Scheduled Monument: Linear barrow and cairn cemetery on Cosgate Hill, circa 240m north-west of County Gate Visitor Centre
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
21 October 1968
Date last amended
10 August 2016
Summary of Monument
A prehistoric barrow and cairn cemetery that has a linear arrangement and is divided into three distinct groups of features. It is situated near the summit of Cosgate Hill, circa 340m above Ordnance Datum and overlooks the valley of the East Lyn River to the south.
Reasons for Designation
The linear barrow and cairn cemetery on Cosgate Hill, circa 240m north-west of County Gate Visitor Centre, Exmoor is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: the archaeological features survive comparatively well in the form of earthworks and buried archaeological remains;
* Diversity: it includes barrows of varying sizes and forms including a possible saucer barrow, a relatively rare type;
* Documentation: archaeological survey has considerably enhanced our understanding of the form and survival of the monument;
* Potential: they will contribute to our understanding of the social organisation and burial practices of the county's Bronze Age population;
* Group value: with other scheduled monuments on the high ground near the north coast of Exmoor that collectively form a relict funerary landscape.
Exmoor is the most easterly of the three main upland areas in the south western peninsula of England. In contrast to the others, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, there has been no history of antiquarian research and little excavation of its monuments. However, detailed survey work by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England 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, including various types of burial mounds (`barrows'). Saucer barrows, amongst the rarest type, are funerary monuments of the Early Bronze Age, most examples dating to between 1800 and 1200 BC. Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating to the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. On Exmoor many of these are 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 - whilst individual barrows and groups may also be found on lower lying ground and hillslopes.
Cosgate Hill is the site of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery. There has been very little recorded antiquarian research in this area. The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1890) identifies four features marked as tumuli and one as a hut circle. The larger mounds are visible on mid- and late-C20 aerial photographs. In 1993 the RCHME carried out a survey of Exmoor, during which some of the barrows on Cosgate Hill were recorded. In 2002 Historic England (formerly English Heritage) undertook a 1:2500 landscape survey on behalf of Exmoor National Park of the land at Cosgate Hill. Ten mounds were identified in three groups. The work included a 1:2000 scale survey of the central group. In 2009 the area was surveyed as part of the National Mapping Programme and four round and oval mounds were recorded.
During the post-medieval period the land was enclosed and a series of packhorse ways pass through this area. Some quarrying was also carried out in the vicinity during this period. All cartographic evidence from the early C19 onwards shows the area as enclosed moor land. By the mid-C9 the route of the modern A39 was in place on the north side of this ridge and a number of the larger quarries in this area relate to its construction. The nearby tollhouse and county gate were established in approximately 1840.
PRINCIPAL FEATURES The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a prehistoric barrow and cairn cemetery that has a linear arrangement and is divided into three separate groups of features. It is situated near the summit of Cosgate Hill, circa 340m above Ordnance Datum and overlooks the valley of the East Lyn River to the south.
DESCRIPTION On the western side of the site is a group of four barrows in a linear alignment. The largest is an earth and stone mound at SS78994882, 10m in diameter and 0.8m high with a hollow 1.6m in diameter dug into its top. To the west, another mound is centred on SS789554882 and comprises a sub-rectangular bank, 11.6m by 7m in length and 0.4m at its highest point. Originally thought to be two barrows, it has more recently been considered to be a single, large, robbed barrow. This attribution has been queried due to its angular shape; however, its alignment and proximity with other similar features suggests it is a prehistoric barrow. The third mound is centred on SS78924883, and is 10.6m in diameter, between 0.4 and 0.7m in height and 2.4m wide. It has been interpreted as a robbed-out barrow. A small mound to the west was also identified during the 2002 survey, and has a turf-covered stony mound 7m in diameter and 0.5m high, which has been interpreted as a possible barrow.
Just below the summit of the hill, in the centre of the ridge, is a group of three circular features that were subject to a 1:2000 survey in 2002. The earth and stone mound at SS79164883 is 7.6m in diameter and 0.3m high and is surrounded by an internal ditch and a well-defined earthen bank which is 13.7m in diameter, 2.4m wide and 0.6m high. It has widely been interpreted as a saucer barrow, although the irregular shape has led to some suggestions that it may be a post-medieval feature. It may also be a heavily-robbed bowl barrow. A small flat-topped barrow, SS79184881, lies to the east and is 9.2m in diameter and 0.4m high. To the south is a large sub-circular feature at SS79174879. It has a large central hollow, 17.8m in diameter and up to 1.2m deep, with a surrounding 1m wide and 0.3m high turf-covered stony bank. The feature has been quarried to below ground level and it may be a heavily-robbed barrow, however, other sources have suggested its function and date cannot be readily ascribed.
A group of three small mounds lie on the south-east end of the ridge, along the line of the track way. They were first recorded by Grinsell in 1961 and have been interpreted as either clearance cairns or small prehistoric barrows/cairns. They were also recorded during the 2002 survey. The barrow centred at SS79274871 has a turf-covered mound 5.3m in diameter and 1.1m height; that at SS79274872 has a stony mound 4.7m in diameter and 0.8m high; while the third, at SS 79254873, has a heather-covered stony mound 6m in diameter and 0.8m high that shows signs of disturbance at the summit.
No external ditches have been identified; however, it is likely that some of the barrows will include the buried remains of a surrounding ditch, from which the construction material was derived.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The scheduling includes the known extent of this group of prehistoric barrows and cairns. Most of the scheduling boundaries include 3m margins around each of these archaeological features for their support and protection. The exceptions are the barrows centred on SS7887848834, SS79274871, SS79274872, and SS79254873 which are significantly smaller in diameter and which each include a 1m boundary.
Exmoor National Park HER Records MDE1222, 1229, 20034, 20794, MMO71
Jamieson E, 2002, Cosgate Hill, Countisbury, Devon. English Heritage Survey Report
NMR OS/70064 031-2 03-MAY-1970
RAF 540/853 (F20) 4010-4011 29-AUG-1952
RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4037-8 11-APR-1947
Wilson-North WR 16-NOV-1993 RCHME Field Investigation
National Grid Reference: SS 79077 48771