Archaeological Information

RAF Davidstow Moor was built on a flat piece of ground 967ft [294m] above sea level to the north of Bodmin moor, the largest of Cornwall's granite areas. It is the highest airfield in the country. Close by was Crowdy Marsh where in 1971 Crowdy reservoir was built.

Mesolithic Period

The whole of Bodmin Moor has a great wealth of prehistoric archaeology, stone circles, barrows, cairns and stone rows. Many of the sites are unique to this part of Cornwall. Their survival is our only record of what life was like at that time as there is no written evidence of the period.

During the Mesolithic period the exposed area of heath and moorland gradually became tree covered. The birch trees in the valleys spread and together with oak and hazel covered fifty per cent of the hillsides. Archaeological finds of charcoal on Davidstow Moor have identified oak, hazel, heather, hornbeam, willow, poplar and ash. Peat bogs developed. Into this environment came small groups of hunter gatherers who lived by fishing, hunting for deer and wild cattle and by gathering fruit, nuts, plants and seeds. They moved around the area with the seasons. The presence of crustaceans, beach flint and other pebbles on Davidstow Moor suggest the occupants may have spent time near the coast.

Neolithic Period

By about 4500BC many hunter gatherers had settled to farming the land, grazing the animals and reducing the woodland in order to cultivate the land. Evidence of Neolithic settlements occur across Davidstow Moor.

For those who enjoy the TV programme Time Team the excitement aroused by the words “ritual site” are familiar. The area around Davidstow airfield is strewn with stone circles, cairns, earth barrows, menhirs or standing stones and stone rows. An area very much steeped in religious practice or ritual.

Wartime Excavations By C.K. Croft Andrew

During the winter of 1941-42 the late C.K. Croft Andrew carried out an eight month examination of the area destined for RAF Davidstow Moor. Croft Andrew worked on behalf of the Ministry of Works Ancient Monuments Inspectorate. He sent a synopsis of his work to the Chief Inspector in September 1942. When he started work the O.S. Map showed three tumuli on the threatened site. Croft Andrew carried out a detailed study of the airfield site and the immediate area around it. He excavated 28 potential barrow sites identifying both prehistoric and medieval remains. Much of the archaeology was almost intact with only surface peat cutting to disturb the moor.

Pottery Finds

The pottery found during C.K. Croft Andrew's wartime excavations included examples of early Trevisker ware, fragments of a collared urn, beaker ware and three shards of Grooved Ware. Grooved Ware circa 2500 BC is found across Britain. Bradley [1984] has suggested it is found in areas that show evidence of economic dynamism and social complexity.

Lithic Finds

Croft Andrew found a total of 423 items of lithic worked material on Davidstow Moor. Many of them were broken or edge damaged. The material found included 214 flint flakes from the mesolithic, neolithic and bronze age, 20 scrapers, 52 blades and 36 holed or cupped stones mainly made of of slate.

Lithic material used by the inhabitants of Davidstow Moor were of both flint and chert [a flint like quartz]. They came from the coast, the moor and further afield. There was evidence that they had been worked on site.


Amongst the barrows examined by Croft Andrew he found a variety of building techniques ranging in period from 4200-3340 BC. They included cairn rings, internal cairns, flat topped turf mounds and both ditched and unditched sites. One unusual barrow in the group had an internal wooden stake circle.

The three ditched barrows that he found are possibly the earliest of Davidstow's barrows. The turf mounds examined appeared to have been flat topped. The flat area on top could be used for ritual activities. Flat topped mounds were current in Cornwall in the early Bronze Age.

The largest site at Davidstow does not appear to have contained a burial but to have been used for ritual purposes involving fires, pottery and wooden objects. The activity was carried out within a wooden palisade on top of the mound. The appearance of the wooden objects seemed to be that of agricultural implements.

Medieval Davidstow Moor

C.K. Croft Andrew's examination of the site destined for RAF Davidstow Moor revealed 28 potential barrow sites. About half of these sites were proved to be certainly or possibly prehistoric. The remainder were of unknown or more recent date. The post prehistoric pottery was sent to Cathy O'Mahony at the University of Lampeter for dating.

The land on which RAF Davidstow Moor was built was the site of three farms, Goosehill, Larkaburra [Lark Borough] and Griggs Down. Croft Andrew identified what he believed to be the site of medieval Goosehill. Goosehill was first mentioned in Minister's Accounts for the Earldom of Cornwall [1280] [Gover. 1948. 41. Goosehill]. The land was in use for grazing and turf cutting. The first reference to a settlement at Goosehill is in 1337 [Caption of Seisin. Hull. 1971.16.18]. Roger Knight, Henry Dogel and Walter Sibili each held 40 acres of waste in 1 “ferling” of land at Goosehill.


The parish of Davidstow is in the deanery of Trigg Minor and in the hundred of Lesnewth. The name Davidstow is from the Cornish Lanndewi/Dewstow. Domesday mentions the following manors in the present Davidstow area, Rosebenault [Roseminuet, Roseminvet], Tredwen [Rigwen, Rigven], Treglasta [Treglasten, Treglaston], Tremail, Tremblary [Trembleri], and Treslay [Roslet, Roslech].

Archaeology Today

There is a considerable amount of wartime RAF Davidstow Moor remaining today including the control tower, some of the site buildings, much of the runways and the perimeter track. Maps of the wartime airfield site are available by contacting the site owner. They show the airfield as it was then and are complete with a legend showing what all the buildings were used for.

It is tempting to wander over the entire area and perhaps to have a dig around in the ground for anything interesting but most of the site belongs to the Lords and Ladies of Penpont and Treglasta. The area is under a Stewardship Scheme for grazing and management, is Designated Land, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest [SSSI], an area of Great Historic Value and an Area of Great Landscape Value.

The land is common moorland. Common land is land owned by one or more persons over which another specified person is entitled to exercise rights of common [such as grazing animals]. These rights are generally exercised in common with others. Some local farmers have common grazing rights over the airfield.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act [CROW] applies to part but not all of the area. The area north of the main road running between Altarnun and Camelford and the perimeter track is not part of the area accessible under CROW. That area over which access is permitted applies only to pedestrians. The Act gives added protection to SSSI's of which Davidstow is one and increases the penalties for deliberate damage.