Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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

Round cairn cemetery on Dunkery Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Luccombe, Somerset

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: 51.1737 / 51°10'25"N

Longitude: -3.5623 / 3°33'44"W

OS Eastings: 290877.154074

OS Northings: 142766.078156

OS Grid: SS908427

Mapcode National: GBR LD.6CCQ

Mapcode Global: VH5K3.6RLM

Entry Name: Round cairn cemetery on Dunkery Hill

Scheduled Date: 10 December 1929

Last Amended: 23 April 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020930

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35591

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Luccombe

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a prehistoric round cairn cemetery which is situated on
open moorland occupying a prominent position on the summit of Dunkery Hill.
The cemetery, which comprises at least five round cairns, includes three
distinctive cairns each of which is surrounded by a low bank. These cairns,
two of which have attracted the place-names of Joaney How and Robin How,
appear to have formed the focus of the cemetery which is roughly aligned from
north east to south west along the high level plateau which forms the eastern
end of the Dunkery Ridge.
The surrounding earth and stone banks which distinguish three of the
cairns from the others are an average of 1m wide. Their cairn mounds range
in diameter between 21.5m and 24m with a maximum height of 2m. Each of the
mounds is topped with a modern stone heap. The westernmost cairn, known as
Robin How, is flanked by a large quarry pit to the east which has
dimensions of 19m from north to south, 8m from east to west, and is 0.8m
deep; it was probably the source of material for the cairn mound. A low
stone and earthen mound about 3m in diameter is situated immediately west
of the cairn mound and may be associated with it. An unnamed cairn which
forms the southernmost of the group has several shallow pits close to the
east and south sides of the mound and, as with Robin How, these were
probably dug to provide material for the cairn mound. The north
easternmost of this group of banked cairns is known as Joaney How.
Two further cairns are located to the east and north east. Both are
similarly constructed with stone and earth mounds 1.1m high but without
enclosing banks. The mound of the northernmost of the two is 18m in
diameter and has a slight hollow just to the south west of the centre
which is visible in the exposed stone of the mound; this is probably the
result of stone robbing. The second cairn, located to the south east of
the former is 17m in diameter and has a pit dug into the centre of the
mound of approximately 2.8 sq m with upcast stone around it.
Also included in the scheduling are a further three small mounds
considered to be cairns. These are located at the centre of the group just
to the east of Joaney How and they may have been constructed as later and
secondary cairns seeking association with the main focus of the cemetery.
Their mounds are an average 3m in diameter and 0.2m high. The cemetery
appears also to have acted as a focus for further cairns which lie some
distance from it; these outlying cairns are the subject of separate
The cairns known as Robin How and Joaney How are traditionally thought to
be named after Robin Hood and Little John and were first referred to as
such on an Ordnance Survey 6 inch map of 1887. Both of these cairns,
together with the southernmost cairn of the group, are recorded as the
sites of beacons on the Ordnance Survey 25 inch 1st edition map of 1809.

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 cairn cemeteries are funerary monuments dating from the Late
Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to
the period 2400-1500BC. Constructed as rubble mounds which covered single
or multiple burials, they often also 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 a proportion of these forming round
cairn cemeteries 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. 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 protection.

The round cairn cemetery on Dunkery Hill survives well as a particularly
good example of its class. It includes a number of large cairns, such as
the distinguished Joaney How and Robin How Cairns, which are likely to
have acted as a focus for other satellite cairns which are located in the
area. The prominent position of the cemetery on the Dunkery massif forms
an important and well known landmark in the Exmoor landscape.
Additionally, the mounds would also have been highly visible in the
prehistoric landscape in which they were constructed.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Grinsel, L V, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 35
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 14,35
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 14,35
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 43
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 43
SS 94 SW 14, National Monuments Record,
SS 94 SW 2, National Monuments Record,
SS 94 SW 3, National Monuments Record,
SS 94 SW 4, National Monuments Record,
SS 94 SW 6, National Monuments Record,

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.