Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Tor cairn 180m north of High Willhays summit

A Scheduled Monument in Okehampton Hamlets, Devon

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Latitude: 50.6867 / 50°41'12"N

Longitude: -4.0111 / 4°0'40"W

OS Eastings: 258028.467633

OS Northings: 89377.829998

OS Grid: SX580893

Mapcode National: GBR Q2.L1GT

Mapcode Global: FRA 27H8.74Y

Entry Name: Tor cairn 180m north of High Willhays summit

Scheduled Date: 11 January 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010593

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24159

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 near the summit of High Willhays,
the highest point in southern England. The cairn includes a semicircular
stone faced bank attached to the southern face of a large rock outcrop. The
ring bank survives as a 1.5m wide curving earthwork standing up to 0.7m high.
A short length of the outer face of the south western part of the bank is
faced with large slabs of stone laid flat and standing up to three courses
high. This kerb probably survives elsewhere within the ring bank as a buried
feature. The area enclosed by the ring bank measures 10m east to west by 7m
north to south.

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 180m north of 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 near to 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), 69
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX58NE41, (1983)

Source: Historic England

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