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South Penquite Farm

The remains of a curbed cairn perhaps?


Prehistory and Romano-British period (to AD 410)
"...a nationally important site..."

Please note all figures relate to a map of the bronze age sites on the farm which is available here in PDF format (2.5 mb)

The earliest activity on the property is represented by the Early Bronze Age (c2500BC to 1500BC) cairns 16, 49, 53 and 54. The hut circles 37, 40 - 46 inclusive and 50, hut platforms 37 and 38 and field systems 47 and 51 are thought to date to the Middle Bronze Age (c1500BC to 1000BC):

Cairns 23, 49, 53 and 54 are all c10m in diameter and lie in prominent landscape positions beyond the margins of the field systems 47 and 51. The majority of large (those over 10m in diameter) cairns on Bodmin Moor lie on watersheds, (plateaus, hillslopes or hill crests) away from settlement although some lie in areas only visible locally (Johnson and Rose 1994, 41). Broadly, Johnson and Rose (1994, 46) suggest that larger cairns are earlier features of land division of the Moor, no matter how informal, possibly as territorial boundaries:

Many cairns on the moor have single revetment kerbs or kerbs just within the cairn margin, the majority of which are orthostatic or slab kerbs (ibid 40). The excavation of several cairns on the Moor has shown that quite complex structures can exist beneath quite unimpressive exteriors, their surface appearance merely representing their last structural phase (ibid 34)

Cairn 53 is a platform cairn and an excavated example at Davidstow Moor (Christie 1988) revealed a turf construction, with areas of burning and associated pits, which appears to have acted as a focus for aggregation rather than a funerary function (Andy Jones pers comm). Cairns 23, 49 and 54 may have had a funerary function whereby the remains of individuals or body parts of many individuals were interred. In many cairns stone lined cists have been found (Johnson and Rose 1994, 40). Excavated evidence from cairns across the Moor has shown during the Early Bronze Age both inhumation and cremation were practised (Andy Jones pers comm.)

Nine excavated cairns have been radiocarbon dated; eight of which have mean date ranges from 2162 to 1746 cal BC and suggest that the Early Bronze Age was the main building range for cairns on the Moor (ibid 40)

In the Roughtor area (Johnson and Rose 1994, 43) small cairns lie within contemporary field systems as do a number of large cairns of all types. It is conceivable that many of these larger Early Bronze Age cairns were absorbed within an expanding Middle Bronze Age landscape of hut circles and field systems. Within the margin of the Bronze Age field system 51 is cairn 52 which is likely to be the remains of a clearance cairn

One of the hut circles with a clearly defined entrance.Hut circles across Bodmin Moor are thought largely to date to the Middle Bronze Age. Those at South Penquite stand within an agglomerate field system defined by enclosures of irregular layout and shape enclosed by stony banks and scarps with granite orthostats protruding from the fabric. The system developed in a piecemeal fashion without an overriding or pre-determined structure. Numerous small clearance cairns located throughout the system suggest clearance for cultivation; although many may date to re-use in the later, medieval period (see also 55 and 60). It is likely that the Bronze Age field system once extended across the western and northern side of the farm; the prehistoric layout reflected in the irregular layout of the medieval field system on this side of the property (see 8, 47 and 50 for discussion)

Analysis of a series of peat cores along the De Lank valley (between Bradford and Bedrawle), together with those studied elsewhere on the Moor, suggests that Bronze Age Bodmin Moor was dominated by open grassland and limited tree coverage (Jones and Tinsley, 2000-2001). Evidence from Stannon Down and Roughtor suggest intensification in pastoral land use in the Middle Bronze Age (ibid 158). A peat core dated to 1880 - 1630 cal BC from the De Lank valley revealed evidence for limited cereal cultivation probably associated with the nearby Bronze Age settlement (ibid)

Close to the property, the nearby De Lank Tor enclosure (PRN 12709) dates to the earlier Neolithic period (4500BC- 2200BC). This sub-rectangular enclosure bounded by stony scarps and banks linking natural rock outcrops and moorstones, situated on the precipitous sided promontory above the De Lank quarry complex. Similar enclosures have been identified in Cornwall and Devon, the best-known, the excavated site of Carn Brea (Mercer 1981) which was interpreted as a Neolithic defended settlement with hut platforms enclosed within a massive defensive bank. Tor enclosures may have served as a central place within territories and have acted as a regular meeting place for members of the community living within that territory. Exchange of products, problem or dispute-solving, socialising, and rites of passage may all have taken place at such meetings whose timings may have been signalled by observance of solar events (solstices, equinoxes etc) and celebrated by various rituals and ceremonies (Herring et al 2000, 132)

The De Lank place-name was first recorded in c1590 (ICS, see ICS place name index) as 'Dymlonke'. This is Cornish and is possibly derived from the elements 'din' and 'lonk' which Padel (1988) believed could mean 'fort of a ravine'. The Tor enclosure was first recorded by Peter Herring in 1988 (see PRN 12709) and it is here that the De Lank valley is most precipitous and ravine like

While no direct evidence for Iron Age (900BC-AD43) or Romano-British (AD43-AD410) activity has been identified on the property, the nearby Kerrow place name might suggest settlement nearby. This medieval Cornish place-name contains the element ker meaning 'fort' or 'round' (Johnson and Rose 1994, 76; Padel 1985) and it appears that these often referred to the defended circular enclosures that were the characteristic permanent settlement of Iron Age and Romano-British Cornwall



Dominic & Cathy Fairman
South Penquite Farm, Blisland, Bodmin, Cornwall

thefarm@bodminmoor.co.uk
Tel: 01208 850491