Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Prehistoric to medieval settlements, field systems, enclosures and cairns, with post-medieval boundary and railway on north east Smallacoombe Down

A Scheduled Monument in North Hill, Cornwall

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 50.5539 / 50°33'14"N

Longitude: -4.5002 / 4°30'0"W

OS Eastings: 222983.95174

OS Northings: 75671.865338

OS Grid: SX229756

Mapcode National: GBR ND.GFVQ

Mapcode Global: FRA 17GL.NMB

Entry Name: Prehistoric to medieval settlements, field systems, enclosures and cairns, with post-medieval boundary and railway on north east Smallacoombe Down

Scheduled Date: 15 May 1935

Last Amended: 23 October 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018629

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15538

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: North Hill

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Cleer

Church of England Diocese: Truro

Details

The monument includes successive prehistoric to medieval settlements, field
systems and boundaries, with adjacent enclosures and funerary cairns, which
survive along the north east flank of Smallacoombe Downs on south east Bodmin
Moor. The scheduling also includes a post-medieval boundary and parts of a
19th century railway trackbed that pass across the earlier features. The
scheduling is divided into two areas of protection.
The earliest settlement pattern on the middle and lower slopes comprises a
scatter of hut circles, rounded enclosures and aggregations of curvilinear
field plots. Those within this scheduling include, in the north west, parts of
two adjoining plots extending west up the middle slope, their northern walls
slighted by forestry operations. From 420m to the south east, a small ovoid
enclosure contains three hut circles; three more hut circles are grouped
within 30m to the south. An enclosure 500m to the ESE is partly slighted by
forestry works. These plots and enclosures are immediately upslope of, and
partly truncated by, the upper walls of a later prehistoric regular field
system occupying most of the Down's north eastern lower slopes.
In the regular field system, fairly straight downslope walls, about 25m-50m
apart, descend from an upper terminal wall and are subdivided into plots by
cross walls at irregular intervals. The downslope wall axis varies with slope
aspect and near the centre of the scheduling, a broad valley forces a
right-angled change in that axis and in the upper terminal wall alignment.
Despite its regularity, the field system contains elements of the earlier
settlement pattern, including: almost intact enclosures in the north west;
anomalous curved walls in the rectilinear pattern, most near the upper wall's
angle, and, east of that angle, an enclosure partly reused into the regular
field system and partly slighted but evident as a curved slope-break.
In the south east, the regular field system abuts an area of irregular field
system straddling both sides of the regular field system's upper wall and
containing at least six hut circles. Between angled downslope walls it has
small irregular plots whose lower edges form marked steps called lynchets due
to early cultivation moving soil down the gradient. The plots are arranged to
leave a trackway east towards a ford on the Withey Brook, while paired walls
extend SSE, upslope, as a trackway onto higher ground.
Beyond the irregular area, the regular field system contains about 20 hut
circles, mostly in three loose groupings: west of the irregular block; below
the upper wall's angled course-change and near the north western incorporated
enclosures. The overlap with earlier elements hints at an earlier origin for
these foci, as is likely for three hut circles just beyond the upper wall.
A separate settlement area on the upper slope north west of Smallacoombe Tor
has four hut circles among walls wavering along and across the contour, partly
outlining four subrectangular areas. One wall passes over an earlier funerary
cairn; a second cairn is located 95m to the WSW by the upper wall. On the
north of this area are two more hut circles within a square enclosure; 135m to
the north west is a large hut circle alone on the upper slope.
After the intensive prehistoric land use, early medieval summer pasturing was
served by small rectangular rubble-based shelters called transhumance huts;
one is visible on the midslope in the north west, another is built into a hut
circle in the upper slope square enclosure. Later in the medieval period, the
prehistoric regular field system formed the basis for renewed exploitation of
the lower slopes, primarily from a village established on the lower slope in
the north west of the scheduling. The village extends along a NNW-SSE broad
street; spaced over 120m on its west are four rectangular houses of a type
known as long houses, accompanied by three large and several smaller ancillary
buildings. On the east is a corn drying barn, with ovens in opposed walls, and
south west of the settlement is a small two-roomed building. This settlement,
with walls over 1m high in places, was partly excavated in 1891.
The settlement is adjoined by garden plots in an area of larger fields that
reuse some walls of the prehistoric field system and slight others whose
rubble was gathered into small mounds called clearance cairns. All of these
fields contain parallel cultivation ridging called `ridge-and-furrow'. North
of the settlement, the street narrows to an embanked track curving 150m north
west through the fields, flaring to meet a north-south boundary along the
limit of intensive medieval cultivation, east of the prehistoric upper wall
at this point. This medieval boundary is a `corn-ditch', with a sloping ramp
facing cultivated land around the settlement but with a walled vertical
outer face and outer ditch facing less intensively used land, pasture and
moor.
South of the settlement, the street again narrows for 60m then turns west;
beyond the corn-ditch, it ascends the midslope as a hollowed routeway.
South east of the hollowed routeway, the corn-ditch follows the prehistoric
upper terminal wall apart for one length in the west where it curves around a
lower course than the straighter line of the prehistoric boundary. Below the
corn-ditch, aerial photographs show ridge-and-furrow in most prehistoric
fields, very prominent north of the angled course-change in the corn-ditch,
generally less so to the east, due to differing intensities of cultivation.
Where densely afforested the ridging does not survive. North of the corn-ditch
angle, medieval ditched banks reinforce some prehistoric walls, grouping the
plots into three large fields; a similar bank encloses south eastern parts of
the regular field system and some of its adjacent irregular field system.
Near the corn-ditch angle, another corn-ditch branches south eastward and
climbs the upper slope, curving to end on Smallacoombe Tor and defining an
area of hillslope pasture from the unenclosed Down beyond. Towards the Tor,
this corn-ditch reuses prehistoric enclosure and field walls. An unfinished
medieval attempt to define a cultivation block in this enclosed pasture is
shown by a ditch running 130m upslope from near the lower corn-ditch.
At the south east of the scheduling, a medieval bank and ditch rise up the
midslope then curve down to be truncated by a 19th century railway cutting.
Two walls, about 80m apart, descend the steep slope below to end on a wall by
the valley floor.
In the post-medieval period Smallacoombe Downs reverted to hill pasture but
the corn-ditch on the upper wall of the regular field system remained as a
land boundary into the 20th century, extending east to a ford on the Withey
Brook. In the 1880s a railway trackbed was built north west from railways
serving mines and quarries on south east Bodmin Moor. After Acts of Parliament
in 1882 and 1884, it was completed across the north east of the Downs, with
cuttings, embankments, bridges and culverts, crossing many early boundaries
and the regular field system with a minor realignment in the lower corn-ditch
at one point. The project collapsed about 1890, work on the trackbed stopping
abruptly where it re-crossed the corn-ditch west of the medieval settlement.
All modern fences, gates and fittings, and the railway trackbed surface are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 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
Moor has been the subject of detailed archaeological survey and is one of the
best recorded upland landscapes in England. The extensive relict landscapes of
prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date 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.

The extensive survival of archaeological remains contained within this
scheduling on the north east slopes of Smallacoombe Downs provides excellent
evidence for the sequence of land use on the downs over about four millenia of
human activity, with important implications relating to the social, economic
and wider landscape organisation of the human communities involved. The
remains from each phase in that sequence survive sufficiently clearly and on a
scale large enough to display their nature of settlement and economic
organisation. The extensive reuse and adoption of earlier features within the
prehistoric and later periods not only permits analysis of the overall
sequence but it also illustrates well the complex mix of continuity and
innovation that underlies the physical pattern of land use in each phase. In
their wider context, the features in this scheduling have additional
importance in providing an unusually complete view of the prehistoric and
later land use sequence across a hillslope and down to a valley floor,
supplementing a similar profile of survival beyond this scheduling on the
eastern flank of the downs; overall this considerably complements our
understanding of the range of broadly contemporary monuments in the area whose
surviving focus tends to lie outside the valleys. Although the scheduling's
features show some disturbance from forestry operations, these have only
affected limited areas. The medieval settlement has importance as one of the
earliest such settlements to be excavated with a sufficiently complete record
to allow subsequent clarification and reinterpretation of its nature; while
enchancing our knowledge of the settlement, several buildings in the
settlement remain undisturbed and most walls in the excavated buildings also
survive intact. Subsequent aerial photographic work, both before and during
the modern forestry, also considerably complements our knowledge of the
extensive field remains in this scheduling.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Beresford, M, Hurst, JG, Deserted Medieval Villages Studies, (1989)
Messenger, M J, Caradon and Looe The Canal Railways and Mines, (1978)
Shambrook, H R, The Caradon and Phoenix Mining Area, (1982)
Sharpe, A/CAU, The Minions Area, (1993)
Baring-Gould, S, 'J Royal Inst Cornwall' in An Ancient Settlement on Trewortha Marsh, , Vol. 11, (1891), 57-70
Johnson, N, Rose, P, 'The Human Landscape to c 1800' in Bodmin Moor An Archaeological Survey, , Vol. 1, (1994)
Other
Cambridge APU, Cambridge oblique APs: AFE 33-34, (1962)
Cambridge APU, Cambridge oblique APs; MF 27-28, (1953)
Cambridge: 1962; NMR: 1979, Cambridge oblique: AFE 34; NMR obliques: SX 2375/-/71, 73 & 117,
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries for PRN 1017.07, 1019, 1062, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1005.01-.09, .11-.12, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1005; 1064; 1118, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1010.01 & .02, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1010.03 - .06, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1010.03 & .04, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1010.03-.06, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1010.05 & .06, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1017 & 1065, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1064.01, .03-.05, .08-.09, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1118 & 1134, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entries PRN 1134 & 1018, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1005, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1008, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1010, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1010.01, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1010.02, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1010.04, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1018, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1063, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1064.01, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1064.02, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1064.06, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1064.07, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1065.04, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1081, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1086, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1118, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1134, (1990)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 1285, (1990)
Documents 88, 237, 575, Hull, P L, The Cartulary of Launceston Priory, (1987)
Drawn to accompany EH Management Plan, Hooley, A D, 1:2500 Smallacoombe Downs survey plan on Ordnance Survey/ Landline Map base, (1998)
MF 27-8: 1953; AFE 33-4: 1962, Cambridge APU (St Joseph), Cambridge oblique APs: MF 27-8; AFE 33-4, (1953)
RAF, RAF vertical air photo: 36 TUD UK 137 part III, photo 5254, (1946)
RAF, RAF vertical air photo: 36 TUD UK 137 part III, photo 5254, (1946)
RAF, RAF vertical AP: 36 TUD UK 137 part III, photo 5254, (1946)
RCHME, NMR oblique APs: F/33/90-94/SX 227761, 2, 3 & 5/13271, (1991)
RCHME, NMR oblique APs: F/33/90-94/SX 227761; NMR 2,3 & 5/13271, (1991)
RCHME/CAU, 1:2500 Bodmin Moor Survey AP plots SX 2275-6 & SX 2375, (1983)
RCHME/CAU, 1:2500 Bodmin Moor Survey AP plots SX 2275-6, 2375, (1983)
RCHME/CAU, Bodmin Moor Survey 1:2500 AP plots; SX 2275-6, SX 2375, (1983)
RCHME/CAU, Bodmin Moor Survey AP plot SX 2275, (1983)
RCHME/CAU, Bodmin Moor Survey AP plot SX 2276, (1983)
RCHME/CAU, Bodmin Moor Survey AP plot SX 2375, (1983)
RCHME/CAU, Bodmin Moor Survey AP plots SX 2275-6; SX 2375, (1983)
RCHME/CAU, Bodmin Moor Survey AP plots; SX 2374-5, (1983)
Taken 24/5/1991, NMR, NMR oblique AP F33/90/SX 227761, (1991)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 27 NW
Source Date: 1984
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map, SX 27 NW
Source Date: 1984
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 27 SW
Source Date: 1984
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map Cornwall sheet XXI:16
Source Date: 1883
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, Cornwall sheet XXI:16
Source Date: 1883
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, Cornwall sheet XXI:16
Source Date: 1883
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Both 1883 and 1906 Editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, Cornwall sheets XXI:12 & 16; XXII:13
Source Date: 1883
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, Cornwall sheets XXI:12 & 16; XXII:13
Source Date: 1906
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map: Cornwall sheet XXI:12
Source Date: 1883
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet XXII: 13
Source Date: 1906
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheets XXI: 12 & 16; XXII: 13
Source Date: 1906
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheets XXI: 12 & 16; XXII: 13
Source Date: 1883
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Smallacoombe Downs survey on OS/Landline map base
Source Date: 1998
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Smallacoombe Downs survey on OS/Landline map base
Source Date: 1998
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Drawn to accompany EH Management Plan
Title: 1:2500 Smallacoombe Downs survey plan on OS/Landline map base
Source Date: 1998
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.