Home  ·  Neolithic  ·  Bronze Age  ·  Iron Age  ·  Romano-British  ·  Early Mediæval  ·  Mediæval Interactive Maps  
 
 
Bronze Age
Hut Circle Settlement
   
Kynance Gate
Leskernick Hill
Rough Tor (NW)
Rough Tor (S)
 
 
  Leskernick
Altarnun

North Cornwall
NGR: SX 1828 7999
 
Aerial photo of Leskernick settlement
 
Leskernick is an extraordinarily well preserved Bronze Age settlement comprising at least forty four round houses set within a very extensive field system covering approximately 21 hectares. The site is located on the extremely stony south-west facing slopes of Leskernick Hill. The surface stones are known as “clitter”, a feature common to the granite outcrops of the South West and associated with geological processes taking place on the fringes of glaciated areas during transitional phases of the Ice Age. As the surrounding areas are relatively stone-free, the siting of the settlement in this area is assumed to be deliberate.

There appears to be at least two phases to the site. To the north-west lie two clusters of round houses, sited on the stoniest ground within large walled enclosures. A single wall joins these parts of the settlement to the area to the south-east which is thought to be a later addition. Here the round houses are generally larger and more complex, and several have annexes or porches. The walls vary in construction from turf covered stone banks to substantial double faced stone walls with some tall upright slabs. The entrance ways align mainly to the south-west, south-east and north-west. There are also some single isolated houses in this area. The houses are set within a complex system of small fields, some of which appear to be linked in such a way as to ‘belong to’ certain groups of houses. Some of the smaller structures and houses appear to be built into boundary walls.

Many small stony mounds, or cairns, are sited within the fields. They are a common occurrence within field systems on the moor but their purpose is uncertain - they may be clearance cairns, created when the fields were first established by clearing stones from the surface, or alternatively they could have been for burial and at least one stone cist has been discovered built into a field wall.

The settlement is associated with an impressive ceremonial or ritual landscape. In addition to the small ‘field’ cairns, mentioned above, two larger kerbed cairns can be found on the summit of the hill to the north, and there are two kerbed platform cairns on the hilltop opposite, known as Beacon Hill. Smaller cairns with cists can also be found to the north-east, lying on a spur of land between two streams. In the open moorland to the south-east of the settlement are two stone circles with a large cairn between the two, making an approximately straight alignment; flanking the cairn is a stone row which leads off to the east. The northern of these circles was only recently discovered as many of its stones are fallen; it is thought to have originally contained between 27 and 29 stones, all rather small and uneven in shape. Within the circle but slightly off-centre lies a large whale-back stone, possibly a natural feature but more likely a standing stone that has either fallen or been deliberately laid flat when the circle went out of use. The tallest stones of the circle appear to face uphill towards the settlement which, in this direction, seems to be set at a respectful distance, to better separate the secular from the ritual space. This suggests that the easterly part of the settlement at least is either contemporary with or post-dates the stone circles. In either event the ritual monuments seem to have continued to provide an important symbolic focus.

The stone row consists of at least twenty seven stones, some only partially exposed and with breaks in the spacing caused by stone robbing and tin stream-working during mediæval or later times. Because of this it is unclear how far the stone row originally extended to the east, but a group of three squared stones standing at the western end near to the cairn appear to provide a starting or terminating feature. It does not appear to align on any particular horizon feature or astronomical event. Dating stone rows is problematical; although most are thought to have been set up in the Early or Middle Bronze Age, which would make this one broadly contemporary with the settlement, it could equally have originated in the Neolithic period and may therefore be much older. Recently a long mound was discovered on the north-western slopes of Beacon Hill which not only continues the alignment formed by the two stone circles and the cairn, but also appears to sight directly on a previously unnoticed stone setting on the hilltop above the settlement, marking the position of sunset at the summer solstice. This provides another tantalising glimpse into the rich and complex inner lives of Leskernick’s inhabitants.

Leskernick Hill lies within an area of open moorland which is common land and has footpath access.

Sources:
Barnatt, J,1982. Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments. Turnstone Press Limited. ISBN 0 85500 129 1

Johnson, R. and Rose, P, 1994. Bodmin Moor: An Archaeological Survey. Vol.1: The human landscape to c1800. English Heritage. ISBN 0953 3796.

Herring, P, 1997. Early Prehistoric Sites at Leskernick, Altarnun  in Cornish Archaeology 36 pp176-185.
 
 
 
How to get there


Map

Leskernick Hill lies within an area of open moorland which is common land and has footpath access.

Map link


Ground & Aerial photographs

 
     

Illustrations & Plans

 
     

Nearby sites

Fernacre Stone Circle
King Arthur's Hall
Roughtor Enclosure
Stannon Stone Circle
Trippets Stone Circle
 
supported by HLF and compiled by the Historic Environment service of Cornwall Council  
last updated: 07/04/2009