HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV14724
Name:Cow Cave at Chudleigh Rocks


Cow Cave, Chudleigh Rocks, Chudleigh. Flint flakes of probable Palaeolithic date as well as animal remains have been found at this cave.


Grid Reference:SX 864 786
Map Sheet:SX87NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishChudleigh
Ecclesiastical ParishCHUDLEIGH

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1166358
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX87NE/63
  • Old SAM Ref: 10720
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX87NE29

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CAVE (Lower Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 698000 BC to 2201 BC (Between))

Full description

Beynon, F., 1934, Cow Cave, Chudleigh, 127-32 (Article in Serial). SDV312414.

The cave was probably not settled by Palaeolithic man as no traces of an ancient hearth were found. Eight specimens of man-made flints were recovered.

Shaw, T. R., 1949, The Caves at Chudleigh, 341-5 (Article in Serial). SDV346808.

Cow Hole is quite short at 18.29 metres. The entrance is 6 metres wide by 4.3 metres high and choked at the end with boulders and mud.

Unknown, 1963, Cow Cave, Chudleigh, 5 (Article in Serial). SDV312415.

Cave has been excavated uncovering a sequence of deposits not previously recorded. Most remains were of bear. Other species more climatically significant were, Arctic lemming, snow vole, northern vole, indicated a glacial climate at the time of deposition. From the stream deposit a Levalloisian flake was recovered, a rare occurence of the industry in Devon.

Rosenfeld, A., 1969, The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, 133 (Article in Monograph). SDV322027.

Six flakes of Middle Palaeolithic date are known from Cow Cave. Recent re-excavation by J W Simons yielded only one flake, but it was firmly from the lowest deposit, which is separated from the overlying last glacial reindeer stratum by a fractured stalagmite. The flakes are from prepared cores, some have facetted platforms.

Bonsall, C., 1977, Gazetteer of Upper Palaeolithic Sites, 418 (Article in Serial). SDV312413.

Cow Cave Chudleigh. Site excavated 1923-3 contained possible earlier Upper Palaeolithic material now in Torquay Museum.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1978, SX87NE29 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV346767.

Six flakes of the Middle Palaeolithic were recovered form Cow Cave.

Collcutt, S.N., 1984, The Analysis of Quaternary Cave Sediments and its Bearing upon Palaeolithic Archaeology, with special reference to selected sites from Western Britain (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV360056.

The present entrance to Cow Cave lies circa 65m west of the eastern entrance to Pixies's Hole. However, the westernmost extension of the latter site consists of a passage which is choked with sediment at the same level as, and only circa 12m from, the easternmost extension of Cow Cave, which is similarly choked with sediment. Thus it is highly probable that the two caves connect. Cow Cave has been radically modified by quarrying, at the very least circa 10m of its entrance area having been lost. The present author found that the slope immediately outside the cave is composed of tip from the cave, overlying quarry rubble, to a depth of at least 2m. Today, an arched passage leads inwards for circa 13m, before turning eastwards and also probably westwards.

Barton, R. M. E. + Collcutt, S.N., 1986, Cow Cave, Chudleigh (Unknown). SDV363488.

The site has provided few Palaeolithic implements but, if the Levallois material is confirmed, the stratigraphic aspect would become important. There is every reason to expect that the remaining deposits will contain further rare artefacts.

Simons believes that Cow Cave contains an occupation floor, but Collcutt believes the Later Upper Palaeolithic material was derived by debris flow. In any case, the density of archaeological finds is very low.

Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/GU, 1-2, 5-7 (Aerial Photograph). SDV338019.

Griffith, F. M., 1987, DAP/IB, 10-15 (Aerial Photograph). SDV312427.

Griffith, F. M., 1988, DAP/JQ, 10-12 (Aerial Photograph). SDV346766.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 20 (Monograph). SDV64198.

Department of Environment, 1992, Cow Cave, Chudleigh Rocks (Schedule Document). SDV343522.

Cow Cave lies on the north side of the Kate Brook valley, about 60 metres west of Pixie's Hole cave and at a similar level. It consists of an arched entrance, circa 5 metres wide and 4.5 metres high, and a passage which leads north for about 13 metres before turning eastwards and westwards in a 'T'-configuration. There is a weak active spring at the back of the cave which keeps the floor waterlogged. The eastern arm of the 'T' is choked with sediment and, as it lies only 12 metres from the westernmost extension of Pixie's Hole, the two are believed to connect. Outside the entrance of Cow Cave is a wide platform which contains spoil resulting from excavations in the inter-war period. These produced possible Middle Palaeolithic finds as well as artefacts and faunal material of Upper Palaeolithic age. Deposits on the cave wall and in the choked passage are believed to contain further archaeological evidence of these periods. The monument includes the main 'T'-shaped passage and its deposits and also deposits within a radius of 5 metres in front of the cave mouth. Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters provide some of the earliest evidence of human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 10,000 years ago. The sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the north and west of the country. Cow Cave is one of three caves in the valley known to contain significant Palaeolithic deposits. Although partly excavated the cave retains considerable potential for archaeological and environmental evidence and, importantly, for preserving evidence of rare Middle Palaeolithic contexts. Other details: Monument 10720.

Pye, A., 1992, Environmental statement on the proposed extension of the Heathfield landfill site, Kingsteignton. Appendix 4: archaeological assessment, 13 (Report - Assessment). SDV312426.

Barton, R. M. E. + Roberts, A. J., 1996, Reviewing the British Late Upper Palaeolithic, 251-7 (Article in Serial). SDV312419.

Excavated in 1977-78 by Doctor S N Collcutt. In situ hearth. Deposit made up of baked stones and small flecks of charcoal. Lithic finds include a variety of blade forms, scrapers, a burin and a piercer. Accelerator based radio carbon dates from the hearth and adjacent area provide a mean age of 11870 years BP (in the Mesolithic circa 10000BC).

Exeter Archaeology, 2003, Archaeological Assessment of Proposed Development at 6 The Square, Chudleigh, 2 (Report - Assessment). SDV338022.

Vulliamy, C., 2005, Damage Report for Cow Cave, Chudleigh (Report - non-specific). SDV320593.

One of a small number of limestone caves in Devon with Palaeolithic remains of animals and humans. Open mouthed cave circa 10 metres deep by 5 metres wide narrowing to the rear and continuing east for circa 5 metres. Remains of excavated stalagmite floors survive with remains of earthy deposits bearing bone etc. Previous excavations have left considerable areas of waste. Disturbance at the cave in 2005 included a recent fire, scraping of the walls and digging in the floor at the rear of the cave. Bone fragments including one which was possibly human and a bear claw were removed to Torquay Museum. Only small areas of deposit remain in the cave and suggestions have been made to gate the cave or plaster the walls to preserve these.

Lundberg, J. + Simons, J. + Mcfarlane, D., 2008, A Pleistocene Chronology for the Fauna and Artefacts of Cow Cave (Article in Monograph). SDV359408.

Cow Cave is a well-known archaeological and palaeontological site in the wall of Chudleigh Gorge, Devon, England. The cave is choked after a short distance with allochthonous sediments and
speleothem accumulations. Palaeontological excavations at the cave in 1927 to 1935, and again in 1962 to 1963, yielded a rich Pleistocene fauna and several stone tools. However, in the absence of radiometric dating, the faunal composition was ambiguous with respect to age. Here, we report the first radiometric dates on the site. Two Thermal Ionization Mass spectrometric uranium series disequilibrium dates place a critical speleothem layer from within the Cow Cave sediments in the warmer intervals of the MIS 6 glacial period, and suggest that the basal sediments entrained a fauna and human artefacts from the preceding MIS 7 interglacial period, the Aveley.

Sheridan, A. + Schulting, R. + Quinnell, H. + Taylor, R., 2008, Revisiting a Small Passage Tomb at Broadsands, Devon, 9-10 (Article in Serial). SDV344747.

Carbon 14 dating from bone samples, from two individuals, returned dates of between 3895-3640 calibrated BC, indicating that the cave was used for burial during the Earlier Neolithic period, broadly contemporary with the passage tomb at Broadsands, Paignton. In common with Broadsands and indeed other Neolithic sites isotope analysis indicated a diet based primarily on terrestrial rather than marine resources.

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 111 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

Generally satisfactory condition, but with significant localised problems. Principal vulnerability vandalism.

Simons, J. W., 2010, A Re-appraisal of the Stratigraphy, Palaeontology and Dating of Cow Cave, Chudleigh, Devon, England. (Article in Serial). SDV361338.

Cow Cave is an important Quaternary paleontological site in Chudleigh Gorge, now known to have a sequence of cave-earths and stalagmite floors that range in age from Upper Middle Pleistocene (~MIS 7 interglacial) through to the Holocene (Flandrian) and the present day. Excavations in 1927-1934, and again in 1962-3, have provided a rich fauna, with some artefacts.

English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West, 104 (Report - non-specific). SDV344777.

National Monuments Record, 2011, 1166358 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV346769.

One of a number of small caves, shelters and fissures at Chudleigh Rock. Investigations at Cow Cave occurred between 1927 and 1934, and recovered six flint flakes of probable Palaeolithic date, as well as animal remains. Further excavation by J Simons in 1962-3 found a further flake and animal remains. Collcutt refers to the cave as a minor later Upper Palaeolithic site. Sediment sampling by Colcutt in 1978 suggested that some of the late Upper Palaeolithic finds from Cow Hole were originally derived from the adjacent Pixie's Hole by debris flow. Cow Hole is a large cave 4 to 5 metres wide and extending back about 10 metres, its present internal size and shape largely the result of excavation. A mass of detritus extends upwards to another higher entrance.

English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West, 109 (Report - non-specific). SDV355280.

Generally satisfactory condition, but with significant localised problems. Declining. Principal vulnerability vandalism.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

'Cow Hole' shown on modern mapping.

Newberry, J., 2013, Lateglacial Devon, Including Recent Evidence from Broad Down, 6 (Article in Serial). SDV358048.

Cow Cave has produced evidence for Creswellian activity in the form of finds of 'curved and angle-backed points'.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV312413Article in Serial: Bonsall, C.. 1977. Gazetteer of Upper Palaeolithic Sites. Council for British Archaeology Research Report. 20. Unknown. 418.
SDV312414Article in Serial: Beynon, F.. 1934. Cow Cave, Chudleigh. Transactions of the Torquay Natural History Society. 6. Unknown. 127-32.
SDV312415Article in Serial: Unknown. 1963. Cow Cave, Chudleigh. Devon Archaeological Exploration Society Newsletter. 5. A5 Unbound. 5.
SDV312419Article in Serial: Barton, R. M. E. + Roberts, A. J.. 1996. Reviewing the British Late Upper Palaeolithic. Oxford Journal of Archaeology. 15 (3). A4 Stapled + Digital. 251-7.
SDV312426Report - Assessment: Pye, A.. 1992. Environmental statement on the proposed extension of the Heathfield landfill site, Kingsteignton. Appendix 4: archaeological assessment. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 92.14. A4 Stapled + Digital. 13.
SDV312427Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1987. DAP/IB. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 10-15.
SDV320593Report - non-specific: Vulliamy, C.. 2005. Damage Report for Cow Cave, Chudleigh. English Heritage Report. Unknown.
SDV322027Article in Monograph: Rosenfeld, A.. 1969. The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. Exeter and its Region. Hardback Volume. 133.
SDV338019Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/GU. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1-2, 5-7.
SDV338022Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 2003. Archaeological Assessment of Proposed Development at 6 The Square, Chudleigh. Exeter Archaeology Report. 03.69. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 111.
SDV343522Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1992. Cow Cave, Chudleigh Rocks. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled. [Mapped feature: #81326 ]
SDV344747Article in Serial: Sheridan, A. + Schulting, R. + Quinnell, H. + Taylor, R.. 2008. Revisiting a Small Passage Tomb at Broadsands, Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 66. Paperback Volume. 9-10.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 104.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV346766Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1988. DAP/JQ. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 10-12.
SDV346767Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1978. SX87NE29. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV346769National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 1166358. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV346808Article in Serial: Shaw, T. R.. 1949. The Caves at Chudleigh. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 81. A5 Hardback. 341-5.
SDV355280Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2011. Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West. english Heritage. Digital. 109.
SDV358048Article in Serial: Newberry, J.. 2013. Lateglacial Devon, Including Recent Evidence from Broad Down. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 71. Paperback Volume. 6.
SDV359408Article in Monograph: Lundberg, J. + Simons, J. + Mcfarlane, D.. 2008. A Pleistocene Chronology for the Fauna and Artefacts of Cow Cave. Cave and Karst Science Vol 34, No.3, 2007. Digital.
SDV360056Post-Graduate Thesis: Collcutt, S.N.. 1984. The Analysis of Quaternary Cave Sediments and its Bearing upon Palaeolithic Archaeology, with special reference to selected sites from Western Britain. microfiche.
SDV361338Article in Serial: Simons, J. W.. 2010. A Re-appraisal of the Stratigraphy, Palaeontology and Dating of Cow Cave, Chudleigh, Devon, England.. International Journal of Speleology. 39 (2). Digital.
SDV363488Unknown: Barton, R. M. E. + Collcutt, S.N.. 1986. Cow Cave, Chudleigh. Digital.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 20.

Associated Monuments

MDV8997Related to: Chudleigh Cavern at Chudleigh Rocks (Monument)
MDV9018Related to: Pixies' Hole Cave at Chudleigh Rocks (Monument)
MDV14725Related to: Tramp's Shelter at Chudleigh Rocks (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV1787 - FLAKE (Upper Palaeolithic - 38000 BC to 8001 BC)
  • FDV1788 - SCRAPER (TOOL) (Upper Palaeolithic - 38000 BC to 8001 BC)

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jan 22 2020 11:48AM