MDE20202 - Westernmost Bronze Age cairn at Holdstone Barrows (Monument)


Cairn A of a group of three, 10.7 metres in diameter and at best 0.5 metres high. It has been used as a base for a triangulation pillar and as a quarry from which to build a rough modern cairn.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

Holdstone Barrows; site of "A". SS 6194 4769. These three tumuli have been totally destroyed. Site of "A" is apparent as it has been used as a quarry in building a rough cairn immediately north of the triangulation pillar. [1] The site was visited in May 1961 by C Whybrow and LV Grinsell. SS 61934769. The barrow was measured as having a diameter of twelve paces, with a height of one foot. [2] Only very slight unsurveyable vestiges of these three barrows survive. [3] The mutilated remains of three summit cairns on Holdstone Down. The summit of Holdstone Down is now dominated by a completely modern cairn, over 2 metres in height; immediately south is an Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar. The summit is easily accessible and forms an alternative route for the South West Coast Path, which means that it is a much visited site. The three cairns are all extant, but are all in a very disturbed and robbed state. Cairn A is centred at SS 6194 4770. It consists of a low circular earth and stone mound 10.7 metres in diameter, and at best 0.5 metres high. The feature has been almost completely obliterated on its northern side by a combination of circumstances: 1 - the construction of a triangulation pillar on the fabric of the cairn on its northeast; 2 - the construction of a modern cairn to the immediate northnortheast, which has led to robbing of the older cairn; 3 - the alternative route of the coastal path, which passes over the northern lip of the cairn itself. The best preserved part of the cairn is its south side, which forms a compact stone and earthen scarp 0.5 metres high. A sub-square hollow 2.5 metres wide and 0.4 metres deep has been dug into the mound slightly to the east of centre, and is almost certainly the result of an excavation. Vegetation: heather on southern and western parts of the mound; turf on northern and eastern parts. Aspect: predominantly southerly. These cairns form an important group on the extreme northwestern fringe of Exmoor. Their battered condition is largely the result of a number of agencies: antiquarian interest; the inclosure of Holdstone Down (MDE8959); military activity on the Down during World War 2 (MDE8963); robbing to construct the modern summit cairn. Nevertheless it seems likely that the cairns were never of any great height, and should probably be paralleled more with the three cairns on Trentishoe Common (MDE1037) than with groups like the Chapman Barrows (MDE1061). The summit of the Downs has a very thin soil cover, and cairns B and C have been overlooked or written off in the past mainly because they are stone monuments on a largely soil-free, rocky surface. Surveyed at 1/2500. [5] Monument record reviewed as part of NRHE to HER pilot project. [6,7] The feature is depicted and labelled on the 2021 MasterMap data. [8]

Sources/Archives (8)

  • <1> Unpublished document: Willy, S. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, 30 June 1952.
  • <2> Article in serial: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Barrows of North Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 28. 116.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Fletcher, M.J.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F2, 14 August 1972.
  • <4> Report: The National Trust. 1984. Holdstone Down, Devon.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 15 June 1993.
  • <6> Archive: Historic England. 2016. NRHE to HER prototype website test. 34651.
  • <7> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 34651, Extant 28 April 2021.
  • <8>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2021. MasterMap data. 1:2,500. [Mapped feature: #33317 ]

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 12088
  • Devon SMR: SS64NW/10
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE1036
  • Local List Status (Require info)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 NW3
  • National Trust HER Record: MNA107755
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 34651



Grid reference SS 6194 4769 (point) (Estimated from sources)
Map sheet SS64NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

May 3 2021 10:34PM


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