Searle’s Down

View from north west (Scale 1m).

A combination single and double stone row measuring 306m long, including at least 36 mainly small-sized stones situated within Colliford Reservoir. The row is orientated NNW to SSE and has several visual links to the landscape.  Some of the row will have been destroyed by historic tinworking and during the construction of the nearby Colliford dam, but it originally extended to a cairn at the SSE end. The cairn along with others in the vicinity were fully excavated in 1977-8 by Frances Griffith. This work suggests that the row was probably built in the Early Bronze Age.

Location

England     Cornwall     Bodmin Moor     SX 17547 71362     Lat 50.513543     Long -4.5748041

Map showing the location of Searle’s Down stone row.

Plan of the northern length of Searle’s Down stone row (Source: Survey on 25th May 2017 at 1:100 by Sandy Gerrard, Janet Daynes and Gordon Fisher).

Plan of the northern length of Searle’s Down stone row. Recumbent stone shown green and flint find spots with red crosses (Source: Survey on 14th October 2018 at 1:200 by Sandy Gerrard, Janet Daynes and Gordon Fisher). 

Whole plan of the Searle’s Down row showing the stones visible on 14th October 2018.

Characteristics

Type: Single and possibly double Length: 306m
No. of stones: 36 Size of stones: Small and medium
Tallest stone: 0.2m Shortest stone: 0.05m
Orientation: 148° Altitude: 255m
Upper end: – Lower end: Cairn
Straight (Yes or No)  : No Sea View: No
Context:  Cairns

Notes: Truncated by tin openwork. Survives mainly within Colliford Lake Reservoir. The stones within the row are described by Peter Herring as “tiny. None of the toppled ones, whose greatest dimensions can be measured, is longer than 0.5m, and no standing stone rises more than 0.2m (8 inches) above the rabby subsoil into which they are set. Seven are less than 0.1m high, and the average height is a mere 0.107m (4 inches); if we factor in an inch or two for washed away topsoil then we must imagine the stones barely breaking the surface.”

The row was revisited on 14th October 2018 when the reservoir was described by South West Water as 53% full. More stones were visible and recorded.  Three flints were found in the vicinity of the row and a further two nearby.  These flints will be drawn and returned to the land owners in the future.

The row is very fragile and has only survived this far because it is in a particularly sheltered part of the foreshore.  Elsewhere in more exposed locations severe erosion has caused the loss of more than 2m of land surface and the second of the medieval longhouses at nearby Bunnings Park has been largely destroyed. Over time it is inevitable that most of this row will also be lost.

Excavation by Frances Griffith of the cairn at the south eastern end of the row revealed a pair of stones on the north eastern edge of the cairn that predated the construction of the ring surrounding the cairn. She notes that “The precise function of the orthostats is not clear but it would be perverse not to relate them to the main monument. There are no orthostats at any of the other Colliford barrows” (Griffith, 1984, 68-70). An explanation for at least some of these stones is now available with these earlier stones probably forming the south eastern end of the stone row. One of these stones still stands insitu and a further pair which were not previously found being revealed by erosion.  The disposition of the stones suggests that the row may have been partly of the double row variety

Other Information

Public Access:  Yes. But rarely accessible.
Land Status:
Scheduled Ancient Monument: No

Identification

Category: Plausible. This row was originally assessed as probable but further fieldwork in 2018 carried out when the reservoir was just over half full has enabled confirmation of the original identification by Peter Herring.  A pair of edge set stones close to cairn CRIVA excavated by Frances Griffith may represent the lower south eastern end of the row.


Typology

This stone row is of Type C10. Information on this form of stone row and other rows of this type is available here.


Photographs

25th May 2017

The row includes only tiny stones which would have barely protruded through the surface in prehistoric times. Looking south along the row (Scale 1m).

View from the north (Scale 1m).

View from north (Scale 1m).

View from west (Scale 1m).

The stones nearest the reservoir. View from north west (Scale 1m).

14th October 2018

View from above and south east looking upslope along the stone row (scale 1m).

View from above and south (Scale 1m).

View from above and south east (Scale 1m).

The stone row leading across the exposed shore of the reservoir. View from the southern edge of Colliford Lake. 

Looking along the row from the south eastern end.

Looking south east along the row. Most of the row is now submerged beneath Colliford Lake.

The row, reservoir and dam. View from north west (Scale 1m).

A line of tiny stones which have survived despite being within enclosed historic farmland and now revealed by gentle erosion.  This is the most sheltered length of shore within the reservoir and it would not have survived this long had it been situated elsewhere.  Inevitably future erosion will destroy the row and indeed some of the stones lying in its vicinity may have once formed part of it. View from north west (Scale 1m).

View from the north east (Scale 1m).

Looking south east along the row.  These stones are normally hidden from view under the water (Scale 1m).

View from north west (Scale 1m).

Looking south east along the row from the upper end.

Looking north west along the row (Scales 1m).

View from the south east (Scales 1m).

View frm the south east (Scales 1m).

View from south (Scales 1m).

View from the south east.

View from the south.

Individual Stones

Plan of northern part of Searle’s Down stone row showing the numbered stones described below.

Janet measuring stone 30. Stone 32 is visible under the deeper water on the right and stone 31 on the left.

Stone 1 measures 0.25m by 0.17m, stands up to 0.16m high and is orientated at 140°.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 2 measures 0.15m by 0.04m, stands up to 0.06m high and is orientated at 136°.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 3 measures 0.17m by 0.17m and stands up to 0.06m high.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 4 measures 0.19m by 0.11m, stands up to 0.09m high and is orientated at 60°.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 5 measures 0.18m by 0.10m, stands up to 0.06m high and is orientated at 30°.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 6 measures 0.14m by 0.08m, stands up to 0.07m high and is orientated at 133°.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 7 measures 0.15m by 0.08m, stands up to 0.05m high and is orientated at 10°.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 8 measures 0.20m by 0.11m, stands up to 0.08m high and is orientated at 137°.  View from above with north shown by compass which measures 11.5cm long.

Stone 9 measures 0.17m long by 0.05m wide, stands up to 0.02m high and is orientated at 148°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 10 measures 0.20m long by 0.05m wide, stands up to 0.03m high and is orientated at 161°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 11 measures 0.26m long by 0.10m wide, stands up to 0.13m high and is orientated at 163°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 12 (lying to the right of the scale) measures 0.47m long by 0.23m wide is up to 0.08m above the ground surface and probably represents a fallen slab. Stone 13 (behind the scale) measures 0.27m long by 0.20m wide, stands up to 0.05m high and is orientated at 160°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 14 measures 0.28m long by 0.14m wide, stands up to 0.14m high and is orientated at 149°. Stones 12 and 13 on the left. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 15 measures 0.23m long by 0.15m wide, stands up to 0.11m high and is orientated at 141°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 16 measures 0.19m long by 0.09m wide, stands up to 0.02m high and is orientated at 150°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 17 measures 0.06m long by 0.06m wide, stands up to 0.02m high and is orientated at 156°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 18 measures 0.37m long by 0.19m wide, stands up to 0.12m high and is orientated at 153°. Stones 19 and 20 beyond and to the right. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 19 (in the centre of the photograph) has probably broken off stone 20 on the right. It measures 0.50m long by 0.28m wide and is up 0.09m above the ground surface. Stone 20 measures 0.33m long by 0.09m wide, stands up to 0.13m high and is orientated at 161°.  A fractured upper edge suggests that this stones has been broken and stone 19 is probably the original upper part. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 21 measures 0.30m long by 0.14m wide, stands up to 0.18m high and is orientated at 144°. Stone 22 is visible on the right. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 22 measures 0.15m long by 0.11m wide, stands up to 0.14m high and is orientated at 152°. Stone 21 is on the left and stone 23 on the right. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 23 measures 0.22m long by 0.20m wide, stands up to 0.11m high and is orientated at 140°. Stone 22 is situated to the left and stone 24 to the right. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 24 measures 0.13m long by 0.07m wide, stands up to 0.08m high and is orientated at 128°. This maybe a packing stone for the recumbent stone lying behind it. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 25 measures 0.32m long by 0.18m wide, stands up to 0.06m high and is orientated at 153°. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 26 measures 0.27m long by 0.18m wide, stands up to 0.06m high and is orientated at 134°. Stone 27 is visible on the right. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 27 measures 0.31m long by 0.07m wide, stands up to 0.12m high and is orientated at 142°. Stone 26 is visible on the left and stone 28 on the right. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 27 has a small packing stone on the northern side. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 28 measures 0.39m long by 0.18m wide, stands up to 0.08m high and is orientated at 176°. Stones 29, 30 and 31 are visible beyond. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 29 measures 0.37m long by 0.17m wide, stands up to 0.06m high and is orientated at 125°. Stone 28 is visible to the left and stone 31 beyond. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 30 measures 0.48m long by 0.23m wide, stands up to 0.13m high and is orientated at 151°. At the time of the survey it was partly submerged. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 31 measures 0.22m long by 0.10m wide, stands up to 0.02m high and is orientated at 141°. This stone stands a short distance from the row and may imply that it was partly double or may represent paired stones such as found at West Sharpitor on Dartmoor. View from west (Scale 50cm).

Stone 32 was also situated next to the row but because it was fully submerged could not be measured.

Beyond this point many stones will remain hidden by the waters of Colliford Lake. On the opposite shore three stones have been identified which may have formed part of the row. One was identified during the excavation carried out by Frances Griffith but the other two were beyond the area examined. Stones A and B suggest that the row may have been of the double type a detail perhaps confirmed by the length of row on the other side where it seemed to be morphing into a double row.  A similar situation is known at Drizzlecombe 1 on Dartmoor. Whilst erosion has clearly taken its toll, enough evidence remains to strongly suggest that the row led to a large cairn and the excavation provided evidence that the row was earlier than the outer ring of the cairn. The cairn itself was dated to 2040-1620 cal BC and we can therefore be reasonably confident that the row is most likely to have been erected in the Early Bronze Age.

View from the west showing the position of the three surviving stones that may have formed part of the southern eastern length of the row.

View from the west showing the position of the three surviving stones that may have formed part of the southern eastern length of the row.

 

Stones A and B and the row beyond. View from south (Scale 1m).

Stone A (SX 17693 71108) measures 0.47m long by 0.18m wide, stands up to 0.37m high and is orientated at 175°. View from west (Scale 1m).

Stone B (SX 17696 71109) measures 0.27m long by 0.13m wide, stands up to 0.23m high and is orientated at 137°. View from west (Scale 1m).

Stone C (SX 17702 71098) measures 0.72m long by 0.51m wide, stands up to 0.62m high and is orientated at 160°. View from south (Scale 1m).

Landscape Context

View from west showing the position of the stone row (red), Brown Willy and Brown Gelly.

View from the row looking north east. The prominent cairns on the top of Brown Gelly appear on the skyline. This type of visual relationship is likely to have been of significance to the row builders.

The prominent hill known as Brown Willy comes into view at the northern end of the row. This hill is also visible from the southern end of the row, and therefore it was built across two limit of visibility lines. In common with many rows Searle’s Down has been positioned to provide specific visual links to the landscape.

Another reveal of interest is “The Beacon” which suddenly appears at SX 17577 71309. There are two cairns on top. Further reveals are known from Heywhatsthat.com and whilst these can no longer be seen because of forestry it is very likely that the row was also built across the limit of visibility to Rough Tor and Tolborough Tor.

Access Information

Most of the row is unavailable for inspection. The only part that is visible when the reservoir is not full is at SX17548 71361. Parking is available at SX 17572 70965. From here walk north along the edge of the reservoir.

Acknowledgements

I am very grateful to Cheryl Straffon for bringing this stone row to my attention and providing me with a copy of the published article, Gordon Fisher and Janet Daynes for help with the survey and Mac and Wendy Howard for bringing their eagle eyes in the search for flints.

Online Resources 

Historic Environment Record

Other References

Griffith, F., 1984, “Archaeological Investigations at Colliford Reservoir, Bodmin Moor, 1977-78”, Cornish Archaeology, 49-140.

Herring, P., 2013, “Searle’s Down – A newly discovered stone row” In Meyn Mamvro, No. 80, 16-17.


Timeline

VISITED:- 25th May 2017 and 15th October 2018

FIRST PUBLISHED:- 7th April 2016

LAST UPDATED:- 21st October 2018

 

%d bloggers like this: