Ancient Monuments

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Vermin trap and length of reave 980m ESE of Trowlesworthy Warren House

A Scheduled Monument in Shaugh Prior, Devon

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Latitude: 50.4631 / 50°27'47"N

Longitude: -4.006 / 4°0'21"W

OS Eastings: 257715.864937

OS Northings: 64510.779837

OS Grid: SX577645

Mapcode National: GBR Q3.18SJ

Mapcode Global: FRA 27HT.WMN

Entry Name: Vermin trap and length of reave 980m ESE of Trowlesworthy Warren House

Scheduled Date: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014471

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22357

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Shaugh Prior

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


This monument includes a vermin trap and a short length of reave situated near
the summit of Little Trowlesworthy Tor overlooking the valley of the Blacka
Brook. The vermin trap includes two lengths of drystone wall forming a `V'-
shaped trap pointing towards a rock face. The position of the trap suggests
that the rock face was intended to help encourage the vermin into the trapping
area, which was originally sited at the point where the two lengths of walling
meet. The northern wall measures 4.8m long, 0.5m wide, 0.5m high and is
composed of orthostats. The southern wall is of rubble construction and
measures 4.7m long, 0.8m wide and 0.3m 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. However, it is 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.
The reave survives as a 3m wide and 0.5m high rubble bank leading southwards
for 35m from Little Trowlesworthy Tor towards Great Trowlesworthy Tor. This
reave may represent a continuation of another length of reave which lies to
the north of the tor.
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.
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 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 may have been sited to take advantage of the already existing
length of reave. Reaves are part of an extensive system of prehistoric land
division introduced during the Bronze Age (about 2000-700 BC). They consist of
simple linear stone banks, some of which are tens of kilometres in extent,
used to mark out discrete territories.
Both the vermin trap and reave 980m ESE of Trowlesworthy Warren House survive
comparatively well and whilst both contain separate information relating to
their very different functions, together they provide evidence for reuse of
earlier prehistoric walls by warreners.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Crossing, W, Crossing's Guide To Dartmoor, (1990), 431
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX56SE215, (1972)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, (1995)
Robertson, J G, The Archaeology of the Upper Plym, 1991, Unpub. Ph.D. Thesis (Edinburgh)
Thackray, C., The Upper Plym Valley: The management of an historic landscape, 1994, Archaeological Site Inventory
Thackray, C., The Upper Plym Valley: The management of an historic landscape, 1994, Archaeological Site Inventory

Source: Historic England

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