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Medieval settlement and field system south of Tresellern Farm, incorporating Prehistoric hut circle settlements

A Scheduled Monument in North Hill, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5611 / 50°33'40"N

Longitude: -4.4914 / 4°29'29"W

OS Eastings: 223634.754628

OS Northings: 76449.422772

OS Grid: SX236764

Mapcode National: GBR ND.G44D

Mapcode Global: FRA 17HL.01X

Entry Name: Medieval settlement and field system south of Tresellern Farm, incorporating Prehistoric hut circle settlements

Scheduled Date: 28 May 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011287

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15179

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: North Hill

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: North Hill

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes an unenclosed Prehistoric hut circle settlement, two
other, broadly contemporary, stone hut circles, and a small deserted medieval
settlement complete with its field system of embanked plots. It is situated
around the southern flanks of a broad rounded spur projecting SE into the
Withey Brook valley from the southern side of East Moor on eastern Bodmin
The unenclosed hut circle settlement contains a cluster of six stone hut
circles on the SE crest of the spur. The three hut circles in the NW edge of
the settlement survive with circular rubble walls, up to 1.2m wide and 0.5m
high, incorporating inner and outer facing slabs and defining levelled
internal areas ranging from 3.25m to 6.5m in diameter. The easternmost and
smallest of these three hut circles has a complete, continuous line of inner
and outer facing slabs and an entrance gap facing south, marked on its eastern
side by an edge-set slab set across the wall line. The other three hut
circles, in the SE part of the settlement, are of similar construction but
have suffered varying degrees of robbing of their walls' facing slabs and
rubble for medieval and modern wall-building and field-clearance. A modern
hedgebank includes in its course one side of the wall of two of these hut
circles, resulting in a distinct curve in the field edge. The circular,
levelled interiors of these hut circles range from 4m to 8.7m in diameter and
are bounded by slighter rubble walling than the other hut circles, forming an
incomplete circuit in two examples.
The other two stone hut circles in this monument are situated 200m WSW of the
hut circle settlement and adjoin each other on a north-south axis. They are
also located close to the continuation of the same modern hedgebank that
passes through the settlement, with a similar effect on their survival. These
hut circles are each visible as a turf-covered platform, levelled by cutting
slightly into the hillslope at their uphill, northern, edge and built out from
the slope as a rubble terrace rising up to 1m above the slope surface at their
southern edge. The platforms each contain a peripheral rubble wall up to 1.5m
wide and 0.2m high around the circular interior area 8m in diameter. The
modern hedgebank includes in its course the northern sector of the northern
hut circle's wall, while a massive ground-fast boulder remains in the northern
edge of the southern hut circle's wall. Several flint artefacts have been
found within the medieval field immediately south of these hut circles.
The deserted medieval settlement is centred 320m NE of the Prehistoric hut
circle settlement. It is divided into three sectors by a hollowed trackway
extending north from the centre of the settlement's southern edge, and visible
for 40m to its junction with a broad and deeply channelled yard area running
east, down the slope, from the centre of the settlement's western edge. The
trackway survives as a 3m wide hollow, 0.5m deep, with occasional flat slabs
visible embedded in its surface, the remains of a former rough paving. The
yard area measures 40m east-west by a maximum 13m wide, sunken throughout and
fairly level over its eastern half, but as its western half rises up the
hillslope it narrows to 8m wide and is cut up to 1.3m deep.
In the sector immediately north of the yard, the earthworks define the remains
of two similar elongated farmhouses, of a type known as long-houses, each with
an east-west long axis and separated by a gap of 6m. The long-houses are each
visible as largely turf-covered rubble foundations and walling up to 1m high
and 1.5m wide, forming a long, narrow, rectangular plan measuring externally
up to 20m east-west by 6m north-south.
The interior surface of the southern long-house has a clear north-south step
marking off its eastern half, typical of the division between the domestic
quarters at the higher end of the long-house and the cattle byre at the lower
end. Further small scarps and hollows immediately west of the long-houses mark
the former presence of ancillary structures there, while slight cultivation
ridges are visible to the north. A turf-covered earth-and-rubble bank, up to
2.5m wide and 1m high, runs west from the long-house complex, along the
northern edge of the yard area, then turns north, extending for 36m, defining
the western side of the settlement's northern sector. The surviving northern
and eastern limits of that sector are defined by modern hedgebanks.
On each side of the track running into the settlement from the south, the SW
and SE sectors are subdivided into small plots by earth-and-rubble banks of
similar size and construction to that defining the northern sector's western
side. In the SE sector these form three adjoining subrectangular plots, up to
36m long, east-west, by 13m wide, bounded along their eastern edge by a short
natural erosion scarp at the edge of the valley floor marsh. These plots also
contain cultivation ridges and furrows on an east-west axis. The SW sector is
less regularly subdivided; along its northern edge, bordering the edge of the
sunken yard, steps in the slope with traces of walling slabs define a
rectangular area measuring 23m ENE-WSW by 7.5m wide, considered to mark the
site of a third long-house. Ancillary structures are indicated by further
scarping associated with projecting slabs immediately to the SW of the long-
house in the centre of this sector. Earthen fieldbanks curve to form two
adjoining small, rounded plots, of 0.1 hectare in the west of the sector and
0.15 hectare in the south.
The medieval field system extends over 20 hectares around the slope of the
spur, south-west from the deserted settlement, and is defined by turf-coverd
earth-and-rubble banks of the same size and construction as those defining
plots within the settlement; only those boundaries along the northern and
western limits of the field system and one crossing its centre have been
converted into modern, faced hedgebanks, and each of those preserves the line
of its medieval predecessor. The field system is of a form known as a regular
enclosed field system. It was constructed with three major boundaries running
across the slope of the spur, the lowest following the edge of the marsh, the
uppermost along the edge of the spur's summit crest, with the third boundary
approximately midway between the other two at almost exactly the 250m contour
level. The individual field plots were formed by subdivision of the two zones
defined by these major boundaries. The subdividing banks are radial to the
spur, such that the long axis of the plots always remains downslope. The
spacing of the subdividing banks, and hence the size of the resulting plots,
varies between the upper and lower zones defined by the major boundaries. The
upper zone contains ten plots ranging in size from 0.45 hectares to 1.2
hectares, though only three plots exceed 1 hectare in extent. The eight plots
in the lower zone range from 0.5 hectares to 3 hectares in extent, of which
six exceed 1 hectare; the plot size in this zone also increases with distance
from the medieval settlement, with two smallest plots nearest to the deserted
settlement. Medieval pottery has been recovered from molehills within these
smaller plots. Traces of finer radial subdivisions are also present within the
upper zone field plot adjoining those two smaller plots. Breaks in the field
banks, generally 2-3m wide, mark the sites of original gateways, usually at
the junctions of the subdividing radial walls with the major contour
boundaries. The angular course of the uphill major boundary of this field
system indicates the original presence of a third, uppermost zone of smaller
rectangular fields crowning the spur's summit itself; one small field
remaining from that zone survives in the field system on the eastern side of
the spur.
In addition to the surviving field evidence given above, the medieval
settlement at Tresellern is also attested by a documentary reference to
'Treselern' dated AD 1310, and its early foundation is further supported by
its Cornish place-name containing the element 'res', meaning a ford, or 'ros',
a hillslope or spur. Continuity of the settlement's occupation into the early
post-medieval period is evidenced by the discovery, during the 19th century,
of mid-16th century coins and an octagonal cheese-press at the settlement. Its
last documentary reference occurs in a lease dated 1715, referring to a 'hall-
house and the chamber over, with the barn at Tresellyn or Resellyn'. It is
depicted as 'ruins' on the earliest Ordnance Survey map of 1813 and the
robbing of some surviving superstructure is recorded by the late 19th century
antiquary Baring-Gould.
All modern post-and-wire fences and gates are excluded from the scheduling but
the ground beneath them is included.

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.

Over 30 deserted settlements founded in the medieval period and 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 between 2 and 6 houses. Of these desertions, 20 were abandoned
during the medieval period and 8 are known to have survived into the post-
medieval period before abandonment. While many settlements in Cornwall are of
medieval origin, well-preserved deserted sites are rare and virtually unknown
off Bodmin Moor, where they provide the main source of evidence for the
distinctive form and layout of medieval settlements in Cornwall and their
development to produce the dispersed settlement pattern still evident today.
Twelve of the deserted settlements on Bodmin Moor retain their complete or
near complete field systems of several types. One such form is the regular
enclosed field system whereby the individual plots, bounded by permanent
hedges, wall or banks, often ditched, form a regular, systematic subdivision
of the landscape. The individual plots often form subdivisions of larger
blocks, with similar permanent boundaries, whose form may be determined by the
local topography or by the boundaries of an earlier system of land division.
Regular enclosed field systems appear during the medieval period with the
decline of the unenclosed strip-field system, the manorial system that
administered it and mixed farming in upland areas, coupled with the rising
status of individual smaller land-holders keen to consolidate their new
holdings by enclosure in a manner suitable for more specialised farming
regimes appropriate to the local circumstances. Studies of these changes using
evidence from Bodmin Moor has shown that the resulting regular enclosed field
systems appear there during the 13th century with the process gathering pace
in the 14th century and continuing into the post-medieval period.
Consequently, regular enclosed field systems, particularly those retaining
their association with a datable settlement, provide valuable information both
on the nature of farming practices at the time of their use and on the
development of farming methods, social organisation and land tenure during the
medieval and early post-medieval periods.
The location of many better preserved medieval settlements and field systems
on Bodmin Moor in areas that have never been subject to intensive agriculture
sometimes results in the survival of earlier traces of settlement within or
near the medieval fields. These can include stone hut circles, the dwelling
places of Prehistoric farmers on the Moor, mostly dating to the Bronze Age
(c.2000 - 700 BC). The stone-based round houses consist of low walls or banks
enclosing a circular floor area; remains of a turf or thatch roof are not
preserved. The huts occur singly or in groups and may be sited in the open or
enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Although they are common on the Moor,
their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument types
provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and
farming practices among Prehistoric communities.
This monument on Tresellern Farm includes a rare and well-documented example
of a medieval settlement which survived into, and was abandoned during, the
early post-medieval period. The settlement has survived well, displaying
clearly its internal organisation, unencumbered by modern buildings, and it
will retain important evidence for the nature of the transition from the
medieval to the early post-medieval farm hamlet. The small yards and garden
plots included in the settlement's diversity of original features are
complemented by the rare survival of its near-complete field system. This
field system shows clear evidence for its careful planning and deliberate
organisation. It has been little-modified by modern hedge-banks and is typical
of the regular enclosed field systems that emerged during the later medieval
period. Taken together, this settlement and its field system demonstrate well
the organisation of farming practices and their relationship to the topography
during the later medieval and early post-medieval period. Their proximity to
other broadly contemporary deserted medieval settlements and field systems in
the Withey Brook valley illustrates the wider settlement pattern and the
nature of upland land use during this period. The Prehistoric hut circle
settlement and other hut circles near the northern edge of the field system
shows well the development of land-use on this hillside over a considerable
period, represented also by the discovery of both Prehistoric and medieval
artefacts within the area of the field system. Several of these hut circles
also survive well, showing clearly their construction technique. Their
proximity to other Prehistoric settlement sites, field systems and funerary
cairns demonstrates the organisation of farming and ritual activities by
Prehistoric communities.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Austin, D, Gerrard, G A M, Greeves, T A P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Tin And Agriculture Landscape Archaeology In St Neot Parish, , Vol. 28, (1989)
Baring-Gould, S, 'J Royal Inst Cornwall' in An Ancient Settlement on Trewortha Marsh, , Vol. 11, (1891)
King, G, Sheppard, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parochial Checklist of Antiquities 10: Parish of North Hill, , Vol. 18, (1979)
consulted 2/1992, Carter, A (RCHME), 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 2376,
consulted 2/1992, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 2476,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1011,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1061,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1066,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1074,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1074.1,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1076,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1079,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1080,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1120,
Ref: 3G/TUD/VK 137 pt2 5148, RAF air photo, (1946)
Title: 1": 1 mile 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map
Source Date:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, sheet No. 2376
Source Date:

Source: Historic England

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