beyond the north-east wall of the
building is a parallel, short length of rubble bank, 3m long, 1m wide and 0.3m
high. The size and form of this building is comparable with farmhouses dated
to the Romano-British and early medieval periods elsewhere in Cornwall.
The monument is crossed by numerous shallow linear hollows, called hollow
ways. These result from rutting along regularly-used later medieval and post-
medieval routes following the spur, linking the moorland pasture and tenements
with the lower land of north-west Cornwall's coastal belt.
In addition to the surface remains, limited excavations carried out in 1991 on
the course of a water pipeline laid NW-SE across the monument produced
radiocarbon dates confirming a Bronze Age date for the NE-SW linear boundary
and the irregular aggregate field system that it crosses. Pollen analyses
undertaken at the same time from the peat deposits about the streamhead
indicate that the irregular field system was laid out on already-cleared
grassland which remained open during the Bronze Age.
This monument is located within one of several areas of Bodmin Moor which
contain unusually large groupings of prehistoric ritual and funerary
monuments. Beyond the monument, these include a ritual stone setting 62m
north-west of the Stannon Stone Circle, and two other large stone circles
located 800m to the south-east and 1.9km to the east. Funerary cairns of
various forms are dispersed across the neighbouring moorland, the nearest
being located 90m east of the irregular field system and 225m to its south-
west. Prehistoric field systems, hut circle settlements and linear boundaries,
several displaying multiple phases of layout, occur on the western slopes of
Dinnever Hill and, extensively, on Louden Hill and the Roughtor Moors to the
east and north-east, as also do medieval field systems, settlements and
pasture boundaries.
The modern water pipeline, its pipeline-trench and associated inspection
shafts, covers, marker-posts, fittings and post-and-wire fences, and the
surface of the modern metalled track to Fernacre Farm are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 circles are prehistoric ritual monuments comprising one or more circles
of upright or recumbent stones. Single upright stones may be found within the
circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating out from the circle occur
at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close to the circles. Where
excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle
Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear they were designed and laid out
carefully, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of
which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand
the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear
that they had a considerable ritual significance for the societies that used
them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus
for burials and rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some circles
appear to have had a calendrical function, helping to mark the passage of time
and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark
important solar or lunar events. At other sites the spacing of individual
circles throughout the landscape has led to the suggestion that each one
provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group.
Platform cairns are one of the several types of funerary monuments sometimes
found near stone circles. Dating to the Early Bronze Age (c.2000-1600 BC),
they were constructed as low, flat-topped mounds of rubble, up to 40m in
diameter, covering single or multiple burials. Some examples have other
features, including peripheral banks and internal mounds, constructed on the
platform. A kerb of edge-set slabs sometimes bounds the edges of the platform,
bank or mound, or all three. The burials, either inhumations or cremations,
were placed in small pits, on occasion within small box-like structures of
stone slabs, called cists, set into the old ground surface or placed within
the body of a mound on the platform. Platform cairns may occur as isolated
monuments, in small groups or in cairn cemeteries. Burial cists occasionally
occur as free-standing monuments in their own right, without any covering
mound of rubble, but these are extremely rare on the Moor with only three
examples known for certain.
Elaborate complexes of fields and field boundaries are a major feature of the
Moor landscape. Several methods of field layout are known to have been
employed in south-west England during the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC).
Irregular aggregate field systems are one such method, comprising a collection
of field plots, generally lacking in conformity of orientation and arrangement
and containing fields with sinuous outlines and varying shapes and sizes,
bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches or fences.
These field systems often incorporate or are situated near stone hut circles,
the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on the Moor, mostly also dating
from the Bronze Age. The stone-based round houses survive as low walls or
banks enclosing a circular floor area; the remains of a turf or thatch roof
are not preserved as visible features. The huts may occur singly or in small
or large groups as settlements and may occur in the open or be enclosed by a
bank of earth and stone.
The linear boundaries of Bodmin Moor consist of rubble banks, sometimes
incorporating facing slabs or projecting end-set slabs called orthostats. They
may be massively constructed, up to 8m wide and 1m high, although the majority
are much slighter. Built during the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC), they fulfilled
a variety of functions. Some run at high altitude along a contour and appear
to separate lower land used for cultivation from that less intensively used.
Some may be territorial, marking the boundaries of land held by particular
social groups. Others may serve to delineate land set aside for ceremonial and
religious activities such as burial. Frequently linear boundaries are
associated with other forms of contemporary field system. Prehistoric field
systems, hut circles and linear boundaries are important elements of the
existing landscape and provide important evidence on the organisation of
farming practices, settlement and societies during the prehistoric period.
The relatively unintensive post-medieval land use of upland areas which has
allowed the preservation of much surviving prehistoric settlement and field
system evidence has also permitted the survival of later monuments which often
abut or impinge on those earlier, prehistoric, remains. Such later monuments
may include rare Romano-British remains or, more commonly, medieval remains,
including various types of settlement and boundaries which again form an
important element of the existing landscape, providing information on the
organisation of medieval farming and settlement, its expansion onto the
uplands and providing evidence for the successive changes in land use that
have affected the Moor. This monument between Dinnever Hill and Louden Hill
contains well-preserved evidence for a sequence of prehistoric phases of land
use on this spur and includes several unusual and rare elements among those
phases. The stone circle has survived well and has not been excavated. It is
one of the largest stone circles on the Moor; its irregularity and
predominantly small stone size are unusual features, shared on Bodmin Moor
only with the nearby stone circle to the east at Fernacre. The proximity of
this stone circle to two other stone circles is also unusual and, together
with the monument's cairns and cist, serves to emphasise that the ritual and
funerary elements in this monument form an important part of the wider
grouping of prehistoric ceremonial monuments focussed on this sector of the
Moor. Such close proximity between a stone circle and a prehistoric field
system is a very unusual feature of this monument. The linear boundaries
provide important evidence both for the sequence and the manner of land-use
organisation among the prehistoric communities. The limited excavations
carried out on the field system and one of the linear boundaries have
confirmed their Bronze Age date. The thick peat deposits over much of the spur
and in the marsh around the stream-head is known to preserve environmental
information contemporary with the sequence of prehistoric and later phases of
activity in the monument. Pollen analyses from these deposits have elucidated
the vegetational context within which this monument developed. Particularly
rare elements within the monument include the free-standing cist, one of only
three known on the Moor, and the Romano-British - early medieval building,
again one of only three known on the Moor of such a form and of a period
poorly represented by upstanding domestic remains in south-west England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 168
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 168
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 168
Burl, A, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, (1976)
AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 109, Handwritten date 15/12/27 on AM7 form
CAU written data for PRN 3060 (not recast or input format), consulted 1993
CCRA, CCRA Field Survey Record Card: Stannon South: Context 26 & 26/1, (1984)
consulted 1993, Carter, A./CAU/RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 1279-80 & SX 1379,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./CAU/RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 1279-80 & SX 1379, (1984)
consulted 1993, Carter, A./CAU/RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots for SX 1279-80 & SX 1380,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./CAU/RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots for SX 1279-80,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./CAU/RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots for SX 1279-80; SX 1379,
consulted 1993, CAU, 1:1000 Bodmin Moor Survey plan for SX 1279 NE & SE, (1984)
consulted 1993, CAU, 1:1000 Bodmin Moor Survey plans for SX 1279 NE & SE, (1984)
consulted 1993, CAU/RCHME, 1:1000 Bodmin Moor Survey plan for SX 1279 NE, (1984)
consulted 1993, CAU; Sharpe, A. & Gerrard, G.A.M., Cornwall SMR entry & 1:100 plan for PRN 1972.4,
consulted 1993, CCRA Register Entry for SX 18 SW/13 (equals PRN 3315),
consulted 1993, CCRA Register Entry No. SX 18 SW/12,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1972.6 & 1:100 plan,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1972.7,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1990.4,
consulted 1993, Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G., Bodmin Moor Survey 1:1000 plan for SX 1279 NE, (1984)
consulted 1993, Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G., Field Survey Record Card for Stannon South, Context 5, (1984)
consulted 1993, Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G./CAU, 1:1000 Bodmin Moor Survey plan for SX 1279 NE & SX 1280 SE, (1984)
consulted 1993, Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G./CAU, Cornwall Field Survey Record Card for Stannon South, Context 6, (1984)
consulted 1993, Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G./CAU/RCHME, 1:1000 Bodmin Moor Survey plan: SX 1279 NE, (1984)
Cornwall SMR data, Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G./CCRA, Field Surv. Rec. Cards: Stannon South: Contexts 19,20,22,23,29, (1984)
Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G., 1:1000 CCRA survey plans: SX 1279 NE; SX 1280 SE, (1984)
Johnson, N.D. & Rose, P.G./CCRA, 1:1000 Survey Plan: SX 1280 SE, (1984)
Mercer, R.J., AM7 scheduling documentation and Checkprint for CO 897, 1972, CO 897 B
Notes and 1:100 plan, Rose, P.G., Field Survey Record Card notes for Stannon South, Context 21, (1985)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map: SX 07/17, Pathfinder 1338, Bodmin Moor (West)
Source Date: 1988

Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 07/17; Pathfinder Series 1338, Bodmin Moor west
Source Date: 1988

Source: Historic England

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