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Prehistoric coaxial field system and cairns, an historic enclosure and part of RAF Sharpitor, situated on and around Peek Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Walkhampton, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.5123 / 50°30'44"N

Longitude: -4.0371 / 4°2'13"W

OS Eastings: 255658.021786

OS Northings: 70042.241262

OS Grid: SX556700

Mapcode National: GBR Q1.R0V2

Mapcode Global: FRA 27FP.WJK

Entry Name: Prehistoric coaxial field system and cairns, an historic enclosure and part of RAF Sharpitor, situated on and around Peek Hill

Scheduled Date: 11 February 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020238

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24090

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Walkhampton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Details

The monument includes a length of the Walkhampton Common Reave, two further
parallel reaves, a tor cairn, ring cairn, historic enclosure and cairn, a
radio navigation master station in the South Western Gee chain and a civil
defence bunker, all situated on the upper slopes of Peek Hill, which
overlooks large tracts of West Devon.
The Walkhampton Common Reave separates the Meavy and Walkham valleys and
within this monument it survives as a rubble bank leading south west from
Sharpitor. A further two reaves lie parallel to the Walkhampton Common Reave
and together they form two narrow fields. A short distance to the south east
of these fields are two cairns, representing Bronze Age funary monuments. The
tor cairn at NGR SX55656995 is built around the summit rocks of Peek Hill and
survives as a band of stones measuring up to 5m wide. The ring cairn lies 30m
to the south west and survives as a 2.2m wide rubble bank surrounding a 13.6m
diameter internal area, within which are a number of edge set stones
suggesting the survival of internal structures. A small circular structure cut
into the centre of the cairn is probably a shelter.
The enclosure is built onto the south eastern edge of the Walkhampton Common
Reave and survives as a roughly rectangular area measuring up to 140m long by
120m wide denoted by a low rubble bank and external ditch. A small cairn in
the southern corner of this enclosure is probably the result of stone
clearance. The enclosure is more recent than the reaves which it cuts or abuts
and the presence of a ditch suggests an historic date.
In the area immediately north of Peek Hill a large number of concrete
platforms together with associated earthworks and spreads of bricks and mortar
represent the remnants of RAF Sharpitor, a radio navigation master station in
the South Western Gee chain. During World War II and on until the 1960s this
station, together with others, formed a chain of transmitters which permitted
accurate navigation of aircraft. A 240 foot (73m) high timber tower supported
the transmitting aerials and around this were a group of buildings containing
the services essential for the operation. In 1956, an underground civil
defence bunker was built at the site for the Royal Observer Corps. This
structure appears on the surface as a 17m long by 12m wide and 1.3m high
flat-topped oval mound. At the southern end is a 0.65m square concrete lined
opening which has been blocked with material to prevent access, whilst at the
other end a smaller opening represents a ventilation shaft. Further remains
will survive below ground.
At NGR SX55506992 is a small rectangular platform cut into the hillside. This
measures 3m long by 2.4m wide and the material displaced during its
construction forms a bank around its upper edge. The purpose of this structure
is unknown, but it is considered to have formed an outlying part of RAF
Sharpitor.
Scattered throughout the monument are small pits associated with mining and
quarrying activities. Those with associated crescent shaped banks relate to
mineral prospecting, whilst most of the others are probably the result of
small scale extraction of surface stone.
A Dartmoor Preservation Association boundary stone within the enclosure is
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground below and around it is
included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 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. Elaborate complexes of fields and
field boundaries are some of the major features of the Dartmoor landscape. The
reaves are part of an extensive system of prehistoric land division introduced
during the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They consist of simple linear stone
banks used to mark out discrete territories, some of which are tens of
kilometres in extent. The systems are defined by parallel, contour and
watershed reaves, dividing the lower land from the grazing zones of the higher
moor and defining the watersheds of adjacent river systems. Occupation sites
and funerary or ceremonial monuments are often incorporated in, or associated
with, reave complexes. Their longevity and their relationship with other
monument types provide important information on the diversity of social
organisation, land divisions and farming practices amongst prehistoric
communities. They show considerable longevity as a monument type, sometimes
surviving as fossilised examples in medieval field plans. They are an
important element in the existing landscape and, as such, a substantial
proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

The prehistoric coaxial field system and cairns, historic enclosure and part
of RAF Sharpitor together form a group of archaeological sites containing a
wide variety of information concerning the use of this area over a prolonged
period of time. Despite partial damage as a result of military activity, the
prehistoric archaeology survives well and will contain evidence relating to
the use of this crucial border area between two major prehistoric territories.
The structures and buildings associated with RAF Sharpitor were dismantled
after operations ceased, but enough remains to provide an insight into this
unusual and significant military base. The civil defence bunker provides a
further dimension to this site and is one of a comparatively small number to
survive intact.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1994), 85
Fleming, A, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in The Prehistoric Landscape Of Dartmoor Part 1: South Dartmoor, , Vol. 44, (1978), 122
Wilkinson, B, 'Dartmoor Magazine' in R.A.F. Sharpitor, , Vol. 44, (1996), 6-8
Other
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2000)

Source: Historic England

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