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Leskernick

Leskernick1

Introduction to site

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.

Access and Facilities

Leskernick Hill lies within an area of open moorland which is common land and has footpath access. A bridlepath runs approximately 500m to the south east of the site. This bridlepath (not the nearby footpath signposted directly though a gate) is signposted from the lane signposted to 'South Carne (for lorries). This lane can be accessed from the lane signposted to Carne from the Rising Sun Inn, Altarnun. Off-street parking is possible along the lanes where permitted, although opportunities are limited.

It is also possible to access the bridlepath from the lane which ends at West Moor Gate. Off-street parking is possible along this lane if permitted. This lane is signposted to Westmoorgate from the village of Trewint.

There are bus services to Trewint. Visit the Traveline website for customised sustainable transport options.

There are refreshment facilties in the villages of Five Lanes and Altarnun.

The site is free to visit, and is open any reasonable time in daylight hours.

Location

View our interactive Access to Monuments map to find this and other nearby sites.

More information

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.

Illustrations and Plans

Leskernick2

Extract from plan (Johnson and Rose 1994)

Sources/Further Reading