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Deserted medieval settlement at Challacombe

A Scheduled Monument in Manaton, Devon

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Latitude: 50.6011 / 50°36'3"N

Longitude: -3.8477 / 3°50'51"W

OS Eastings: 269336.1832

OS Northings: 79556.7211

OS Grid: SX693795

Mapcode National: GBR QC.3FBN

Mapcode Global: FRA 27TH.4T8

Entry Name: Deserted medieval settlement at Challacombe

Scheduled Date: 13 May 1963

Last Amended: 29 September 2010

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021395

English Heritage Legacy ID: 36024

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Manaton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Manaton St Winifred

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument, which falls into two areas, includes a deserted medieval
settlement situated immediately north of the present day farmhouse at
Challacombe. The settlement includes at least seven separate buildings set
alongside a north-south aligned track. All of the buildings survive at least
in part, as standing granite walling, although many are also composed of
earthworks where the walling has collapsed. The settlement continued in use
into the post-medieval period and some of the earlier longhouses were altered
during this time. The best preserved building stands within the southern
part of the settlement and its walls remain largely intact. There are
windows in the northern and eastern walls, it is divided into three rooms and
has corners built of large granite blocks.

The earliest documentary reference to this site is in 1481 when it is
referred to as Chalvecombe and by 1613 there were five separate tenements
which continued in use until at least 1880.

Immediately surrounding the medieval settlement at Challacombe lie a series
of further nationally important archaeological remains. These include some of
the best preserved medieval strip fields in Devon, earlier prehistoric
settlement and later tinworking activity. These remains form the subject of
two separate schedulings (SM36022 and SM36023).

All modern fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them 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 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 deserted medieval settlement at Challacombe forms the focus for the best
preserved strip field system in Devon and Cornwall. The settlement itself has
been altered during the post-medieval period, but considerable quantities of
medieval archaeology will survive. The settlement will contain information
relating to both medieval and post-medieval farming and tinworking in an
upland landscape. A comprehensive range of contemporary documentation exists
to complement the archaeological and environmental information.

Source: Historic England


Unpublished Plan, Griffiths, D, Challacombe, Manaton - Deserted medieval buildings,

Source: Historic England

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