Ancient Monuments

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Vermin trap 800m south east of Trowlesworthy Warren House forming part of Trowlesworthy Warren

A Scheduled Monument in Shaugh Prior, Devon

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Latitude: 50.4608 / 50°27'38"N

Longitude: -4.0106 / 4°0'38"W

OS Eastings: 257383.969667

OS Northings: 64258.448667

OS Grid: SX573642

Mapcode National: GBR Q3.1FLT

Mapcode Global: FRA 27HV.1C2

Entry Name: Vermin trap 800m south east of Trowlesworthy Warren House forming part of Trowlesworthy Warren

Scheduled Date: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014464

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24215

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Shaugh Prior

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


This monument includes a vermin trap situated adjacent to and downslope of the
Lee Moor China Clay Works leat, lying on a gentle south west facing slope
overlooking the valley of the Blacka Brook. The vermin trap includes two
lengths of drystone wall forming a `V'-shaped trap pointing towards the leat.
The position of the trap suggests that it was designed to capture vermin using
the leat for access into the warren. The trapping area no longer survives
above the ground surface but would have originally been sited at the point
where the two lengths of walling converge. Both arms of the trap are composed
of rubble walling. The south western arm measures 7.8m long, 0.5m wide and
0.2m high, whilst the western arm is 3m long, 0.6m wide and 0.6m high.
Vermin approaching their quarry tend to seek a route that provides visual
cover, and the purpose of a trap was to funnel predators along ditches or
beside walls to a central point where they could be trapped.
This vermin trap forms part of Trowlesworthy Warren, which includes around
64 pillow mounds and 40 vermin traps scattered along the slopes of Little and
Great Trowlesworthy Tors. The boundaries of the warren are denoted by the
River Plym, Spanish Lake and Blacka Brook. Trowlesworthy Warren is generally
accepted as the oldest surviving warren on Dartmoor, although recently
doubt has been expressed concerning its medieval origins. It is, however,
known that the warren existed by 1651 when it was occupied by John Hamblin, a
skinner from Plymouth. The warren appears to have remained in constant use
from this time until the first half of the 20th century.
Other archaeological features surviving within the vicinity of this monument
are the subjects of separate schedulings.
This monument is in the care of the Secretary of State.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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 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.
Warrens are areas of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits
or hares. They usually include a series of purpose-built breeding places,
known as pillow mounds and buries, vermin traps and enclosures designed to
contain and protect the animals, and living quarters for the warrener who kept
charge of the warren.
Pillow mounds are low oblong-shaped mounds of soil and/or stones in which the
animals lived. They are usually between 15m and 40m long and between 5m and
10m wide. Most have a ditch around at least three sides to facilitate
drainage. Inside are a series of narrow interconnecting trenches. These were
excavated and covered with stone or turf before the mound was constructed.
Vermin traps of various kinds are found within most warrens. These include a
small stone-lined passage into which the predator was funnelled by a series of
ditches or walls. Over 100 vermin traps have been recorded on the Moor, with
the majority lying in the Plym Valley.
Warren boundaries were often defined by a combination of natural features such
as rivers. Within the warrens themselves smaller enclosed areas defined by a
ditch and bank are sometimes found, and some of these may have been
specialised breeding areas. Many of the warrens on the Moor contain a house in
which the warrener lived.
Most of the surviving warren earthworks probably date to between the 17th
century and the later 19th century, with some continuing in use into the early
20th century. At least 22 warrens are known to exist on the Moor and together
they contribute to our understanding of the medieval and post-medieval
exploitation of the area. All well-preserved warrens are considered worthy of

The vermin trap 800m south east of Trowlesworthy Warren House survives
comparatively well, forms part of the nationally important Trowlesworthy
Warren and contains information relating to the exploitation of rabbits in the
Upper Plym valley. This valley contains the densest concentration of vermin
traps and other structures associated with rabbit farming on the Moor.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Crossing, W, Crossing's Guide To Dartmoor, (1990), 431
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX56SE55, (1982)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, (1995)
Robertson, J G, The Archaeology of the Upper Plym, 1991, Unpub. Ph.D. Thesis (Edinburgh)

Source: Historic England

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