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Co-axial field system, hut circle settlements, cairnfield and land boundaries on Carne Down

A Scheduled Monument in Altarnun, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.6081 / 50°36'29"N

Longitude: -4.5417 / 4°32'30"W

OS Eastings: 220254.31938

OS Northings: 81798.163092

OS Grid: SX202817

Mapcode National: GBR NB.C36R

Mapcode Global: FRA 17CG.JFJ

Entry Name: Co-axial field system, hut circle settlements, cairnfield and land boundaries on Carne Down

Scheduled Date: 25 July 1975

Last Amended: 4 September 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011726

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15037

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Altarnun

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Altarnon with Bolventor

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument consists of a block of rectangular, parallel, Prehistoric fields
extending beyond the present moorland edge and containing two hut circle
settlements, two small clearance cairns and five scattered hut circles; two
linear boundaries extend from the field system, towards the summit of Carne
Down and around the northern upper slope, the latter also having an isolated
hut circle attached to it. This monument is divided into three separate
constraint areas.
The field system survives as a network of boundaries, variously formed as
banks of piled stone or boulder walls, 1-1.5m wide and 0.5m high. They are
arranged as a series of parallel NE-SW boundaries, 20-42m apart, ending on the
upper slope along the SE-NW boundary approximately following the 280m contour
line; the individual fields are formed by SE-NW subdivisions of the
parallel boundaries, giving plots of 0.04ha to 0.45ha in size. This
arrangement is called a co-axial field system. Within the field system, two
areas at the 260m contour line contain hut circle settlements, disrupting the
parallel boundaries and with short lengths of walling linking some hut
circles. The settlement near the E corner of the monument covers 0.5ha and
contains eight hut circles with double- or internally-faced boulder walls
1.5m-2m wide, up to 1m high, and ranging 4m-8.5m in internal diameter. Two
routeways, defined by parallel stone boundaries 5-7.5m apart, run uphill
through the field system from the settlement to the Prehistoric moor-edge
boundary. The other settlement is centred 185m to the NW and is more
dispersed, covering 1ha; it contains seven hut circles of similar construction
but all internally-faced only, ranging 5m-9.5m in internal diameter, one hut
circle being contained within a small `D-shaped' enclosure; two small mounds
of small stones piled around natural boulders - called clearance cairns - are
situated near the centre of this settlement. A single routeway links this
settlement with the former moor-edge boundary, and where it meets that
boundary, a small narrow field projects into the moor. In addition to the
settlements, a further five hut circles of similar construction occur as
scattered isolated examples within this field system. A Prehistoric extension
of the field system beyond its former upper boundary is evident at the S end
of the monument where further field boundaries, of slighter form than those at
lower levels but orientated on the same major axes, extend to the Carne Down-
West Moor watershed and rise to 290m contour line. This extension cuts across
one routeway to the moor from the eastern hut circle settlement and results in
the presence of its second routeway. The field boundary forming the watershed
limit of this extension continues N for 160m beyond the uphill limit of the
fields, and ends 15m from a pair of Bronze Age funerary cairns on the summit
of Carne Down. The moor-edge boundary of the main field system ends as it
begins to descend the N slope of Carne Down, near a junction with another
similar boundary which maintains the 280m level, running for 110m to the WSW;
no field walls run off this boundary but a single hut circle is situated
against its uphill side near its centre. Another similar boundary runs SSW-
NNE down the N slope, crossing the boundary along the contour near the hut
circle. This field system and its associated features are located
predominantly on the E upper slopes of Carne Down, a large rounded
hill rising to 297m on the NE edge of Bodmin Moor. In two places, at the E
and the NE corners of the monument, the field plots of the co-axial field
system can be seen to extend below the modern moorland-edge walling, visible
as rectangular areas marked by steep slopes, called lynchets, c 0.5-1m high
around their edges, which occur in the upper margins of the improved pasture
bordering the moorland edge.
The modern drystone walls, hedges and fences along the SE and NE sides of the
monument are excluded from the scheduling but the land beneath them is

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
quality and diversity of the evidence is such that the moor has been the
subject of detailed archaeological survey and hence it forms one of the best
recorded upland landscapes in England. Of particular note are the extensive
relict landscapes of Prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date. Together
these 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.

Elaborate complexes of fields and field boundaries are some of the major
features of the Bodmin Moor landscape. Co-axial field systems are one of
several methods of land division employed on the moor during the Bronze Age;
evidence from nearby Dartmoor suggests their introduction around 1700 BC,
continuing in use to around 1000 BC. They consist of linear stone banks
forming parallel boundaries rising to a similar boundary running approximately
along a contour, separating the lower land from the grazing zones of the
higher moor. The long strips formed by the parallel boundaries are subdivided
by cross-banks into rectangular field plots sharing a common long axis.
Occupation sites and funerary or ceremonial monuments are often incorporated
in, or associated with, co-axial field systems. Their longevity and their
relationship with other monument types provides important information on the
diversity of social organisation, land use and farming practices amongst
Prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period
and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of
protection. The monument on Carne Down has a range of incorporated, well-
preserved, contemporary settlement features and is associated with funerary
monuments on Carne Down summit and other Prehistoric settlement sites on the W
slope. There is evidence for the development of the field system within
the Prehistoric period, a rare feature of this monument type.

Source: Historic England


2/1991, 1:2500 Air Photo Transcriptions; SX 2082,
Carter, A/RCHME, 1:2500 Air Photo Transcription & Suppl. Field Trace, SX 2081,
Consulted 2/1991, Carter, A/RCHME, 1:2500 Air Photo Transcription; SX 2081,
Consulted 2/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1518.01-.06,. 1518.08,
Consulted 2/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1518.09, .10, .14 -.16,

Source: Historic England

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