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Prehistoric irregular field system and hut circle settlement with adjacent medieval regular field system and deserted settlement south east of Tresibbet Farm

A Scheduled Monument in St. Neot, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5471 / 50°32'49"N

Longitude: -4.535 / 4°32'6"W

OS Eastings: 220493.159207

OS Northings: 74998.526337

OS Grid: SX204749

Mapcode National: GBR NB.GYRV

Mapcode Global: FRA 17DM.71C

Entry Name: Prehistoric irregular field system and hut circle settlement with adjacent medieval regular field system and deserted settlement SE of Tresibbet Farm

Scheduled Date: 17 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007776

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15273

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Neot

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Altarnon with Bolventor

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument is located across the north east slope of the upper River Fowey valley between Tresibbet and Goodaver Farms on southern Bodmin Moor.On the upper slope,the monument includes a prehistoric irregular aggregate field system,its settlement of eight stone hut circles and two adjacent hut circles.The monument also includes a medieval regular enclosed field system which extends downslope from the prehistoric field system.A deserted medieval settlement is situated within the regular field system near the foot of the slope.At least one building within this settlement was occupied into the early post-medieval period.Medieval enclosed cultivation ridging,broadly contemporary with the deserted settlement,extends north west along the mid-slope from the prehistoric and medieval field systems.The prehistoric irregular aggregate field system is visible as a network of heaped rubble walls,up to 1.75m wide and 0.6m high,incorporating occasional edge-set facing slabs,up to 0.8m high but usually much smaller.Where the walls run along the contour,their uphill sides are masked by a substantial build-up of deposits,called a lynchet,resulting from the combination of prehistoric cultivation and soil creep on the steep slope.The walls define at least eighteen field plots,ranging from 0.08ha to 0.35ha.Although the plots are mostly sub-rectangular in shape with their long axes orientated downslope,the field system includes several with curved walls.The plots combine to form an irregular field system block surviving over 4.1ha and extending for up to 265m along the slope between the 260m and 300m contour levels.The pattern of prehistoric field walls shows evidence for the expansion of the field system both up and along the slope from a core area about the centre of its surviving extent.The highest field plot,at the field system's eastern edge,is accompanied by a 6m wide band of rubble beyond its outer walls resulting from prehistoric clearance of surface stone within the plot.The prehistoric field system forms the focus for a dispersed settlement of eight hut circles incorporated within the field system's lower plots,spaced 20m-45m apart over 220m between the 265m and 280m contour levels.Two other hut circles are located on the crest of the slope,up to 15m beyond the field system's upper surviving walling,at the 290m and 300m contour levels respectively.The largest hut circle in the settlement,near the centre of the field system,survives with a wall of heaped and coursed rubble up to 2.5m wide and 1m high,with occasional facing slabs,defining a circular internal area 11.5m in diameter.The hut circle was levelled into the hillslope partly by building its downslope, south west,half on an artificial rubble terrace.Two breaks in the western sector of the hut circle wall are not original but are due to a medieval ditch cut through the western part of the hut circle.The monument's other hut circles survive with walls of heaped rubble an occasional boulders,up to 1.8m wide and 0.7m high, defining levelled,circular,internal areas in the range 3.5m to 7.75m in diameter.The two hut circles at the southern end of the settlement were also levelled partly by terracing out from the slope.The hut circle walls incorporate frequent inner and outer facing slabs,up to 1m high and forming contiguous rows in some examples.Entrance gaps are visible in two hut circles,facing SSE and north respectively and flanked in each case by large end-set slabs,called orthostats.Two hut circles have adjoining annexes:the south eastern hut circle has a concentric annexe,1.7m wide and 6.25m long internally,supported on the hut circle's levelling-terrace and extending around the southern sector of the hut circle wall.The hut circle 70m to its north west has a circular annexe,3.5m in internal diameter,adjoining its west side.The medieval regular enclosed field system survives over 6.65ha,from the lower edges of the south east part of the prehistoric field system to the foot of the slope.This field system is defined by earth-and-rubble banks,up to 1.5m wide and 0.5m high,which divide the middle and lower slope into adjoining rectangular plots sharing a common north east-south west long axis,running directly downslope.On the middle slope,between about the 235m to 265m contour levels,the plots are predominantly elongated strips,up to185m long and ranging from 10m to 60m wide.The upper ends of these strips contain some curving cross-banks due to the partial incorporation and reuse of prehistoric walls pertaining to the earlier field system surviving on the slope above.About the 235m contour level,a stepped line of transverse banks separates the large midslope strips from six shorter rectangular blocks of fields,surviving up to 100m long,north east-south west by 50m-90m wide,on the lower slope.Each of these lower slope blocks is also subdivided into north east-south west strips,12m-40m wide.The upper limit of the regular field system is marked by a north west-south east ditch,up to 1m wide and 0.2m deep;this meets a larger ditch,5m wide and up to 0.7m deep,running down the midslope along the field system's north west side.The lower slope plots are visible,though partly cleared by pasture improvement,extending north west along the valley side for least 265m beyond the line of the midslope ditch,but that ditch continues on its alignment across the lower plots as a slighter drainage ditch to the foot of the slope.The plots of the medieval field system contain traces of cultivation ridging,low parallel,straight,earthen ridges,1.5m-2.5m wide and up to 0.1m high,whose long axis is also orientated downslope,parallel to the dominant axis of the medieval plot walls.Slight traces of similar cultivation ridges are also visible above the ditched upper boundary of the medieval regular field system.These ridges are within the lower plots of the prehistoric field system,providing evidence for its partial medieval reuse.This reuse also resulted in the ditch crossing the large hut circle noted above and in the partial refurbishment of some of the prehistoric field walls,up to 2.25m wide and 0.75m high.The mid-slope of the valley side north west of the regular field system contains a large block of similar medieval cultivation ridging.This block survives over 5ha,bounded to its south east by the broad ditch marking the mid-slope limit of the regular field system and bounded along its uphill,north east, side by a curving bank,up to 1.75m wide and 0.4m high,with an outer ditch,up to 1.75m wide and 0.3m deep.This ditched bank passes north,across the western part of the prehistoric field system,before curving north west along the slope.The north western edge of this block is defined by the limits of modern pasture improvement,as is much of its downslope edge,but sufficient partly cleared medieval wall fragments survive to show that the lower slope field blocks of the medieval regular field system extended along the lower edge of the block.This large block of enclosed cultivation ridging is not subdivided by contemporary field walls apart from a single boundary running downslope parallel to and 60m from the ditch along its south east side.However it does contain fragmentary traces of prehistoric walling which had been largely cleared in the process of creating this medieval cultivation block.The deserted medieval settlement is located in the upper part of the regular field system's lower slope fields,near the south western corner of the monument.It contains two farmhouses,22m apart on a WSW-ENE axis and each of a distinctive form called a longhouse.Together with its six ancillary structures,the settlement forms a compact group of buildings over 0.3ha.The eastern longhouse has a coursed rubble outer wall,up to 0.9m wide and 1m high,defining an internal area measuring 12m north east-south west,downslope,by 3.1m wide.A partition wall of rubble and edge-set blocks,up to 0.9m high,marks off the downslope 3.2m of the interior,forming the stock-byre,called a shippon.The upslope domestic quarters are subdivided by a transverse coursed wall into a lower room 3.3m long adjoining the shippon,with opposed cross-passage entrance gaps,0.75m wide,near the shippon,and an upper room 1.2m long.Beyond the upper room,a transverse revetment wall defines an area 3.5m long and raised 1m above the level of the rest of the longhouse interior,marking the site of the main bedroom or a domestic store.This longhouse has two rectangular ancillary buildings,each sharing the longhouse's long axis and built with coursed rubble walling.One is 2m beyond the longhouse's south east wall and measures 6.5m by 1.7m internally with walls up to 0.9m wide and 0.75m high.The other is 10m beyond the longhouse's north west wall,to which it is linked by a lynchetted rubble and slab wall,and measures 7m by 2.8m internally.This building has walls up to 1.2m wide and 1m high,with some large inner facing slabs and traces of a transverse internal wall giving two rooms,4m long and 2.5m long respectively.The larger western room has slightly staggered opposed entrances,0.75m wide.The western longhouse has a coursed rubble outer wall,up to 1m wide and 1.25m high,defining an internal area measuring 18m WSW-ENE by 3m wide.Transverse walls,variously of edge-set slabs or coursed rubble,mark off the shippon,3.6m long,at the downslope end and four other upslope domestic rooms whose lengths,from WSW to ENE,measure:3.5m,2.5m,2m and 1.7m. Opposed cross-passage entrances,0.7m wide,occur just upslope of the shippon.An annexe,2m by 2.2m internally,adjoins the shippon's south east side,while from its north west side extends a row of three small garden plots,up to 5m by 3.5m in size,one of which also has an adjoining annexe similar to that against the shippon.This longhouse has four rectangular ancillary buildings,each with a north east-south west long axis.One is 7m south west of the longhouse and has coursed rubble walling,up to 0.8m wide and 1.2m high,defining an internal area of 6.1m by 3.3m.A recess 1.3m wide and 0.75m deep in the south west wall marks a fireplace resulting from later,post-medieval occupation of this building.A building 20m south east of the longhouse measures 5.5m by 3.4m internally,and another 20m north of the longhouse measures 8m by 3.4m internally.The fourth ancillary building is located 26m north west of the longhouse.Its coursed wall,up to 1m wide and 1m high,defines an internal area of 4.75m by 3m. Its south west wall is thickened to 2.5m wide,where disturbed upper courses reveal fire-reddened arched rubble denoting a corn-drying oven buried beneath.From the northern corner of the settlement,a trackway bounded by earth-and-rubble banks,generally 5m apart,runs upslope through the regular field system towards a second,wider, trackway that extends for 410m SSW-NNE,along the eastern surviving extent of the medieval field system and into part of the prehistoric field system on the slope above.The southern 350m of this wider trackway,to the upper ditched boundary of the medieval field system,is defined by earth-and-rubble banks averaging 8m apart,surmounted by modern hedgebanks and stone walls due to the continued use of this part of the track into the recent period. Beyond this sector,the northern 60m of the medieval track continues on its SSW-NNE course as an embanked track through the lower prehistoric plots while the line of the modern walled track veers off to the north east,in part preserving the wall-lines of the south east edges of the prehistoric field system.These medieval trackways linked the upland pasture of Smith's Moor with the settlement and with the water source of the River Fowey and its adjacent valley floor routeway.Later,post-medieval activity within the monument has resulted in a narrow water-course,called a leat,which runs north west to south east near the foot of the slope,passing 28m south west of the deserted settlement's western longhouse. Modern pasture enclosure has resulted in division of the valley side into several large fields whose hedgebanks and dry stone walls,in the area of the monument,largely overlie medieval and prehistoric walls.Beyond the monument,prehistoric hut circles and traces of field boundaries are visible on Smith's Moor,from 100m to the north,and a prehistoric ritual stone circle and a funerary cairn are situated about the summit of the Goodaver Downs,140m to the north east.Other deserted prehistoric and medieval settlements and field systems are located 1km to the north west along the valley side,and from 1.1km and 1.7km to the south and SSW on Higher Langdon hill and the eastern slopes of Brown Gelly respectively.The modern stone walls which define the southern 350m of the trackway,and the surface of the trackway,are still in use and are excluded from the scheduling,although the ground beneath these features is included.All modern post-and-wire fences,gates and gate-fittings,and the telephone supply lines,poles and fittings are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features,including hedgebanks and stone walls,is included.MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Bodmin Moor, the largest of the Cornish granite uplands, has long been recognised to have exceptional preservation of archaeological remains. The Moor has been the subject of detailed archaeological survey and is one of the best recorded upland landscapes in England. The extensive relict landscapes of prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the earliest prehistoric period onwards.The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, field systems, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains provides significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time. Elaborate complexes of fields and field boundaries are a major feature of the Moor landscape. Irregular aggregate field systems are one method of field layout known to have been employed in south west England during the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). Irregular aggregate field systems comprise a collection of field plots, generally lacking in conformity of orientation and arrangement, containing fields with sinuous outlines and varying shapes and sizes bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches or fences. Irregular aggregate field systems often incorporate or are situated near stone hut circles,the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on the Moor, mostly also dating from the Bronze Age. The stone-based round houses survive as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; the remains of a turf or thatch roof are not preserved as visible features. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may occur in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Prehistoric field systems and hut circles are important elements of the existing landscape and provide important evidence on the organisation of farming practices and settlement during the prehistoric period. Over thirty deserted medieval settlements retaining visible remains of medieval character are recorded on Bodmin Moor. Some of these are single abandoned farms but the majority are small hamlets containing two to six farmhouses. Documentary evidence indicates that most such settlements on the Moor were established between the 11th and mid-14th centuries AD. Although many of these settlements were deserted by the close of the medieval period, some were abandoned at a later period. Deserted medieval settlements are often visible as close groupings of small buildings,each containing a longhouse, its ancillary buildings and one or more adjacent small plots which served as kitchen gardens or stock pens.These components are arranged within the settlement around internal yards and trackways which led from the settlement to its associated fields, pasture and water supply. Longhouses were the dominant type of farmhouse in upland settlements of south west England between the 10th and 16th centuries. Rectangular in plan, usually with rubble or boulder outer walls and their long axis orientated downslope, the interiors of longhouses were divided into two separate functional areas,an upslope domestic room and a downslope stock byre, known in south west England as a shippon.The proportions of the plan occupied by the domestic room and the shippon vary considerably but the division between the two was usually provided by a cross passage of timber screens or rubble walling running transversely across the longhouse,linking opposed openings in the long side walls. Ancillary buildings are generally separated slightly from the farmhouses themselves,or else appear as outshuts attached to the longhouse. These additional structures served as barns, fuel or equipment stores and occasionally contained ovens and corn-drying kilns. While many settlements in Cornwall are known from documentary sources to be of medieval origin, well-preserved deserted sites are rare.Consequently those on Bodmin Moor provide the main surviving source of evidence for the distinctive form and layout of Cornish medieval settlements. The pattern of dispersed hamlets which characterised this period of settlement remains a strong influence on the existing settlement pattern in Cornwall, both on and off the Moor. The relatively unintensive post-medieval land use of upland areas which has allowed the preservation of much surviving prehistoric and medieval settlement evidence also permits the survival of medieval field systems which often abut or impinge on the earlier, prehistoric ,remains. Regular enclosed field systems are one such field system type known to have been employed during the later medieval period (AD 1066-1550). They comprise a methodically-arranged collection of field plots in which individual holdings were systematically distributed through different parts of the field system's overall area.This was achieved by several known methods of field layout depending on whether the field system was superimposed on an earlier, sometimes unenclosed, field system or whether it was newly established on the area covered,and whether or not the field system comprised a cohesive or dispersed collection of plots. The resulting regular enclosed field systems often include collections of elongated strip-form plots,each plot representing one unit of an individual's holding. Medieval field systems also form an important element of the existing landscape, providing information on the organisation of medieval farming and settlement, its expansion onto the uplands, and providing evidence for the successive changes in land use that have affected the Moor.This monument on the valley side between Tresibbet and Goodaver Farms contains both prehistoric and medieval settlements and field systems that survive well, showing clearly the developments in habitation and farming activity across these periods and providing a rare opportunity to observe a near-continuous sequence of land-use episodes from the Bronze Age to the present day. Of the monument's early settlement, the hut circles retain their original form and manner of construction;the method of levelling several hut circles by terracing is found elsewhere in this vicinity but is generally an unusual feature. The variations of layout within the medieval field system show the close regard of the medieval farmers for the topography on which they operated. This is further demonstrated by the integration of the medieval settlement into the field system,the surviving field evidence including the system of tracks that serviced the settlement and the upland pasture. The deserted settlement itself has survived well, with an unusually fine array of visible features,including the clear internal subdivisions of the longhouses, garden plots and an ancillary building with a corn-drying oven.The contraction of the settlement, with only partial reuse in the post-medieval period before final abandonment typifies the later development of upland medieval settlements on the Moor.The proximity of the monument to other prehistoric and medieval settlements and field systems on this valley side sets this monument in its wider context of land use at each phase in its development.

Source: Historic England


CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text consulted 1992/93
CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text consulted 1993
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plot and field trace for SX 2074,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 2074 & SX 2075,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 2074-5,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1044,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1116,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1128,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1128.1,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1250,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1250.07,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 12578,
p.486; SX 27 SW No.18, CAU/EH, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. An evaluation for the MPP., (1990)
Saunders, A.D., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 615, 1962, consulted 1993
Saunders, A.D., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 615, 1963, consulted 1993
Saunders, A.D., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 616, 1962, consulted 1993

Source: Historic England

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