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Medieval farmstead and field system, post-medieval tinworks, prehistoric settlements and cairns north and west of Gibby Coombe

A Scheduled Monument in Holne, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5078 / 50°30'27"N

Longitude: -3.8582 / 3°51'29"W

OS Eastings: 268335.330311

OS Northings: 69200.698549

OS Grid: SX683692

Mapcode National: GBR QB.3JN1

Mapcode Global: FRA 27TQ.6RS

Entry Name: Medieval farmstead and field system, post-medieval tinworks, prehistoric settlements and cairns north and west of Gibby Coombe

Scheduled Date: 19 February 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019591

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34427

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Holne

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Holne St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a medieval farmstead with an associated field system,
post-medieval tinworks and leats, prehistoric settlements and cairns situated
on a south east facing slope of Holne Moor overlooking the valley of the Holy
The medieval farmstead survives as a cluster of at least three rectangular
buildings, each denoted by a stone wall. The largest building within the
farmstead sits on the west and the presence of opposed entrances indicates
that it was originally a longhouse. A rectangular structure within the western
corner of this building may be a corn drier suggesting that this structure was
converted before finally being abandoned. The northern building contains three
rooms and may also at one time have been a longhouse. The remaining structure
is much smaller than the others and was probably a barn. The farmstead sits
towards the southern edge of an extensive field system formed by a series of
ditched banks. Within the major fields there are a number of smaller strip
fields denoted by low banks and several clusters of small clearance cairns.
Within the field system there are a large number of earthworks relating to
prospecting and extraction of tin. Amongst the prospecting earthworks are a
large number of pits and trenches. Most of the trenches appear to have been
excavated with the aid of water carried to the area in a series of leats and
stored within reservoirs. Extraction of the tin discovered during the
prospecting phase was carried out using openworks. The openworks survive as
substantial gulleys measuring up to 7m deep and in places the original rock
cut edges are clearly visible. Cutting through all of the major openworks is
the Wheal Emma Leat which was constructed in 1859 to carry water from the
upper Swincombe River to supplement the River Mardle. The additional water
was required by the Wheal Emma copper mine near Buckfastleigh. Within the
monument the leat survives as a 2.6m wide and 0.7m deep channel crossed at
five separate points by clapper bridges. In later years, the area was used
for military training and several slit trenches were excavated at this time.
Archaeology of prehistoric date also survives within the monument, although
because of the intensive nature of the later activity, the remains are less
extensive than their original distribution. At least six stone hut circles are
known, and these survive as banks each surrounding an oval or circular
internal area which varies from 12.5 sq m to 56.7 sq m with the average being
35 sq m. The heights of the surrounding walls vary between 0.4m and 1m, with
the average being 0.72m. One of the huts has a visible doorway and two are
butted by field walling. Three funerary cairns survive in the area immediately
outside the historic field system and these vary in diameter between 4.4m and
14m and stand between 0.6m and 0.8m high. The cairn at NGR SX67786876 has a
clearly defined kerb around its southern edge.
The final visible feature of prehistoric date is a 330m length of reave which
survives as a 2m wide and 0.5m high rubble bank leading towards the River

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 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.
Over 130 deserted settlements retaining visible remains of medieval character
are recorded on Dartmoor. Many of these are single abandoned farmsteads but
the majority are small hamlets containing between two and six farmhouses.
Documentary evidence indicates that most such settlements on the Moor were
established between the 11th and mid-14th centuries AD. Although many of these
settlements were deserted by the close of the medieval period, some where
abandoned at a later period.
Deserted medieval settlements are often visible as close groupings of small
buildings, each containing a long house, its ancillary buildings and one or
more adjacent small plots which served as kitchen gardens or stock pens. These
components are arranged within the settlement around internal yards and
trackways which led from the settlement to its associated fields, pasture and
water supply. Occasionally such trackways show evidence for cobbling or
Long houses were the dominant type of farmhouse in upland settlements of
south-west England between the 10th and 16th centuries. Rectangular in plan,
usually with rubble or boulder outer walls and their long axis orientated
downslope, the interiors of long houses were divided into two separate
functional areas, an upslope domestic room and a downslope stock byre, known
in south-west England as a shippon. The proportions of the plan occupied by
the domestic room and the shippon vary considerably but the division between
the two was usually provided by a cross passage of timber screens or rubble
walling running transversely through the long house, linking opposed openings
in the long side walls.
Ancillary buildings were generally separated from the farmhouse itself, or
else constructed as outshuts attached to the long house and often extending
one end. These additional structures served as barns, fuel or equipment stores
and occasionally contained ovens and corn-drying kilns. While many settlements
in Devon are known from documentary sources to be of medieval origin, well-
preserved deserted sites are rare. Consequently, those on Dartmoor provide the
main surviving source of evidence for the distinctive form and layout of
medieval settlements in Devon.

The medieval farmstead with its associated field system, the post-medieval
tinworks, prehistoric settlements and cairns north and west of Gibby Coombe
all survive well and will contain archaeological and environmental information
relating to the exploitation of this area during the Bronze Age, medieval and
post-medieval periods.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Butler, J, 'Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities - The North' in Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, , Vol. 4, (1993), 169
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1999)
Title: Holne Moor Survey
Source Date: 1997
1:2500 plan

Source: Historic England

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