MSO11165 - Prehistoric cairn and World War Two mounds southeast of Great Rowbarrow (Monument)


A group of five earthwork mounds were identified in 1976. While one (E) is thought to be an undisturbed cairn, the remaining four may have been constructed due to American military activity in World War Two.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

Small mound identified by D Thackray in July 1976. Remains of the central portion of a small barrow or cairn composed of large stones with a hollow, possibly a cist. Many scattered stones nearby and remains under heather. [1] The feature is one of a linear group of five cairns which extends in a north west/south east alignment over a distance of c.170 metres. The group is remarkable for the consistency of the interval between each cairn (c. 42 metres), the accuracy of the alignment (no cairn deviates from the line by more than one metre), and the consistency of the size of the cairns (c. 4 metres). The group lies 70 metres southwest of the Rowbarrow group of Bronze Age cairns, on the summit and down the south side of an east/west ridge. Using letters A-E, from the north, the original cairn is B. Cairn A: SS 8733 4146, measures 4.2 metres in diameter east/west and 3.5 metres transversely. It is 0.3 metres in height with a flattish top which slopes slightly north/south: a stone kerb is traceable all round the north arc of the cairn. The cairn appears to be undisturbed. Cairn B: SS 8736 4143, has been mutilated by a narrow excavation trench cut into it from the south exposing the core of large stones. The cairn measures up to 4.5 metres in diameter and 0.4 metres in height: no unequivocal remains of a cist were seen but it should be noted that the stone content of this cairn appears to be greater than in the other four. Cairn C: SS 8738 4139, measures up to 3.5 metres in diameter and up to0.4 metres in height. The cairn has been mutilated by a narrow excavation trench which cuts into it from the south, destorying the well pronounced rim which extends around the edge elsewhere. The cairn appears to be constructed mainly of stone but a covering of dense whinberry masks this aspect. Surveyed at 1:100. Cairn D: SS 8741 4136, is flat topped with a slight rim except where cut by a narrow excavation trench. It measures up to 3.7 metres in diameter and up to 0.2 metres in height. Cairn E: SS 8743 4132, sits in what appears to be a slight natural hollow to which it is joined on the north. Unlike the other cairns itshows no external evidence of stone in its make-up. Diameter approximately 3.8 metres with a flattish top and a slight rim: height up to 0.4 metres. Appears to be undisturbed. [2] Some doubt concerns the origins of cairns A-D, apart from their unconventional regularity of size and disposition. The impression gained is that each was constructed of roughly coursed stones to form a circular wall, perhaps 0.7m thick, enclosing an open area with a gap or entrance, about 0.8m wide, in the south side. Much of the walling has tumbled inwards. Every trench is similar, visible as a neat, elongated depression in the turf. It is first perceptible 1.5m to 2.0m from the cairn, about 0.35m wide, gradually deepening to 0.15m as it enters the gap. There is no evidence of excavation spoil. It is curious that these fairly obvious structures should have been missed by pre-war field workers such as H St George Gray and A Vowles, and ignored by Grinsell and others in subsequent years. A local farmer recalls American troops using the area for exercises in around 1943-4, and it seems that the group, excluding perhaps the anomalous E, might be the result of military activity, such as a mortar battery. [3]

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. National Trust archaeologist, site visit report, July 1976.
  • <2> Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Record Card. Site SS 84 SE 51, CF Wardale, visited 29 July 1987.
  • <3> Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Record Card. Site SS 84 SE 51, NV Quinnell, visited 22 January 1990.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: 10/1/1989. DAP LD24, 25.



Grid reference Centred SS 8738 4138 (110m by 150m)
Map sheet SS84SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO9194
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE51
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 36102
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33495

Record last edited

Mar 4 2020 3:56PM


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