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A partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, round cairn, post medieval farmstead, millstone and stone cutting pits 580m ESE of Merrivale Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Whitchurch, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.5567 / 50°33'24"N

Longitude: -4.0404 / 4°2'25"W

OS Eastings: 255561.466044

OS Northings: 74982.987319

OS Grid: SX555749

Mapcode National: GBR Q1.N60T

Mapcode Global: FRA 27FL.FQH

Entry Name: A partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, round cairn, post medieval farmstead, millstone and stone cutting pits 580m ESE of Merrivale Bridge

Scheduled Date: 20 November 1954

Last Amended: 12 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013427

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24191

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Whitchurch

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Details

This monument, which falls into two areas, includes a partially enclosed stone
hut circle settlement, round cairn, post-medieval farmstead, millstone and
stone cutting pits situated on a gentle west facing slope overlooking the
valley of the River Walkham.
The stone hut circle settlement includes a scatter of at least 36 stone hut
circles together with four separate enclosures. The north western enclosure
survives as a 53m long and 29m wide area defined by a 1.5m wide and 0.9m high
rubble wall, except on the northern side where no boundary is visible,
although originally a palisade or similar feature may have completed the
circuit. Two stone hut circles are associated with this enclosure, both lying
at the northern end, although only one is attached to the boundary wall. The
central enclosure survives as a 57m long and 31m wide irregular shaped area
defined by a 3m wide and 1.5m high rubble wall which is double faced in
places. The irregular shape of this enclosure may be the result of a number
of earthfast boulders being incorporated into the circuit. Some of the larger
stones within the wall have been split using the tear and feather technique.
A gap in the northern circuit of the enclosure wall may represent an original
entrance. A solitary stone hut circle lies within the eastern part of the
enclosure, whilst within the western part lie two post-medieval stone
splitting pits and a complete cider mill, edge runner stone. The southern
enclosure is also irregular in shape, measures 35m long by 30m wide and is
defined by a sinuous single orthostatic wall composed of large boulders. A
stone hut circle is attached to the northern length of boundary wall. The
eastern enclosure is the largest within the settlement and despite partial
remodification during the early part of the 19th century survives as a 68m
long by 47m wide irregular shaped area defined by a 1.5m wide and 0.6m high
sinuous single orthostatic wall composed of large boulders. A stone hut circle
is linked to the southern part of the enclosure boundary.
The stone hut circles are composed of stone and earth banks each surrounding
an internal area. Of the 36 hut circles, six are oval in plan and the
remainder are circular. The internal diameters of the circular buildings vary
from 4.6m to 10m, with the average being 6.32m, whilst the lengths of the
oval buildings vary between 3.5m and 7.4m and the widths are between 2.5m and
5.8m. The height of all the walls vary between 0.4m and 1.2m, with the
average being 0.77m. Sixteen of the huts have visible doorways, four lie
within or are attached to enclosures and one has a porch.
Within the southern part of the settlement a string of six freestanding huts
with a marked linear distribution may have once been linked together by a
palisade or similar structure which now survives as a buried feature.
Six of the stone hut circles within the monument were excavated by the
Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1895. All of the huts were found to contain
charcoal, although only two hearths were located. One or two were paved, but
the only artefact recovered was a flint flake.
A round cairn lies immediately south of the settlement and includes a 3.4m
diameter mound standing up to 0.4m high and surrounded by a low kerb of edge
set stones. A large slab measuring 1m long by 0.15m thick lies across the
mound and may have once stood nearby. The origin and function of this cairn
cannot be established with certainty, although given its location between a
settlement and major ceremonial site, a funerary origin does seem the most
likely. West of this cairn, a 7m long by 1.7m wide and 0.3m high rubble bank
is visible. Although only a relatively short length of this bank is visible,
it may survive largely as a buried feature, and may either be part of the
Great Western Reave or a length of enclosure boundary associated with the
nearby stone hut circles.
The area was further utilised during the post-medieval period, during which
time a farmstead was established and surface extraction of granite was
widespread. The farmstead survives as a two roomed building together with a
small garden and small field. The western room of the farm house measures 7m
long by 4m wide and the eastern one is 4m square. The walls are composed of
roughly faced drystone and measure 1m wide and stand up to 0.9m high. A large
roughly squared granite slab standing upright at the western end of the
building formed the face of the chimney breast. A stone faced gully runs
parallel to the northern wall of the building and may have been built to
provide drainage. An open ended rectangular enclosure leading off from the
southern side of the building measures 20m long by 10m wide and is defined by
a 1.6m wide and 0.7m high stone and earth bank which is revetted on the
external face. This enclosure may have been built to serve as a garden,
whilst the prehistoric enclosure to which the building is attached may have
been reused as a field. This farmstead was erected in the first half of the
19th century although the absence of any ancillary buildings or associated
enclosures would suggest that it was inhabited for only a very short time.
The other major post-medieval activity on the site was quarrying and
splitting of surface rock. In some instances the stone was roughly dressed on
the site and at one point a cider mill edge runner stone survives propped on
top of several smaller stones, presumably in preparation for transport. This
stone survives as a 2m diameter and 0.3m thick circular slab of granite
with a flat base and convex upper surface. Close to this stone are two small
rectangular stone cutting pits similar in character to many others found
within the monument. These pits represent the site of large granite boulders
which have been cut up and removed. Further evidence for surface working of
granite is provided by a large number of rocks bearing lines of drill marks
indicative of tear and feather stone splitting.
The area surrounding the monument may contain other features and deposits
which are not currently being proposed for scheduling because they cannot
be accurately assessed or mapped.
Further stone hut circles, a length of reave and stone alignments within
the vicinity of this monument are the subject of other schedulings.
The monument is in the care of the Secretary of State.

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

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and,
because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most
complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The
great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provide direct evidence
for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards.
The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites,
major land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as
later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes
in the pattern of land use through time. Stone hut circles and hut settlements
were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on Dartmoor. They mostly date
from the Bronze Age, with the earliest examples on the Moor in this building
tradition dating to about 1700 BC. The stone-based round houses consist of low
walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; remains of the turf or thatch
roof are not preserved. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups
and may lie in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Although
they are common on the Moor, their longevity and their relationship with other
monument types provide important information on the diversity of social
organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. They are
particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of
surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

In addition to the partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, the
monument includes a round cairn. Round cairns are prehistoric funerary
monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as
earthen or rubble mounds, the latter predominating in areas of upland Britain
where such raw materials were locally available in abundance. Round cairns may
cover single or multiple burials and are sometimes surrounded by an outer
ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major visual element in
the modern landscape. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a
monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and
social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are
particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of
surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Dartmoor provides one
of the best preserved and most dense concentrations of round cairns in south
western Britain.
Of more than 600 post-medieval farmsteads recorded on Dartmoor, around 100 are
now deserted. Although some of these were established as late as the 18th and
19th centuries, many have their origin as medieval settlements, some perhaps
dating back to as early as the 11th century. Those founded in the post-
medieval period represent a time in which arable farming increased in
popularity on the Moor, resulting in a large number of new farms being built
on previously unenclosed moorland. Many of these farms were abandoned after a
relatively short time and provide rare examples of planned single period
farmsteads.
Most deserted post-medieval farmsteads survive as single farmhouses associated
with a variety of outbuildings, including: ash houses, barns, cow houses,
dairies, hulls, stables, linhays, shippons, cartsheds, dog kennels and
lavatories. Other features commonly found with farmsteads include gardens and
farmyards which acted as a focal point for many farming activities. In most
cases, deserted post-medieval farmsteads are associated with contemporary
field systems, many of which still remain in use for grazing or cultivation.
Deserted post-medieval farmsteads will provide information about the
developing character of agricultural exploitation within an upland landscape
during the historic period, and reflect a response to changing environmental
and economic conditions. Surviving examples are relatively rare away from the
moorland areas in south west England, and consequently those on Dartmoor
provide a major source of evidence for this type of site.
Despite partial excavation and limited stone robbing and splitting, the
partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, round cairn and post-medieval
farmstead 580m ESE of Merrivale Bridge survive well and together form a
popular visitor attraction. Many of the stone hut circles within the
settlement are particularly well preserved and are regularly used for
educational purposes. The post-medieval farmstead, although an intrusive
element within the monument, represents an excellent example of a small scale
early 19th century upland farming venture.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Bray, A E, A Description of the Part of Devonshire Bordering on the Tamar , (1836)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 74
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 73
Crossing, W, Crossing's Dartmoor Worker, (1992), 113
Worth, R H, Worth's Dartmoor, (1981), 108
Worth, R H, Worth's Dartmoor, (1981), 139-140
Baring Gould, S, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, (1895), 86
Baring Gould, S, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, (1895), 86
Other
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57NE75, (1985)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE276, (1986)
Gerrard, S., English Heritage Book of Dartmoor, 1997, Forthcoming
Gibson, A, Single Monument Class Description - Stone Hut Circles, (1987)
Gibson, A, Single Monument Class Description - Stone Hut Circles, (1991)
Haynes, R.G., Ruined Sites on Dartmoor - Middleworth, 1966, Unpublished Manuscript
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard,
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, (1994)
Photarc Surveys Ltd, Merrivale Prehistoric Village, (1991)
Photarc Surveys Ltd, Merrivale Prehistoric Village, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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