Ancient Monuments

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Tor cairn on High Willhays summit

A Scheduled Monument in Okehampton Hamlets, Devon

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Latitude: 50.6853 / 50°41'6"N

Longitude: -4.0109 / 4°0'39"W

OS Eastings: 258043.20332

OS Northings: 89218.908901

OS Grid: SX580892

Mapcode National: GBR Q2.L1KJ

Mapcode Global: FRA 27H8.F7R

Entry Name: Tor cairn on High Willhays summit

Scheduled Date: 11 January 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010592

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24158

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Okehampton Hamlets

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Okehampton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument includes a tor cairn situated on the summit of High Willhays,
the highest point in southern England. The cairn includes two semicircular
banks attached to the eastern face of a large rock outcrop. The outer ring
bank survives as an 18m long, 2m wide curving earthwork standing up to 0.8m
high on the outer edge and 0.2m high on the side facing the tor. The central
length of the inner ring is visible as a 1.4m wide and 0.7m high double faced
orthostat wall, which survives elsewhere as a buried feature denoted by a 0.5m
high lynchet. The area enclosed by the ring banks measures 13.5m north to
south by 5.5m east to west.

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

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 provides direct evidence
for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards.
The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites,
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.
Tor cairns are ceremonial monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age
(c.2000-1000 BC). They were constructed as ring banks of stone rubble, up to
35m in external diameter, sometimes with entrances and external ditches, and
roughly concentric around natural outcrops or tors. In some cases a kerb of
edge-set stones bounded the inner edge of the bank, and the area between the
bank and the outcrop was sometimes in-filled by laying down a platform of
stone rubble or turves. Excavated examples have revealed post-holes and pits
within the area defined by the ring-bank, some containing burial evidence, and
scatters of Bronze Age artefacts concentrated around the central tor. Tor
cairns usually occur as isolated monuments, though several are associated with
broadly contemporary cairn cemeteries. They are very rare nationally with only
40-50 known examples concentrated on the higher moors of Devon and Cornwall,
where their situation in prominent locations makes them a major visual element
in the modern landscape. As a rare monument type, all surviving examples are
considered worthy of preservation.

The tor cairn on High Willhays summit survives comparatively well and is one
of only four known examples on Dartmoor where the ring banks are attached to
the face of a tor. Archaeological and environmental information relating to
the monument and the landscape in which it was erected survives within this
cairn, which is situated on the highest point on the moor.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Turner, J R, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in Ring Cairns, Stone Circles and Related Monuments on Dartmoor, , Vol. 48, (1990), 37
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX58NE43, (1983)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard,

Source: Historic England

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