Deserted medieval settlement 750m south of White Hill summit


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Devon (District Authority)
Peter Tavy
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 53357 83106

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 paving. 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 0.8m high. 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.

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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX58SW68,
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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