Reasons for Designation
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 farms 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 were
abandoned at a later date.
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 across the long house, linking opposed openings
in the long side walls.
Ancillary buildings are generally separated slightly from the farmhouse
itself, or else appear 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 pattern of dispersed hamlets
which characterised this period of settlement remains a strong influence on
the existing settlement pattern in Devon, both on and off the Moor.
The deserted medieval settlement 750m south of White Hill summit survives
comparatively well and contains archaeological information relating to the
occupation of the western side of Dartmoor during the medieval period.
This monument includes a medieval long house, outbuilding and associated
farmyard situated on the lower SSE-facing slope of White Hill overlooking the
valley of the Willsworthy Brook.
The long house survives as a rectangular two roomed building terraced into the
hillslope. The lower room is the largest and measures 15m long by 4.3m wide
internally, and is defined by a 1.4m wide drystone rubble wall standing up to
0.8m high. Opposed entrances survive as well defined gaps midway along the
long-axis of this room. In the area immediately upslope of the cross-passage
defined by the entrances is a small pit which suggests either partial early
excavation, robbing or later reuse of the structure. In the area immediately
downslope from the long house a shallow drainage ditch measuring 1.5m wide and
up to 0.2m deep leads away from the building. The upper room represents a
later addition to the building and measures 4m square internally.
The outbuilding lies 2.5m north east of the long house and includes a single
roomed rectangular building, terraced into the slope. The interior of this
building measures 9.2m long by 3.8m wide and is defined by a rubble wall
standing up to 1.5m wide and 0.9m high. Both buildings are linked to each
other by a short length of drystone wall measuring 1m wide and standing up to
0.2m high. This wall forms the north western edge of a small farmyard which
measures 15m north east to south west by 11.5m north west to south east and is
defined by a lyncheted boundary bank measuring 1.2m wide and standing up to
This settlement lies within a contemporary field system which survives as
three separate boundaries. The first leads south west for a short distance
from the settlement and the remaining two survive as incomplete lengths of
bank to the north east and south west respectively. All these boundaries have
been damaged by post-medieval fields, military and mining activity. In
addition, further lengths have been buried below peat accumulation and
consequently not enough remains to allow an accurate assessment of the
character and extent of the field system associated with this settlement. The
field system is therefore not included within this scheduling.
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.