Ancient Monuments

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Vermin trap 490m south of Trowlesworthy Warren House forming part of Trowlesworthy Warren

A Scheduled Monument in Shaugh Prior, Devon

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Latitude: 50.4609 / 50°27'39"N

Longitude: -4.0194 / 4°1'9"W

OS Eastings: 256763.71477

OS Northings: 64292.0337

OS Grid: SX567642

Mapcode National: GBR Q1.VKC2

Mapcode Global: FRA 27GT.XMB

Entry Name: Vermin trap 490m south of Trowlesworthy Warren House forming part of Trowlesworthy Warren

Scheduled Date: 16 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015746

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28652

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Shaugh Prior

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


This monument includes a vermin trap situated on the edge of a small gully cut
into a west facing slope overlooking the valley of the Blacka Brook. The
vermin trap includes two lengths of rubble wall forming a `V'-shaped trap
pointing towards the gully. The position of the trap suggests that it was
designed to capture vermin using the gully for access into the warren. The
trapping area survives as a series of edge set stones at the point where the
two lengths of walling meet. The walls measure up to 1.3m wide by 0.3m high
and are composed of rubble. The western arm is 6m long, whilst the eastern
arm is 7m long.
Vermin approaching their quarry tend to seek a route that provides visual
cover and the purpose of a trap was to funnel predators along the ditches or
beside the 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 subject 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 490m south of Trowlesworthy Warren House survives 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


Thackray, C., The Upper Plym Valley: The management of an historic landscape, 1994, Archaeological Site Inventory

Source: Historic England

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