Ancient Monuments

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St Breock Downs monolith and surrounding cairn

A Scheduled Monument in St. Breock, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.4793 / 50°28'45"N

Longitude: -4.8656 / 4°51'56"W

OS Eastings: 196787.670082

OS Northings: 68312.29691

OS Grid: SW967683

Mapcode National: GBR ZS.1WRW

Mapcode Global: FRA 07PS.J8N

Entry Name: St Breock Downs monolith and surrounding cairn

Scheduled Date: 6 May 1963

Last Amended: 10 February 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012119

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15002

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Breock

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Breoke

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument comprises a massive standing stone located slightly SW of the
centre of a low stone cairn. The standing stone is formed from the local
Devonian shale with extensive feldspar veining. It stands 3.05m high but
leans markedly to the N and measures 4.92m long and 1.51m by 1.07m at the
base. Limited excavation of the cairn in 1956 revealed that the stone stood
in a setting of quartz pebbles measuring 4.89m by 3.67m. Two small, shallow,
empty hollows occurred in the subsoil beneath the pebble layer. The cairn
extends to a visible diameter of c.10m and the monolith base is centred
c.1.5m SW of the cairn's centre.
The monument is located near the summit of the St Breock Downs in an open
landscape of heath and recently improved pasture which contains many other
Bronze Age ritual monuments with which this monument was probably associated,
including at least, one other standing stone and a series of barrow
cemeteries that extend up to 7km to the west. The monument figures in local
folklore as a meeting place and it was formerly adopted as a parish boundary
marker. It has been recorded by antiquarian accounts since 1613 and features
in most archaeological reviews of Cornwall's monuments. The modern
information sign and its concrete plinth are excluded from the scheduling, but
the land beneath them 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

Standing stones are prehistoric ritual or ceremonial monuments with dates
ranging from the late neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age for the few
excavated examples. They comprise single or paired upright orthostatic
slabs, ranging from under 1m to over 6m high where still erect. They are
often conspicuously sited and close to other contemporary monument classes.
They can be accompanied by various features: many occur in or on the edge of
round barrows, and where excavated, associated sub-surface features have
included stone cists, stone settings, and various pits and hollows filled in
some cases with earth containing human bone, cremations, charcoal, flints,
pots and pot sherds. Similar deposits have been found in excavated sockets
for standing stones, which range considerably in depth. Several standing
stones also bear cup and ring marks.
Standing stones may have functioned as markers for routeways, territories,
graves or meeting points, but their accompanying features show they also bore
a ritual function and that they form one of several ritual monument classes
of their period that often contain a deposit of cremation and domestic debris
as a integral component. No national survey of standing stones has been
undertaken, and estimates range from 50 to 250 extant examples, widely
distributed throughout England, but with concentrations in Cornwall, the North
Yorks Moors, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the Cotswolds. Standing stones are
important as nationally rare monuments, with a longevity and demonstrating the
diversity of ritual practices in the late Neolithic and Bronze Age.
Consequently all undisturbed standing stones and those which represent the
main range of types and locations would normally be considered to be of
national importance.
The St Breock Downs monolith is an especially large standing stone, the most
massive example in Cornwall, and will always have been a dominant feature of
its open environment where it is closely associated with a much larger
grouping of contemporary ritual and burial monuments. Its prominence is
reflected by the occurrence in local folklore and by antiquarian records of
the site dating back to 1613. Its importance is enhanced by the surrounding
low cairn and by limited excavation which has confirmed the status of the
monument and shown it to be accompanied by an artifical stone setting and
other ritual features.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 87, 236
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 87 & 97
Russell, V, Pool, P A S, Excavation of a Menhir at Try, Gulval, (1964), 15-26
Anc Monuments Terrier for St Breock Downs monolith, CO 335,
SMR entry for the `Longstone', St Breock Downs, PRN 26103,

Source: Historic England

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