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Three stone alignments, ten cairns, three stone hut circles and a length of the Great Western Reave on Longash Common

A Scheduled Monument in Whitchurch, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.5545 / 50°33'16"N

Longitude: -4.0412 / 4°2'28"W

OS Eastings: 255502.363228

OS Northings: 74742.520888

OS Grid: SX555747

Mapcode National: GBR Q0.GKSM

Mapcode Global: FRA 27FL.MFL

Entry Name: Three stone alignments, ten cairns, three stone hut circles and a length of the Great Western Reave on Longash Common

Scheduled Date: 5 November 1954

Last Amended: 12 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013429

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24193

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Whitchurch

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Details

This monument includes three stone alignments, ten cairns, three stone hut
circles and a length of the Great Western Reave, it is situated on a gentle
south west facing slope on Longash Common overlooking the valley of the River
Walkham. The northern stone alignment is orientated approximately east to west
and includes a 182m long, double row of upright stones, with heights ranging
between 0.2m and 0.4m, although the blocking stone at the eastern end is much
larger and stands up to 1.2m high. The spacing of the stones along the row
averages 1.7m and the distance between the rows averages 1.1m. A second double
stone alignment lies 24m south of this alignment and runs roughly parallel
with it. This alignment includes a 264m long double row of upright stones,
with heights ranging between 0.2m and 0.7m, although the blocking stone at the
eastern end is much larger and stands up to 1.35m high. The spacing of the
stones along the row varies considerably and the distance between the rows
averages 0.9m. A cairn situated midway along the row, has a circular mound
surrounded by a ring of seven upright stones forming a circle with an internal
diameter of 3.6m. The mound itself measures 2.7m in diameter and stands up to
0.3m high. A hollow in the centre of the mound measures 0.8m long, 0.7m wide
by 0.6m deep and may represent the site of a partial early excavation or
robbing. Two granite slabs visible within the base of this pit may be the
remains of a cist. According to Worth, this is the only example on Dartmoor of
a cairn being sited along the length of a stone alignment and he further
suggests that its location midway along its length supports the hypothesis
that the alignment is more or less complete.
The third stone alignment, which lies to the south of the second example
is orientated approximately NNE to SSW and includes a 42m long row of upright
stones, with heights ranging between 0.1m and 0.5m. The spacing of the stones
along this row averages 0.9m and either end is denoted by a blocking stone. A
small cairn lies at the north eastern end of the alignment and survives as a
3.5m diameter mound standing up to 0.3m high. A hollow in the centre of the
mound measures 1.2m long, 0.9m wide and 0.2m deep, and may represent the site
of a partial early excavation or robbing. According to Baring Gould, this
cairn contained a cist.
Three further cairns lie close to these alignments. A ring cairn lies 11m
south of the southern double stone alignment and survives as a circular bank,
1.4m wide and 0.3m high surrounding an internal area measuring 15m in
diameter. A 5m long, 3m wide and 0.5m deep hollow within the centre of the
interior represents the site of a partial excavation carried out by Baring
Gould in 1851. This work revealed a cist or inner circle of upright stones
and an outer kerb. A ring of small upright stones visible around the edge of
the central hollow may represent the remains of one of these kerbs. A mound
lying immediately next to and west of the central hollow, measuring 5m long,
3m wide and 0.3m high is probably the spoil dump from the mid 19th century
exploration. The second cairn lies 13m SSW of the ring cairn and survives as
a 4.3m diameter mound standing up to 0.5m high. A hollow in the centre of
this mound measuring 1.1m long, 1m wide and 0.4m deep, may also represent the
site of an early partial excavation. The final cairn in the vicinity of the
stone alignments lies 8m south of the southern double alignment and survives
as a 10m diameter mound standing up to 0.3m high and contains a large stone
cist. The cist includes edge set stones forming a rectangular pit, measuring
2.2m long, 0.9m wide and 0.8m deep, aligned south east to north west and
partly covered by a large granite coverstone, which has been split into two
parts. In 1895, the cist was investigated by the Dartmoor Exploration
Committee who found a flint scraper, a flint flake and a polishing stone.
According to Worth the cist was too generously restored, and he clearly
believed that it was originally smaller.
In the area to the south east of the alignments, a length of the Great
Western Reave together with three stone hut circles and five cairns are
visible. The Great Western Reave has a total length of over 10km and is the
longest known prehistoric land division boundary on Dartmoor. A 380m length
of the reave survives within this scheduling where it runs downslope in a
south easterly direction, is composed of rubble, measures 2m wide and stands
up to 0.5m high. At least five separate cairns lie on top of or immediately
adjacent to the reave, whilst one stone hut circle is attached to it and
another two lie in close proximity. An 80m break in the reave apparently
exists within the vicinity of the two stone hut circles, although the reave
probably survives along this length as a buried feature. The southern end of
the reave terminates on the edge of a tin streamwork, which has destroyed the
southern extension. The northern end of the reave is visible up to the
eastern end of the northern stone alignment.
The five cairns associated with the reave are all considered to be more
recent than the reave and are believed to have been constructed to serve a
funerary purpose. The four northern cairns partly overlie the Great Western
Reave whilst the southern one lies 1m to the east. These cairns vary in
diameter from 2.5m to 5m and in height from 0.6m to 0.75m. One of the cairns
has a kerb made up of two concentric rings of stone.
The three stone hut circles situated within the vicinity of the Great
Western Reave each survive as banks of stone and earth surrounding a circular
internal area. The interior of the northern hut measures 7.5m in diameter and
is surrounded by a 1.8m wide wall standing up to 0.6m high. The interior of
the western hut measures 6m in diameter and is defined by a 1.8m wide wall
standing up to 0.7m high, except on the SSW where partial robbing has removed
a 4m length of walling. Within the vicinity of both huts the Great Western
Reave survives as a buried feature. The southern stone hut circle is attached
to the western side of the reave and its interior measures 6.3m in diameter.
The surrounding outer walls are 1.6m wide and stand up to 0.3m high.
This monument forms the central part of a wider cluster of nationally
important monuments which are the subject of separate schedulings. The
Longash leat is excluded from the monument.
This monument is partly within the care of the Secretary of State.

MAP EXTRACT
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 provide direct evidence
for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards.
The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites,
major 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. Stone alignments or stone rows
consist of upright stones set in single file or in avenues of two or more
parallel lines, up to several hundred metres in length. They are often
physically linked to burial monuments, such as small cairns, cists and
barrows, and are considered to have had an important ceremonial function. The
Dartmoor alignments mostly date from the Late Neolithic period (c.2400-2000
BC). Some eighty examples, most of them on the outer Moor, provide over half
the recorded national population. Due to their comparative rarity and
longevity as a monument type, all surviving examples are considered nationally
important, unless very badly damaged.

In addition to the three well preserved stone alignments the monument includes
nine round cairns. Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to
the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as earthen or rubble
mounds, the latter predominating in areas of upland Britain where such raw
materials were locally available in abundance. Round cairns may cover single
or multiple burials and are sometimes surrounded by an outer ditch. Often
occupying prominent locations, they are a major visual element in the modern
landscape. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument
type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social
organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly
representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving
examples are considered worthy of protection. Dartmoor provides one of the
best preserved and most dense concentrations of round cairns in south western
Britain.
The monument also includes a ring cairn which is a prehistoric ritual monument
comprising a circular bank of stones up to 20m in diameter surrounding a
hollow central area. The bank may be kerbed on the inside, and sometimes on
the outside as well, with small uprights or laid boulders. Ring cairns are
found mainly in upland areas of England and are mostly discovered and
authenticated by ground level fieldwork and survey, although a few are large
enough to be visible on aerial photographs. They often occur in pairs or
small groups of up to four examples. Occasionally they lie within round
barrow cemeteries. Ring cairns are interpreted as ritual monuments of Early
and Middle Bronze Age date. the exact nature of the rituals concerned is not
fully understood, but excavation has revealed pits, some containing burials
and others containing charcoal and pottery, taken to indicate feasting
activities associated with the burial rituals. Many areas of upland have not
yet been surveyed in detail and the number of ring cairns in England is not
accurately known. However, available evidence indicates a population of
between 250 and 500 examples.
In addition to the ritual elements of the monument there are also
earthworks relating to prehistoric land division and settlement. Prehistoric
land division is represented by a section of the contour reave known as the
Great Western Reave, which forms the eastern boundary of the monument. Reaves
are part of an extensive system of prehistoric land division introduced during
the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They consist of simple linear stone banks used
to mark out discrete territories, some of which are tens of kilometres in
extent. The systems are defined by parallel, contour and watershed reaves,
dividing the lower land from the grazing zones of the higher moor and defining
the watersheds of adjacent river systems. Occupation sites and funerary or
ceremonial monuments are often incorporated in, or associated with, reave
complexes. Their longevity and their relationship with other monument types
provide important information on the diversity of social organisation, land
divisions and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. They show
considerable longevity as a monument type, sometimes surviving as fossilised
examples in medieval field plans.
Associated with the reave are three stone hut circles. Stone hut circles
and hut settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on
Dartmoor. They mostly date from the Bronze Age, with the earliest examples on
the Moor in this building tradition dating to about 1700 BC. The stone-based
round houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area;
remains of the turf or thatch roof are not preserved. The huts may occur
singly or in small or large groups and may lie in the open or be enclosed by a
bank of earth and stone. Although they are common on the Moor, their
longevity and their relationship with other monument types provide important
information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices
amongst prehistoric communities.
Despite partial excavation, the three stone alignments, ten cairns, three
stone hut circles and a short length of the Great Western Reave on Longash
Common survive well and together form part of a particularly impressive
collection of prehistoric monuments. This monument is a popular visitor
attraction and is regularly used for educational purposes. Important
archaeological information concerning many inter related aspects of the
prehistoric exploitation of the Moor survives within this monument.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Fleming, A, The Dartmoor Reaves, (1988), 42-44
Rowe, S, A Perambulation of the Ancient and Royal Forest of Dartmoor208
Worth, R H, Worth's Dartmoor, (1981), 215-216
Worth, R H, Worth's Dartmoor, (1981), 174
Baring Gould, S, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, , Vol. 27, (1895), 87
Baring Gould, S, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, , Vol. 27, (1895), 87
Baring Gould, S, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, , Vol. 27, (1895), 85-86
Emmett, D D, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in Stone Rows: The traditional view reconsidered, , Vol. 37, (1979), 111
Emmett, D D, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in Stone Rows: The Traditional View Reconsidered, , Vol. 37, (1979), 111
Grinsell, L V, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in Dartmoor Barrows, , Vol. 36, (1978), 173
Wood, J E, Penny, A, 'Nature' in A Megalithic Observatory On Dartmoor, , Vol. 257, (1975), 205-207
Other
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE106, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE108, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE108.1, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE13, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE135, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE135.1, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE136, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE146, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE167, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE274, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE282, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE283, (1986)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE83, (1986)
Gibson, A, Single Monument Class Description - Stone Hut Circles, (1987)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, (1994)
National Archaeological Record, SX57SE109,
National Archaeological Record, SX57SE110,
National Archaeological Record, SX57SE111,
National Archaeological Record, SX57SE12,

Source: Historic England

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