Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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

Prehistoric tor cairn and stone setting at Smallacombe Tor

A Scheduled Monument in North Hill, Cornwall

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

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.


Latitude: 50.5474 / 50°32'50"N

Longitude: -4.4929 / 4°29'34"W

OS Eastings: 223479.621214

OS Northings: 74928.226518

OS Grid: SX234749

Mapcode National: GBR ND.GXD4

Mapcode Global: FRA 17GM.CF9

Entry Name: Prehistoric tor cairn and stone setting at Smallacombe Tor

Scheduled Date: 16 March 1994

Last Amended: 23 October 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018682

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15286

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


The monument includes two prehistoric ritual features, a tor cairn and a small
stone setting, situated at Smallacoombe Tor on the Smallacoombe Downs, on
south east Bodmin Moor.
The tor cairn is against the base of the southern face of Smallacoombe Tor and
survives with an almost semi-circular wall concentric about a
distinctively-jointed granite outcrop, 3m high and projecting slightly from
the tor's face. The wall is formed of largely edge-set, closely-spaced slabs
up to 1.3m long and 0.7m high, but shortly before joining the face of the tor
stack, the eastern end of the wall becomes a bank of heaped rubble and slabs,
up to 1.7m wide and 0.6m high. Overall, the wall measures 6.5m east-west
externally, and extends up to 5.9m south from the rock face beside the
distinctive outcrop. The internal area defined by the wall is almost level and
free of surface stone.
The stone setting is located on the flattened top of Smallacoombe Tor at its
higher western end, only 5m north west from the top of the outcrop forming the
tor cairn's focus. The setting is 2.7m in external diameter, visible as a
circular arrangement of at least six edge-set slabs up to 0.3m long and 0.3m
high, spaced 0.25m-1m apart. A larger gap in the circuit on the south is
completed by the northern edge of a low flat bedrock outcrop.
Beyond this scheduling, other broadly contemporary features include a platform
cairn on the highest point of Smallacoombe Downs, 430m to the WSW, while
extensive prehistoric to medieval field systems, linear boundaries and
settlement sites extend along the north east and eastern flanks of the downs,
some of their walls rising to about west, north and south of Smallacoombe Tor.

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 relationships 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. Tor cairns are ceremonial monuments dating to the Early and
Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1000 BC). They were constructed as a ring bank of
stone rubble, up to 35m in external diameter, sometimes with an entrance and
an external ditch, and roughly concentric around a natural rock outcrop or
tor. In some cases a kerb of edge-set stones bounds the inner edge of the bank
and the area between the bank and the outcrop was sometimes infilled 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 a
substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of

Both the tor cairn and the stone setting on Smallacoombe Tor survive well;
they have not been excavated and have no visible or recorded evidence for any
disturbance. The stone setting belongs to a rare and diverse class of
prehistoric ritual monument; its close association in this instance with the
tor cairn on such a striking landscape feature as Smallacoombe Tor highlights
the significant role of distinctive natural formations in prehistoric
religions and the means by which that significance was expressed. The
relationship of the tor cairn and stone setting with the field systems,
boundaries and settlement sites on the flanks of Smallacoombe Downs and with
the cairn on the Downs' highest point demonstrates well the organisation of
ritual, funerary and settlement land use during the Bronze Age.

Source: Historic England


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

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments 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 for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.