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Coaxial field systems and associated later remains between Deckler's Cliff and Gammon Head

A Scheduled Monument in East Portlemouth, Devon

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Latitude: 50.215 / 50°12'53"N

Longitude: -3.7376 / 3°44'15"W

OS Eastings: 276125.585987

OS Northings: 36438.146441

OS Grid: SX761364

Mapcode National: GBR QJ.NZG4

Mapcode Global: FRA 381G.CQK

Entry Name: Coaxial field systems and associated later remains between Deckler's Cliff and Gammon Head

Scheduled Date: 20 July 2001

Last Amended: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021253

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33774

County: Devon

Civil Parish: East Portlemouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: East Portlemouth St Winwalloe Onocaus

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument includes the surviving portions of a once larger prehistoric
field system, two coaxial parts of which contain scattered hut circles and
three hut groups. It also includes an enclosed hut settlement, two field
clearance cairns and, of medieval and post-medieval date, an animal pound
and shepherds' hut, an isolated building, two hollow ways and two 19th
century iron mines with miners' cottages, complex surface workings, a
tramway system and port facility. The monument is located in heathland and
farmland on a rocky coastline with spectacular views to the south and
The northern area of coaxial field system includes a large number of
fields laid out on a north to south axis and is the best preserved part of
a wider system which is 1.8km east-west and 1.2km north-south. It lies in
a valley with steeply sloping sides and occasional rock outcrops,
especially along its southern edge, where a steep coastal slope falls
abruptly to the sea which borders the south side of the monument. Some of
the coaxial boundaries continue down this slope. Many of the fields were
ploughed during the medieval period, forming lynchets on the valley side.
Their boundaries vary between 3m and 5m wide and are from 1m to 2.5m high,
containing occasional vertical earthfast stone slabs, set close together.
These slabs are about 0.5m wide, 0.2m thick and stand up to 1m high. Two
groups of hut circles are located within this area of field system, in
sheltered hollows below rock outcrops. The huts are between 8m and 11m in
diameter, with walls up to 2m wide and 1m high, grouped together with
their walls touching. Elsewhere in the system are isolated huts of similar
The southern area of coaxial field system comprises the relict western
edge of a once larger system which is 2.2km east-west by 0.8km
north-south. Its terminal bank, which contains many orthostats, runs along
a ridge from east to west and meets the sea at Hamstone Cove. Its
westernmost coaxial boundary runs to the south along a rocky ridge,
terminating at Gammon Head and a series of irregular banks runs off it
down the coastal slope to the west. At the foot of this slope near Bull
Rock are several sub-rectangular and curved earthwork hut platforms, an
average of 22m long and 12m wide, with enclosing banks 3m to 4m wide and
up to 1.5m high. Some 150m north of these are two circular hut platforms
14m and 8m in diameter, on a south facing slope in the corner of a relict
Between these two areas of coaxial field system is an irregular field
system of earth banks which run from the sea up to the top of the coastal
slope between Venerick's Cove and Hamstone Cove. These are between 40m and
90m apart and measure from 2m to 3.5m wide and up to 1.5m high. Within
this field system is a small ovoid enclosure on the south side of the
hilltop, north of Venerick's Cove. It survives as a cropmark and partly as
an earthwork on the coastal slope and measures 40m wide by 140m long,
surrounded by a bank 10m wide and up to 1m high on its south side. It
contains at least four hut circles between 12m and 16m in diameter,
appearing as cropmarks, with a fifth surviving as a platform in the
coastal slope below. Fields to the north bear the name Woodberry.
Evidence for the later use of this area includes several features of
medieval, post-medieval and modern date. A medieval hollow way runs along
the south side of the valley bottom, north of Deckler's Cliff and is 5m
wide by up to 2m deep, with a high hedge forming its north side. Where
this hollow way meets the sea at Seacombe Sand, it divides into two and
becomes 3m to 5m wide and up to 4m deep as it descends the cliff to the
beach. A similar hollow way descends to Hamstone Cove, near which is a
rectangular post-medieval building which measures 17m by 7m with rubble
walls 1m wide, terraced into the hillside. Above Venerick's Cove is a
sub-rectangular animal pound with banks of earth and stone which measures
30m by 25m and has a small shepherds' hut in its south western corner. A
19th century stone wall divides the pound. This is broadly contemporary
with the several small medieval lynchets which survive in the field system
to the east.
Two iron mines within the field systems operated between 1857 and 1860. An
openwork 50m long, 20m wide and up to 6m deep was dug on Pig's Nose and a
spoil heap deposited to its south beside the stream. Following the lode to
the east, an exploratory adit was driven with hand tools and explosives
20m into the hillside. This remains open and is 1.5m wide and 2m high.
Slight dumps and an access track lie to the west of the adit tail, which
has partly collapsed.
Immediately east of Seacombe Sand and for a distance of 200m to the north
east, a second mine had a series of adits, shafts, lode back pits and an
openwork following two parallel lodes on a south west to north east axis,
but access to its workings is no longer possible as all shafts and adits
have collapsed. The lowest level on the southern lode was entered by an
adit immediately above the cove west of Deckler's Island. Some 70m west of
this and beside the cliff path is its dump, 20m wide and up to 1.5m high.
Above the adit, a pithead platform lies alongside a collapsed shaft,
behind which two more adits led to the mine's second and third levels.
The northern lode runs 30m to the north and lies within the coaxial field
system, inland from the coastal slope. Its western end is marked by a pair
of lode back pits, the first of which has a pair of narrow dumps on its
west side. Two small exploratory adits to their west are accompanied by
slight dumps. Immediately adjoining these, an openwork 15m wide, 30m long
and 4m deep follows the lode to the north east. A pair of dumps, each 8m
wide and up to 3m high, curve round to meet each other down the steeply
sloping hillside to the west, while a trackway led down the hillside to
the north. Some 30m further along the lode are two collapsed shafts, one
with a dump to its north west. The shafts are 4m and 6m in diameter and
are conical in section, up to 2m deep. The adjoining dump is 17m wide and
up to 3m high with a flat summit. South of these shafts are two small
trial pits and a possible adit. North east of the shafts, a broad level
pithead area terraced into the hillside is 17m long and 11m wide. A small
dump to its north is 10m by 13m and up to 2m high. A trackway leads
diagonally down the hillside to the west. Where the coastal path crosses
the stream which flows down the valley to the north west of the mine, a
pair of small miners' cottages survives, 10m wide and 20m long, with walls
0.4m thick and up to 2m high. They each had a single ground floor living
room with a fireplace, and a newel stair in one corner leading to a
sleeping loft.
The mine was served by a system of tramways associated with the workings
on the southern lode, leading down to a port facility below the small
promontory known as Deckler's Island to the south. The rails of the
tramway were laid on timber baulks. The tramway served the dump, west of
the lowest adit and climbed diagonally up the hillside to the first shaft.
A line zigzagged down the slope from the adit and onto Deckler's Island. A
concave chute of mortared stone discharged iron ore onto a timber quay on
the east side of the island, supported on large timber posts cut into the
rock. Ships were loaded with a swing crane, the socket for which survives.
Ore storage platforms were cut into the cliff base on the south side of
the island and a further tramway supported on iron stanchions connected
these with the quay. Two small buildings were sited at the west end of the
storage area and survive as depressions in the rock 4m and 6m square. A
tramway led around the western side of the island to a timber inclined
plane which connected with the tramways on the cliff above. Evidence
survives for the majority of these features.
All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them is included.

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

Coaxial field systems are one of several methods of land division employed
during the Bronze Age; evidence from areas such as Dartmoor, where they are
relatively common, suggest their introduction around 1700 BC and their
continued use until 1000 BC. They generally consist of linear stones banks
forming parallel boundaries running up slope to meet similar boundaries that
run along the contours of higher slopes. The long strips formed by the
parallel boundaries may be subdivided by cross banks to form a series of
rectangular field plots, each sharing a common axis. Broadly contemporary
occupation sites, comprising hut circle settlements, and funerary and
ceremonial sites, may be found within these enclosed fields.
Coaxial field systems are representative of their period and an important
element in the existing landscape. Surviving examples are likely to be
considered of national importance.

The coaxial field systems between Deckler's Cliff and Gammon Head are
important survivals in an area where such systems have not previously been
identified. The fields, their boundary banks, associated hut circles and
later features will contain archaeological and environmental information
relating to their construction and use, and the contemporary landscape.
19th century iron mines are a prominent type of field monument produced by
iron mining. They consist of a range of features grouped around the adits
and shafts of a mine. The evidence for adit and shaft mining, with pit
head platforms, a tramway system and a complex port facility make the
sites at Deckler's Cliff and Pig's Nose unusual in an area where mining
was not common. The above and below ground remains will contain
archaeological and environmental information relating to their excavation,
construction and use within the landscape.

Source: Historic England


fieldwork by National Trust, Thackeray, C, (1983)
fieldwork by National Trust, Thackeray, C, (1983)
MPP fieldwork by R Waterhouse, Waterhouse, R, (2000)
MPP fieldwork by R Waterhouse, Waterhouse, R, (2000)
MPP fieldwork by R Waterhouse, Waterhouse, R, (2000)

Source: Historic England

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