Ancient Monuments

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Icework at Sourton Tors

A Scheduled Monument in Sourton, Devon

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Latitude: 50.6915 / 50°41'29"N

Longitude: -4.0599 / 4°3'35"W

OS Eastings: 254601.674215

OS Northings: 90012.451284

OS Grid: SX546900

Mapcode National: GBR Q0.5T58

Mapcode Global: FRA 27D7.S76

Entry Name: Icework at Sourton Tors

Scheduled Date: 9 March 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019570

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24088

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Sourton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Sourton

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a 19th century icework, an associated pillow mound,
together with part of an earlier area of ridge and furrow and later military
training features, situated on the northern slope of Sourton Tors overlooking
large tracts of North Devon. The icework includes a series of at least six
terraces measuring between 45m and 150m long by between 9.4m and 17.6m wide.
Within each of these terraces are small rectangular ponds denoted by
transverse earthwork banks. A total of 32 ponds are known to have once existed
and were filled with water carried from a nearby spring in a system of leats,
many of which are still visible. During the winter months between 1875 and
1886 the ice which formed in these ponds was collected and taken to a
substantial building with internal dimensions of 25m by 6.2m denoted by a
mortared wall. To provide essential insulation, this storage building was cut
deep into the ground and the displaced spoil now forms a 4m high linear dump
situated immediately to its north. Access to the building was through a 2.5m
deep gully cutting into the hillside. A small chamber, whose function is
unknown, measures 2sq m, is built against the inner northern wall of the
storage building and stands up to 1.2m high.
Above the upper level of ice ponds is a narrow ditch measuring 0.6m wide by
0.15m deep with a slight associated bank on the downslope side. This ditch
probably functioned as a boundary to the icework and as a means of preventing
dirty surface water reaching the ponds.
To the north of the iceworks are slight traces of ridge and furrow earthworks
formed by historic ploughing. Overlying the ridge and furrow is a flat-topped
sub-rectangular mound, surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried
during its construction. This is a pillow mound which was built to encourage
rabbits to colonise this hillside and measures 11.9m long by 3m wide and 0.9m
high. The associated quarry ditch is 1m wide and 0.1m deep. The pillow mound
is slighted at a point where a bank leads up to it. This bank also overlies
the ridge and furrow and maybe some form of animal run used to control and
trap the rabbits.
The Sourton Tors area has been extensively used for military training purposes
and this has left a rich array of different features. Within the monument
there are a number of slit trenches, two of which are connected to each other
by a narrow communication trench. These features are included in the
scheduling, representing the subsequent use of this area for militay training.

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

The icework at Sourton Tors is one of very few ice farms to have existed
nationally, and represents an extremely rare survival of industrial ice
production from the 19th century. Considerable quantities of documentation
exist concerning the setting up, running and failure of this icework. This
provides details concerning the precise processes involved in producing the
ice for market, together with output figures and other information. Most of
the ice was sold to fish buyers in Plymouth although some was sold for
domestic use. A combination of unsuitable winters and finally the introduction
of artificially produced ice heralded the demise of the icework in 1886.
Despite late 19th century attempts to restore the area to its original form
and later military use, the icework at Sourton Tors survives extremely well,
with all the elements known from contemporary documentation remaining visible.
The unusual nature of this industrial venture means that important and unique
structures are known to survive.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Harris, H, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in The Sourton Tors Iceworks, North-west Dartmoor, 1874-86, , Vol. 120, (1988), 177-200
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1998)
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1998)

Source: Historic England

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