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A prehistoric and historic archaeological landscape within Merrivale Newtake

A Scheduled Monument in Whitchurch, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5667 / 50°34'0"N

Longitude: -4.041 / 4°2'27"W

OS Eastings: 255553.99152

OS Northings: 76094.44089

OS Grid: SX555760

Mapcode National: GBR Q0.FRTX

Mapcode Global: FRA 27FK.MK4

Entry Name: A prehistoric and historic archaeological landscape within Merrivale Newtake

Scheduled Date: 24 November 1954

Last Amended: 25 September 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016148

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28788

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Whitchurch

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


This monument, which falls into six areas, includes three irregular aggregate
field systems associated with prehistoric stone hut circle settlements, a
length of the Great Western Reave, part of Merrivale Warren, several clearance
cairns, a deserted medieval settlement and field system, a blowing mill, a tin
streamwork, an adit, a shelter and two tinners'caches situated on a west
facing slope within Merrivale Newtake overlooking the valley of the River
Two prehistoric settlements lie within the scheduling. The largest is
associated with three blocks of irregular aggregate field systems and includes
at least 57 stone hut circles surviving as stone and earth banks surrounding a
circular or oval internal area. The hut interiors vary in diameter between
2.1m and 8.2m with the average being 4.71m and the height of the surrounding
walls is between 0.3m and 1.3m high with the average being 0.67m. Thirty of
the huts have visible doorways, two have a porch, three are partitioned, one
has a bench and one has a courtyard. Most of the huts are abutted by field
boundaries suggesting that the field systems were added later. The second
prehistoric settlement is much smaller and includes two unenclosed stone hut
circles. The remaining major prehistoric feature within the scheduling is a
length of the Great Western Reave which has a total length of over 10km and is
the longest known prehistoric land division boundary on Dartmoor. The reave is
not continuous and within the monument two prominent gaps in its length are
visible. The reave itself varies in character along its length, but typically
it is composed of large stones and rubble and measures between 2m and 3m wide
and is up to 0.8m high. This reave appears to deliberately exclude the large
prehistoric settlements within Merrivale Newtake from the territory bordering
the River Walkham.
A deserted medieval settlement lying within the scheduling includes two
longhouses, an outbuilding and farmyard. The western longhouse survives as a
rectangular two roomed building terraced into the hillslope. Boundary walls
lead from the north eastern, north western and south western corners of the
building which lies in the northern part of a 24m long by 23m wide farmyard
defined by a single faced rubble wall standing up to 0.8m high. On the
southern side of the farmyard is a single roomed outbuilding with a north
facing doorway. A gap in the farmyard wall immediately east of this
outbuilding may represent an original entrance. The second longhouse lies 40m
to the east and survives as a rectangular building terraced into the hillside.
The field system associated with this settlement lies to the south and
includes at least six fields together with a funnel shaped earthwork and
several clearance cairns. The fields are rectangular in shape and the
southernmost ones have been truncated by a tin streamwork. The funnel shaped
earthwork appears to have been designed to guide animals from the open moor
through a constricting passage to the river. Leading north from the western
farmstead is a 700m length of curving linear boundary bank and ditch. This
boundary is clearly contemporary with the medieval longhouse to which it is
attached, and was probably intended to delimit ownership.
A series of tinworking earthworks and other structures survive within the
scheduling. The largest of these is an eluvial tin streamwork which survives
as a substantial 3m deep hollow containing parallel spoil dumps standing up to
1.5m high. Evidence of further mining survives where an adit cuts into the
hillside. The adit survives as a 15m long, 2.4m wide and 1.7m deep east to
west orientated gully and on either side of the gully there is a 2m wide and
1m high rubble bank. This bank was thrown up during the early stages of the
adit being cut. Water flowing from the adit indicates that it is still
draining underground workings to the east. Dating of this particular adit is
uncertain, but it is perhaps tempting to see it as having produced ore which
was subsequently processed at the nearby blowing mill.
The blowing mill is terraced into the hillside and is composed of drystone
coursed walling standing up to four courses and 1m high. The interior of the
mill building measures 8.8m long by 4.8m wide and is filled with loose rubble.
The doorway faces south and adjacent to it on the western side is a mouldstone
into which molten tin was ladled. The bellows which operated the furnace
within the mill were powered by a wheel which would have rotated in the well
preserved and now waterlogged wheelpit lying along the northern wall of the
building. This blowing mill is one of three above Merrivale Bridge, all of
which have a mouldstone adjacent to their doorway. It has been suggested that
they may date to around 1700 AD.
Three other structures related to the exploitation of tin survive within
the scheduling. The first is a shelter which has been inserted into the
south eastern end of an earlier longhouse. The interior of the building
measures 7.2m long by 3.6m wide and its rubble wall stands up to 0.7m high.
The remaining two are caches attached to an earlier medieval boundary wall.
Another shelter lying within the scheduling is built within the western
half of a stone hut circle. The western and southern walls of the shelter
are formed by the hut walls, whilst the remainder are of rubble construction.
The scheduling also includes 12 pillow mounds and a vermin trap which form
part of Merrivale Warren. This consists of at least 27 pillow mounds which
are scattered along the lower slopes of Great Mis Tor, Little Mis Tor and Over
Tor. The pillow mounds survive as flat topped, oval shaped mounds of soil and
stone surrounded on four sides by the ditch from which material was quarried
during their construction. The vermin trap lies on a steep slope adjacent to
the River Walkham and survives as a U-shaped bank.
Other archaeological features surviving within the vicinity of this monument
are the subject of separate schedulings except for the area of streamworking
east of the monument which is not currently considered to be of national

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 provides direct evidence
for human exploitation of the moor from the early prehistoric period onwards.
The well preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites,
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.
The prehistoric and historic archaeological landscape at Merrivale
Newtake represents a complex array of inter related structures and features
belonging to the three main periods of upland exploitation. The medieval
field system is most extensive, but within the area is also well preserved
evidence for prehistoric settlements and land division boundaries, together
with a medieval farmstead and tinworks. In the post medieval period a warren,
blowing mill, shelters, caches and tinworks highlight the continued intensive
use of this area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 70
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 71
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 79
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Gerrard, G A M, The Archaeology of the Early Cornish Tin Industry, (1986), 254-5
Gerrard, G A M, The Archaeology of the Early Cornish Tin Industry, (1986), 218
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1994)
Title: SX57NE
Source Date:
SX 55547646

Source: Historic England

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