Ancient Monuments

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Selworthy Beacon cairn

A Scheduled Monument in Selworthy, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2208 / 51°13'14"N

Longitude: -3.5497 / 3°32'59"W

OS Eastings: 291867.983378

OS Northings: 147980.72473

OS Grid: SS918479

Mapcode National: GBR LF.38KD

Mapcode Global: VH5JX.FL81

Entry Name: Selworthy Beacon cairn

Scheduled Date: 3 September 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020793

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35326

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Selworthy

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a prehistoric cairn located at Selworthy Beacon, a
post-medieval beacon site situated on a high ridge which extends eastwards
from Minehead to Bossington Hill. The cairn is considered to be an
outlying member of a round cairn cemetery, the centre of which is located
some 500m to the east. The cairn is formed by a near-circular stone and
earthen platform which has a maximum diameter of 11.5m and a maximum
height of 1.1m. The cairn has been modified, as its name suggests, for use
as a fire beacon probably during the 16th century when the original cairn
mound was truncated. It is now topped with a modern stone heap of
approximately 7m in diameter which lies at the centre of the platform.

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

Exmoor is the most easterly of the three main upland areas in the south
western peninsula of England. In contrast to the other two areas, Dartmoor
and Bodmin Moor, there has been no history of antiquarian research and
little excavation of Exmoor monuments. However, survey work has confirmed
a comparable richness of archaeological remains, with evidence of human
exploitation and occupation from the Mesolithic period to the present day.
Many of the field monuments surviving on Exmoor date from the later
prehistoric period, examples including stone settings, stone alignments,
standing stones, and burial mounds (barrows or cairns).
Round cairns are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period
to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period
2400-1500BC. They were constructed as rubble mounds which covered single
or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as
cemeteries, and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Over
370 barrows or cairns, varying in diameter from 2m to 35m, have been
recorded on Exmoor, with many of these found on or close to the summits of
the three east-west ridges which cross the moor - the southern escarpment,
the central ridge, and the northern ridge. Individual cairns and groups
may also be found on lower lying ground and hillslopes. Those which occupy
prominent locations form a major visual element in the modern landscape.
Their longevity as a monument type can 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

Selworthy Beacon cairn is believed to be an outlying member of a round
cairn cemetery (a group of cairns sited in close proximity to one
another), and it survives well beneath the deposits of the modern stone
heap which has helped to preserve its original form. The cairn will
contain archaeological deposits and environmental evidence relating to the
cairn and the wider landscape in which it was constructed.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113 pt 1, (1969), 36
SS 94 NW 102, National Monuments Record,

Source: Historic England

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