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Eluvial tin streamworks and prehistoric coaxial field system together with other archaeological remains on Whitchurch Common

A Scheduled Monument in Whitchurch, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5546 / 50°33'16"N

Longitude: -4.0642 / 4°3'51"W

OS Eastings: 253871.585

OS Northings: 74795.1906

OS Grid: SX538747

Mapcode National: GBR NZ.GKWK

Mapcode Global: FRA 27CL.QGN

Entry Name: Eluvial tin streamworks and prehistoric coaxial field system together with other archaeological remains on Whitchurch Common

Scheduled Date: 7 March 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020089

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22234

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Whitchurch

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


The monument, which falls into six separate areas of protection, includes two
eluvial streamworks and an earlier, prehistoric, coaxial field system,
together with a range of other archaeological remains situated on Whitchurch
Common. Amongst the other prehistoric archaeological remains are two round
cairns, two ring cairns, two cairnfields, two stone hut circle settlements, an
agglomerated enclosure, a simple enclosure and a further field system. All of
the prehistoric remains are likely to be of Bronze Age date (c.2000-700BC).
Archaeological remains of historic date include two medieval farmsteads, a
medieval field system, a cache, two boundary stones, a series of leats and
reservoirs, prospecting pits, shelters, split stones, World War II artillery
and mortar emplacements, slit trenches and other associated structures.
The larger eluvial streamwork is 1.2km long while the part of it surviving
within the monument extends from NGR SX53517572 to SX53797464. This streamwork
survives as a substantial gully measuring up to 4m deep and 130m wide. In the
bottom of this gully are a series of parallel banks representing spoil from
the extraction process and the fossilised positions of the work areas known as
tyes. Analysis of these banks has revealed at least six distinct phases of
exploitation. Water, so necessary for the extraction of the eluvial tin, was
carried to the site in a series of leats. It was stored in reservoirs
close to the tinwork before being fed through another group of leats to the
streamwork itself. Within the streamwork at its upper end is a small tinners'
building complete with doorway and fireplace.
The second streamwork lies to the west of the first one and survives as a 150m
long gully containing a few parallel banks. This streamwork is earlier than
the large one and in later years two reservoirs were constructed within it to
serve the eastern tinwork. The coaxial fields surviving within the monument
form part of a larger field system which extends over parts of the Whitchurch
and Peter Tavy Commons. Within this monument, three main reaves lie
approximately parallel to each other and are separated by large blocks of
land, most of which are not included within the scheduling. At the western end
of the southern reave is a terminal reave and to this at least eight fields
are connected. The two prehistoric settlements lying within the monument are
considered to be broadly contemporary with the coaxial field system. The
northern settlement includes four stone hut circles associated with an
irregular shaped field system. The stone hut circles survive as rubble walls
each surrounding a circular or oval internal area measuring between
10 sq m and 83 sq m.
The second settlement lies on the western slopes of Barn Hill and includes six
stone hut circles situated within an agglomerated enclosure. The agglomerated
enclosure includes at least four elements and is attached to the southern
end of the coaxial field system's terminal reave.
The two cairnfields surviving within the monument both include a main
cluster of mounds together with a number of outliers. The northern cairnfield
is associated with a prehistoric settlement and includes 27 mounds standing
between 0.3m and 1m high. The southern cairnfield includes 12 mounds, most
of which survive in a tight cluster at NGR SX53627499. Two further mounds
within the monument represent the site of funerary cairns. The first at NGR
SX53977486 survives as a 0.5m high mound surrounded by a 0.9m high stone
kerb. The second cairn stands at NGR SX54177448 and includes a 5m diameter
mound standing up to 0.6m high. Two broadly contemporary ring cairns survive
at NGR SX53487518 and SX53707493. The northern cairn survives as a 7m
diameter flat area surrounded by a 2.4m wide and 0.3m high rubble bank.
Beyond this bank is a 1m wide berm leading to a 3m wide and 0.2m deep ditch.
The southern ring cairn includes a 3m wide and 0.3m high rubble bank
surrounding an 11m diameter internal area.
Archaeological remains relating to the agricultural exploitation of this
area during the medieval period include two farmsteads and a field system. The
farmstead at NGR SX53707489 includes a longhouse and three small paddocks,
whilst the longhouse at NGR SX53697475 has been truncated by the Beckamoor
Combe streamwork.
This area was used for military training during World War II. Four artillery
emplacements, two mortar emplacements, a number of slit trenches and other
structures date to this time.
The Grimstone and Sortridge Leat is excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath it is included.

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 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.
On Dartmoor, tin streamworks represent intermittent tin working activity
dating from the medieval period to the 20th century. During this time
previously abandoned works were often brought back into production, while some
streamworks are still not exhausted, raising the possibility that they may
become viable once again.
Streamworks exploited tin deposits that had been detached from the parent lode
and redeposited by streams and rivers within either alluvial deposits in
valley bottoms or in eluvial deposits in shallow, steeper tributaries on
hillsides. The technique involved large scale extraction (which has left major
earthworks visible in the landscape) and the use of water to separate tin from
the lighter clays and silts which contained it. The water derived either from
canalised streams or reservoirs fed by specially constructed leats which can
be seen running for several miles along the contours of many hillsides. The
streamworks themselves survive as a series of spoil dumps, channels and
disused work areas which indicate their character and development.
Streamworking was particularly prevalent on Dartmoor, being by far the most
numerous and extensive type of tinwork on the moor. Remains are to be found in
most valley bottoms and on many hillsides, where they make a dominant
contribution to landscape character as well as providing unusually detailed
evidence for medieval industry. Streamworks on Dartmoor will be considered for
scheduling where they are well preserved and representative of the industry in
this area, or where there is a demonstrable relationship with medieval and
later settlement and its associated remains.

The eluvial tin streamworks and earlier, prehistoric, coaxial field system,
together with other archaeological remains on Whitchurch Common represent a
particularly well-preserved palimpsest. The monument retains a substantial
variety of visually impressive archaeological sites, with abundant
evidence for the use of the area in both prehistoric and historic times.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Gerrard, S, 'DTRG Newsletter' in The Beckamoor Combe Streamwork Survey, , Vol. 3, (1992), 6-8
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1993)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2000)
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2001)
Title: Cox Tor Survey
Source Date: 1991
1:2500 plan

Source: Historic England

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