Ancient Monuments

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Eight pillow mounds and a vermin trap on the northern slope of Little Trowlesworthy Tor forming part of Trowlesworthy Warren

A Scheduled Monument in Shaugh Prior, Devon

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Latitude: 50.466 / 50°27'57"N

Longitude: -4.0053 / 4°0'18"W

OS Eastings: 257779.402769

OS Northings: 64824.059638

OS Grid: SX577648

Mapcode National: GBR Q3.12Z3

Mapcode Global: FRA 27HT.PF9

Entry Name: Eight pillow mounds and a vermin trap on the northern slope of Little Trowlesworthy Tor forming part of Trowlesworthy Warren

Scheduled Date: 16 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015758

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28798

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Shaugh Prior

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


This monument, which falls into two areas of protection, includes eight pillow
mounds, a vermin trap and a series of ditches situated on a gentle north
facing slope of Little Trowlesworthy Tor overlooking the valley of the River
Plym. These features form 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.
The pillow mounds survive as flat-topped, sub-rectangular mounds of soil and
stones, seven of which are surrounded by a ditch from which material was
quarried during their construction. The mounds vary in size between 9.2m and
40m long and stand between 0.5m and 0.8m high. A series of ditches lying
upslope of some of the mounds may represent an attempt by their builders to
divert surface water, although others are more likely to be animal runs in
which vermin and rabbits were trapped.
The vermin trap lies east of the main cluster of pillow mounds and survives as
an`X'-shaped orthostat and rubble wall. The trapping area survives as a series
of edge set stones at the point where the lengths of walling meet. 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 eight pillow mounds and vermin trap on the northern slope of Little
Trowlesworthy Tor survive well, form part of the nationally important
Trowlesworthy Warren and contain archaeological and environmental 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
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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