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HER Number:MDV8289
Name:Mardon Down Stone Circle, Moretonhampstead


Stone circle on Mardon Down that measures nearly 40 metres in diameter; the largest circle on Dartmoor. 20 stones remain in the circle, although only three are still in situ and most have fallen. This site is included in the local list of Nationally Important Dartmoor sites. Surveyed in 2017, the circle has been affected by stone robbing and medieval cultivation, and also has a post-medieval bank runnign along the western side and a World War II gun pit on the north-eastern side.


Grid Reference:SX 767 871
Map Sheet:SX78NE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishMoretonhampstead
Ecclesiastical ParishMORETONHAMPSTEAD

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Prehistoric stone circle and earthworks of three well-preserved Bronze Age cairns, part of a line of monuments along the ridge on Mardon Down

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX78NE19
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 445394
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX78NE/8

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • STONE CIRCLE (Constructed, Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC (Between) to 701 BC (Between))

Full description

Anon, 1965, Stone Circle on Mardon Down, 6 (Article in Serial). SDV305596.

Discovered independently in 1960 by Dr. Malcom Spooner.

Fletcher, M. + Grinsell, L. V. + Quinnell, N. V., 1974, A Stone Circle on Mardon Down, Moretonhampstead, 164, Fig. 2 (Article in Serial). SDV305598.

Reference noted to a letter from Dr J. Milles to the Reverend W. C. Borlase (in 1752) describing a stone circle on Mardon Down, around 42 paces in diameter and consisting of nearly 70 stones, only four or five of them still erect; the rest either missing or almost buried in the ground. The site is not shown on any maps and was found independently by L. V. Grinsell in 1972.
Planned by M. J. Fletcher and N. V. Quinell at SX76768719 as circle having about 23 stones, with two externally. Only five stones are standing; the rest are recumbent or earthfast. The diameter is 38 metres and height above ground of the standing stones are between 0.3 metres and 1.0 metre. Milles may have estimated the total number of stones from the distances between those stones remaining on site, but even if ‘nearly 70’ stones is an over-exaggeration, it seems very likely that the site has suffered from stone robbing since 1752.
The smaller circle in Milles' report is thought to be the retaining kerb of a sepulchral cairn (PRN15158).

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1974/1981, SX78NE19 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV305597.

(16/04/1974) SX 76768719. A stone circle is on the plateau of Mardon Down at about 1100 ft OD. It consists of 20 stones making a constant diameter of 38.0m. Only 5 stones are upright or leaning, the rest being recumbent or stumps. A further 3 stones lie outside the circle, probably displaced. The upright stones are up to 1.0m high.
Surveyed on OS 6".
SX 76758716. A cairn 8.6m by 6.2m diameter and 0.6m high. Part of the substantial perimeter kerbing is visible. Surveyed on OS 6".
SX 76738723. An amorphous and unsurveyable mound of stone and earth which may represent the site of a cairn. Maximum height 0.4m, approximately 8.0m diameter.
Sited on OS 6".
(22/12/1981) (A) The stone circle is as described above. It is cut on its S.W. by an old enclosure bank which probably utilized stone from the circle in its construction. The narrow rig and furrow within the embanked area (a) infers a late Medieval or post Medieval origin (See ground photograph).
(B). SX 76748715. A cairn with a maximum diameter of 9.8m., and 0.6m. high, the top evidently disturbed, but grass and furze covered. Kerb stones, within the perimeter, are large boulders which protrude through the cairn to a height of 1.3m. (These stones are similar to the kerb on Crownhill Down SX 5760) See ground photograph.
(C) SX 76778722. A much despoiled cairn, now grass and furze covered, in an area of loose boulders and outcrop. It is 15.0m. in diameter, generally 0.5m. high but up to 0.8m. high on the north where there is a residual rim.
Group surveyed at 1:2500.
The 'mound' noted in 1974 is not a cairn but possibly a patch of soil.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1982, Stone Circle on Mardon Down (Worksheet). SDV305595.

Site visit 15th September 1982. A local inhabitant living at Doccombe said that she has known the most conspicuous stone in this circle as the ‘Giants Grave’ for more than thirty years. Greeves believes this to be more likely than the rather inconspicuous cairn to the north (PRN8309) which the Ordnance Survey refer to as the ‘Giants Grave’ on the first and second Edition historic maps. Alternatively he believes that it might refer to the very ruined cairn a short distance north-north-west of the circle (PRN15159).

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP (Cartographic). SDV319854.

Not visible on Royal Air Force/National Monument Record aerial photographs.

Turner, J. R., 1990, Ring Cairns, Stone Circles and Related Monuments on Dartmoor, 55, 80 (Article in Serial). SDV229817.

G1. Stone roll measuring 38 metres in diameter with 24 stones standing. A reave runs north-south through the circle, which lies in a hollow in a north-south ridge. The largest circle on Dartmoor.

Gerrard, S., 2004, List of Sites Remaining to be Considered for Designation on Dartmoor (Un-published). SDV345444.

This site was considered for designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument during the Monument Protection Programme. The programme ended before the entire list of sites was successfully scheduled so this is included on a local list of Nationally Important Sites.

GeoInformation Group Ltd, 2010, 1:625 2010 Colour (12.5cm resolution) (Aerial Photograph). SDV346026.

Stone circle clearly visible on aerial photography of the area.

Newman, P., 2017, A Stone Circle and Cairn Group on Mardon Down, Moretonhampstead, Devon, 5-7, figures 4, 12 and 13 (Report - Survey). SDV360188.

Stone circle near the southern summit of the ridge, cuts through by the modern path from north to south, causing some erosion. Judging by the stones that remain, the circle appears quite regular with an internal diameter of 38 metres, making it the largest circle on Dartmoor. Of the 20 surviving stones that appear to be arranged around the circumference, only three can truly be said to be in situ and upright, and of these the large slab on the north-west quadrant, and another stone on the east side, are both leaning. A further 14 stones may be in their approximate original location, but are now leaning or completely fallen and earthfast.
Two low turf mounds on the west side may also be disguising fallen slabs. Based on the space between surviving
stones, the original total would have been nearer 60 than the 70 estimated by Milles, in which case about 40 stones are missing; some will have been robbed but others may be completely buried. The two large remaining stones stand to approximately 1m high but fallen examples demonstrate that most were shorter. A geophysical
survey could certainly help establish the full extent and positions of any buried stones remaining on site.
The circle has been damaged by probable stone robbing as well as a phase of cultivation on the eastern slopes of the Down and ridge and furrow can be seen cuting across the site, although within the circumference of the circle the ridges have become more flattened. They are clearer on the eastern exterior, including a substantial baulk. Possibly some of the stones on the eastern and western arc of the circle were removed to make way for the cultivation, although the survival of others runs counter to that idea. These cultivation ridges are similar to areas of ridge and furrow elsewhere, including Holne Moor and Okehampton Park and are likely to date to a similar period (potentially abandoned by 1450 AD).
There is a north-south bank with shallow ditch on the western side of the stone circle, which is of unknown function. It is likely to be post-medieval in date. There is also a Word War Two gun pit, consisting of a sunken, circular
earthwork, which may have housed heavy machine guns or other anti-aircraft weaponry on the north-eastern arc of the stone circle. It is not known if any stones were removed when this pit was dug but it is unlikely. However, a substantial slab is visible, lying horizontal and buried in the eastern cut section of the pit; it is possible this was once a component of the circle. See report for full detail.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV229817Article in Serial: Turner, J. R.. 1990. Ring Cairns, Stone Circles and Related Monuments on Dartmoor. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 48. Paperback Volume. 55, 80.
SDV305595Worksheet: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1982. Stone Circle on Mardon Down. Worksheet. Digital.
SDV305596Article in Serial: Anon. 1965. Stone Circle on Mardon Down. Devon Archaeological Exploration Society Newsletter. 11. A4 Stapled. 6.
SDV305597Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1974/1981. SX78NE19. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV305598Article in Serial: Fletcher, M. + Grinsell, L. V. + Quinnell, N. V.. 1974. A Stone Circle on Mardon Down, Moretonhampstead. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 32. Unknown. 164, Fig. 2.
SDV319854Cartographic: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV345444Un-published: Gerrard, S.. 2004. List of Sites Remaining to be Considered for Designation on Dartmoor. Digital.
SDV346026Aerial Photograph: GeoInformation Group Ltd. 2010. 1:625 2010 Colour (12.5cm resolution). 2010 Aerial Photographs. Digital. [Mapped feature: #108328 ]
SDV360188Report - Survey: Newman, P.. 2017. A Stone Circle and Cairn Group on Mardon Down, Moretonhampstead, Devon. Southwest Landscape Investigations. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. 5-7, figures 4, 12 and 13.

Associated Monuments

MDV119184Related to: Bank on Mardon Down (Monument)
MDV105916Related to: Cairn Cemetery on Mardon Down (Monument)
MDV15158Related to: Cairn south of stone circle on Mardon Down, Moretonhampstead (Monument)
MDV15159Related to: Circular feature north-west of stone circle on Mardon Down (Monument)
MDV119183Related to: Gun pit on Mardon Down (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7270 - Survey of cairn cemetery, stone circle and other earthworks on Mardon Down

Date Last Edited:Jun 29 2022 9:23AM