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HER Number:MDV12654
Name:Prehistoric Cairn in the Barrow Cemetery on the Western Slope of Crownhill Down

Summary

The most easterly of three Prehistoric cairns on the Sparkwell and Shaugh Prior parish boundary two of which are in the scheduled barrow cemetery of the western slope of Crownhill Down. A mound approximately 11m in diameter is visible on digital images derived from lidar data captured between 1998 and 2014. The earthwork has been destroyed by expansion of open cast mining on Crownhill Down.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 567 598
Map Sheet:SX55NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishShaugh Prior
Civil ParishSparkwell
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishPLYMPTON ST.MARY
Ecclesiastical ParishSHAUGH PRIOR

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 438411
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX55NE/29
  • Old SAM County Ref: Part of 1027A-G

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CAIRN (Bronze Age - 2200 BC to 701 BC (Between))

Full description

Unknown, 1876, No 72/964 (Record Office Collection). SDV171191.

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Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

'Pile of Stones' shown on 19th century map at a point where the parish boundary between Shaugh Prior and Sparkwell changes direction from south-east to north-east.

Edwards, C., 1979, An archaeological survey of an area surrounding Hemerdon Ball (Report - Survey). SDV337241.

Visited 18th June 1979. Three cairns labelled 'Pile of Stones' on Ordnance Surveys maps, form markers for the Sparkwell/Shaugh Prior parish boundary. Labelled 'Burrow' on a Strode Lease map dated March 1876. Different from other cairns on Crownhill Down in their use of substantial boulders. Diameter 8.5 meters, height 0.5 meters.

Gilbertson, D. + Collis, J., 1982, Mapping Three Millennia of Settlement and Land Use on Crownhill Down, South West Dartmoor (Article in Serial). SDV362901.

Cemetery of four barrows between two of the cairns on the western slope of Crownhill Down.

Gilbertson, D. + Collis, J., 1985, Linear Banks on Crownhill Down, Dartmoor (Article in Serial). SDV337244.

Cemetery of four barrows between two of the cairns on the western slope of Crownhill Down.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, SX55NE (Cartographic). SDV337243.

Not visible on the 1946 or 1978 aerial photographs.

Department of Environment, 1986, Barrow Cemetery on Western Slope of Crownhill Down (Schedule Document). SDV337245.

Barrow cemetery on western slope of Crownhill Down. This site has no statutory description.

Griffith, F. M., 1988, DAP/KA, 5-12 (Aerial Photograph). SDV337242.

Environment Agency, 1998-2017, LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) EA: South Devon Coast to Dartmoor, LIDAR SX5659 Environment Agency DTM 01-JAN-1998 to 31-MAY-2017 (Cartographic). SDV361470.

A mound is visible as an earthwork.

National Monuments Record, 2002, 438411 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV343823.

Heavily disturbed cairn used as a boundary marker 12.5 metres dfiameter by 0.7 metres high. A central pit 4 metres diameter by 0.4 metres deep exposes the boulder/stone matrix with possibly a rock outcrop.

Fletcher, M., 2002, The Archaeological Landscape of Crownhill Down and Ridding Down: Survey Report, 4 (Report - Survey). SDV343412.

Other details: Figure 3 and Crownhill Down Survey.

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 109 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

Generally satisfactory but with significant localised problems. Principal vulnerability scrub and tree growth.

English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West, 102 (Report - non-specific). SDV344777.

Farnell, A. + Hughes, S., 2016, Crownhill Down, Hemerdon (Report - Excavation). SDV360006.

As part of a wider scheme of archaeological investigations associated with the creation of a tungsten mine at Hemerdon Ball, archaeological excavation and recording was carried out by AC archaeology between June and August 2013 on Crownhill Down within the area of Scheduled Monument 1003201 (formerly DV1027). Excavations comprised the investigation of a cairn monument and an earthwork boundary that were previously-evaluated in 2010.
The Scheduled area of 1003201 is located in the middle of Crownhill Down, an upland rough pasture that slopes down from the East and forms the majority of the application site. Along the Eastern edge of the Down, just below the crest, is another scheduled barrow cemetery (HE SM ref: 1004572), comprising a linear arrangement of 12 barrows/cairns of varying forms. A further scheduled cairn, known as the Hawkesborough Barrow (HE SM ref: 1002597) lies to the south. Both monuments were excluded from the development area and so were not included in the excavation programme. However, a total of 11 cairn monuments, including 1003201, were investigated across the Down as part of the wider Hemerdon Mine project. SAM 1003201 consisted of six mounds. The results of trial trenching in 2010 (ref) concluded that only one of these mounds was man-made, the others attributed to periglacial activity. The man-made cairn was visible as an 11m diameter annular stone ring, comparable in form to the class of monument known as a 'kerbed' cairn. A radiocarbon date of 840–770 Cal BC (representing the very late Bronze Age to Iron Age) was obtained during the evaluation and an assessment of the pollen from the exposed upper deposits was also carried out.
The cairn was located on the west facing slope of Crownhill Down and prior to commencement was visible as a prominent turf-covered stony ring measuring around 11m across and positioned on a terrace formed from stone outcropping (Plate 1). Boundary 466 extended to the west of the cairn on the lower slopes and comprised a low earthen bank. The excavation of the cairn encompassed an area of approximately 26m in diameter. Natural subsoil (context 203), which comprised a light grey silty-clay with abundant gravel inclusions, was encountered at a depth of up to 0.28m beneath approximately 0.1m of dark greyish-brown silty-clay loam subsoil (201) and 0.18m of turf and topsoil (200). Four phases of activity or deposition were identified (Phases 1 to 4). The features and deposits from each phase are
described in detail below.
Phase 1: Features and deposits pre-dating the cairn construction. Six possible pit features (F221, F224, F226, F228, F230 and F232) were recorded as cut into the natural subsoil and with the exception of F232 were sealed by a buried soil (209).
F221 was a well-defined, sub-circular pit measuring 0.3m long, 0.24m wide and 0.2m deep, which was located towards the centre of the later cairn. Its profile was steep sided with a sharp break of slope onto a flat base. The pit contained two fills that comprised a dumped primary fill of very dark greyish-brown, organic-rich clayey-silt with common charcoal flecks (220). This was overlain by an upper fill of light greyish-brown clayey-silt with few inclusions (219). No finds were recovered from the fills of this feature.
To the northeast of pit F221 was F224, which was a shallow sub-circular possible pit measuring 0.45m long, 0.32m wide and 0.06m deep with gradually sloping concave sides and a flat base. It contained two fills (222 and 223) derived from natural silting. These comprised primary fill 223, a light grey clayey-silt with rare small stone inclusions that was overlain by fill 222, a mid reddish brown clay silt with rare small stone inclusions. No finds were recovered from this feature.
F226 was located towards the southwest of the site and formed part of a cluster of similar features including F228, F230 and F232 that were all undated. F226 was a shallow circular possible pit measuring 0.25m in diameter and 0.05m deep with gradually-sloping sides and shallow concave base. It contained a single fill of very dark grey brown silty-clay with occasional small stone inclusions (227).
Possible pits F228, F230 and F232 measured between 0.3m and 0.45m across and between 0.06m and 0.18m deep with gradually-sloping concave sides and flattish base. Each of the pits contained similar dark greyish-brown silty-clay fills with occasional small stone inclusions (229, 231 and 233).
Buried soil layer 209 measured approximately 16.4m across and a maximum of 0.18m deep. It survived principally below the cairn, but also extended beyond as a thin, patchy and amorphous spread. It was composed of dark grey silty-clay mottled with lighter grey patches and contained rare sub-angular stone inclusions. No finds were recovered from this deposit.
Phase 2: Earth platform and stone kerbing. A broadly circular earth platform overlay buried soil 209. This was composed of mid yellowishbrown re-deposited natural subsoil (212) that was in turn overlain by a layer of mid grey clay (202) interpreted as degraded turf (M. J. Allen pers. comm.). Layer 212 measured 9.52m across and a maximum of 0.2m thick with an undulating surface. It had been cut by two small possible stake holes (F216 and F218) and was overlain in places by a light grey silty-clay deposit (213) observed to infill hollows in its surface (not illustrated). Layer 202 measured approximately 12m across and a maximum of 0.48m thick with an undulating surface formed by the impressions of large stones placed on top. Both layers were generally thickest at their western (downslope) extent. A water worn slate fragment with a partial perforation worked by a drill on one side, and a flint chip were recovered from layer 202.
Possible stakeholes F216 and F218 were located approx. 2.6m northwest of the cairn’s centre. Each measuring 0.09m wide and c.0.07m deep, they contained single fills of dark brown silt (215) and a dark greyish-brown silty-clay (217) respectively.
Following the formation of the platform made up of layers 212 and 202, an arrangement of large sub-angular stones, using pieces of up to 1.2m in length, were positioned on it to form a ring or kerb (205). This had an internal diameter of 5m and was positioned slightly off centre. The stones were locally derived, being predominantly mid grey thermally metamorphosed slate with white quartz veins. The composition of the ring was not consistent throughout its circumference. Instead, larger examples of stone pieces were placed where their height was enhanced by the west facing slope, while on its eastern (upslope) side, the ring was less prominent. In addition to the size difference, stone with larger quartz veins occurred more commonly in the larger west-facing stones. On the north side of stone ring 205 was a further arrangement of large stones (210). This comprised a subtle arc formed principally of four large stones.
Phase 3: Stone cairn mound. The subsequent phase of activity comprised a significant deposit of small to large, poorly sorted, locally-derived mid grey sub-angular boulders (206). This abutted the external face of the central stone ring 205 and extended over platform material 202. This deposit extended over an area measuring approximately 10.5m across. The deposit was thicker on the western (downslope) side where it was more significantly banked up against 205. The interior of ring 205 contained an intermittent deposit of small to medium sub-angular stones (207). This was concentrated to the southwest and northeast, partially overlying platform deposit 202. The stones comprising deposit 207 were well bedded into the underlying platform (202) suggesting that they had been intentionally deposited within the central ring (rather than representing later tumble) and may have originally been buried and compressed below a more substantial deposit of stone.
Phase 4: Overlying deposits. This phase comprised the partial erosion of the upstanding monument and consisted of a poorly-defined spread of loose stones (208) presumably derived from mound deposit 206. This extended from the main cairn structure and formed a loose matrix of very dark greyish-brown silty-clay that was more concentrated on the downslope side of the cairn. These upper deposits of the cairn were overlain by subsoil 201 and topsoil 200. In addition to 19 sherds of post-medieval pottery, a small number of other probably prehistoric finds were recovered from the topsoil and subsoil. These included two worked flints and three worked stone objects comprising: a partially perforated water-worn slate, a broken bladed possible sandstone cobble whetstone and an elongated bladed slate cobble thought to be part of a ‘sponge finger stone’, a term given to narrow elongated stone tools (see section 6.3 below).
Earthwork boundary 466, Trench 1. This trench was positioned across the northwest to southeast aligned arm of earthwork bank 466. Natural subsoil was exposed within the trench at a depth of between 0.17m and 0.35m. This was overlain by a buried soil layer (1006), which measured up to 0.17m thick and was composed of a dark brown silty-clay with frequent large angular to sub-rounded boulders of up to 0.4m. The buried soil layer survived only where it was sealed by later bank material (1007). It was overlain to the northeast by a subsoil layer (1001) and was cut on the downslope side by a shallow linear ‘scour’ or terrace F1004, positioned to the immediate west.
A layer of very dark brown, clayey-silt (2001) overlay the natural subsoil. To the WSW of the trench, layer 1001 was truncated by a shallow ‘scour’ or terrace F2003. This was infilled with a subsoil deposit of dark brown clayey-silt. There was no evidence of a surviving deposit of up cast material in this location.
Earthwork boundary 466, Trench 3. This trench was excavated onto natural subsoil (3004), which was present at a depth of 0.23m and was overlain by a buried soil of dark brown silty-clay (3003). To the southwest of the trench the buried soil was cut by a linear ‘scour’ or terrace (F3005).
F3005 measured approximately 0.24m deep and contained a dark brown silty-clay subsoil layer (3006), which extended beyond the limit of excavation to the southwest.
The bank was comprised of single deposit of up cast material comprising a light greyish-brown silty-clay with occasional small to large stone inclusions (3003) measuring 0.15m thick.
To the northeast of the trench buried soil 3003 was overlain by a subsoil deposit (3001) which had formed to the east of the bank and was in turn sealed by 0.1m of topsoil and turf (3000).
The finds recovered include worked flint, several worked stone objects and some post-medieval pottery from the topsoil.
A number of the soil samples from this and other monuments contain assemblages of charred plant remains and charcoal suitable for further analysis and, specifically in the case of this monument, possibly provide a radio carbon date for features early in, or pre-dating, the cairn’s construction. While the assessment of the pollen from the monolith samples from this cairn have proved unsuitable for further analysis, samples from other cairns and data retrieved from the evaluation in 2010, should yield more detailed information about the environmental conditions prevailing on the Down during the Bronze Age.
Excavation of the cairn within the area of Scheduled Monument 1003201 has established the characterisation of it as a round cairn-type and displaying distinct phases of construction. A single pit is likely to have been excavated prior to construction, and in which, a charcoal deposit was placed. The overlying composition of the monument indicated that a platform of turfs and re-deposited natural subsoil was primarily established and upon which a ring of kerb stones was set out. The arrangement of these, as well as the position of the monument on a mid-slope terrace, is considered to indicate that it was intended to be prominent in the landscape. In its final stage, stones were added to cap its original form, perhaps after some hiatus.
Reassessment of the deposit sequence has identified that the original Late Bronze Age radio carbon date was in fact taken from a later phase in the cairn's development. Carbon dating of charcoal from pit F221 has the potential to provide a more reliable terminus post quem for the construction.
Further investigation of bank 466, which was previously-investigated during evaluative work in 2010, resulted in only limited additional information gained. Despite a total lack of finds recovered from the feature, its composition is thought to suggest a likely medieval to postmedieval origin.
(See report for further details).

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2019-2020, The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP) (Interpretation). SDV362982.

A mound approximately 11m in diameter is visible on digital images derived from lidar data captured between 1998 and 2014, centred on SX56795987. A circa 4m wide hollow visible in the top of the mound might be indicative of historic excavation.
The mound is interpreted as a barrow or cairn of later prehistoric date, an interpretation borne out by excavation prior to the expansion of open cast mining on Crownhill Down (SDV360006). The earthwork has been destroyed.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV171191Record Office Collection: Unknown. 1876. No 72/964. Strode Documents. Map (Paper).
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV337241Report - Survey: Edwards, C.. 1979. An archaeological survey of an area surrounding Hemerdon Ball. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV337242Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1988. DAP/KA. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 5-12.
SDV337243Cartographic: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. SX55NE. Air Photographs Unit. Map (Paper).
SDV337244Article in Serial: Gilbertson, D. + Collis, J.. 1985. Linear Banks on Crownhill Down, Dartmoor. Landscape History. 7. Unknown.
SDV337245Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1986. Barrow Cemetery on Western Slope of Crownhill Down. The Schedule of Monuments. Letter.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 109.
SDV343412Report - Survey: Fletcher, M.. 2002. The Archaeological Landscape of Crownhill Down and Ridding Down: Survey Report. English Heritage Report. AI/31/2002. A4 Stapled + Digital. 4.
SDV343823National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2002. 438411. National Monuments Record Index. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 102.
SDV360006Report - Excavation: Farnell, A. + Hughes, S.. 2016. Crownhill Down, Hemerdon. AC Archaeology. ACD614/1/5. Digital.
SDV361470Cartographic: Environment Agency. 1998-2017. LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) EA: South Devon Coast to Dartmoor. Environment Agency LiDAR data. Digital. LIDAR SX5659 Environment Agency DTM 01-JAN-1998 to 31-MAY-2017. [Mapped feature: #80592 ]
SDV362901Article in Serial: Gilbertson, D. + Collis, J.. 1982. Mapping Three Millennia of Settlement and Land Use on Crownhill Down, South West Dartmoor. Field Studies. 5. Digital.
SDV362982Interpretation: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2019-2020. The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP). Historic England Research Report. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV72920Part of: Prehistoric Barrow Cemetery on the Western Slope of Crownhill Down (Monument)
MDV12660Related to: Possible Barrow on Crownhill Down (Monument)
MDV14614Related to: Prehistoric Barrow on the Western Slope of Crownhill Down (Monument)
MDV12656Related to: Prehistoric Cairn in the Barrow Cemetery on the Western Slope of Crownhill Down (Monument)
MDV12658Related to: Prehistoric Cairn on Crownhill Down (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV6396 - LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Bronze Age - 2200 BC to 701 BC)
  • FDV6397 - STONE OBJECT (Bronze Age - 2200 BC to 701 BC)

Associated Events

  • EDV4559 - Archaeological Landscape of Crownhill Down and Riddding Down
  • EDV8098 - The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping (formerly NMP) Survey, Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (Ref: ACD2040)

Date Last Edited:Jan 25 2021 11:24AM