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Deserted medieval settlement and field system with incorporated prehistoric settlement and field system and post-medieval farmhouse NW of Tresibbet Farm

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Deserted medieval settlement and field system with incorporated prehistoric settlement and field system and post-medieval farmhouse NW of Tresibbet Farm

List entry Number: 1007775


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: Cornwall

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Altarnun

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 04-Mar-1963

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Apr-1994

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 15272

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Bodmin Moor, the largest of the Cornish granite uplands, has long been recognised to have exceptional preservation of archaeological remains. The Moor has been the subject of detailed archaeological survey and is one of the best recorded upland landscapes in England. The extensive relict landscapes of prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the earliest prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, field systems, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains provides significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time.

Over 30 deserted medieval settlements retaining visible remains of medieval character are recorded on Bodmin Moor. Some of these are single abandoned farms but the majority are small hamlets containing two to 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 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. 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 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 farmhouses themselves, or else appear as outshuts attached to the longhouse. These additional structures served as barns, fuel or equipment stores and occasionally contained ovens and corn-drying kilns. While many settlements in Cornwall are known from documentary sources to be of medieval origin, well-preserved deserted sites are rare. Consequently those on Bodmin Moor provide the main surviving source of evidence for the distinctive form and layout of Cornish medieval settlements. The pattern of dispersed hamlets which characterised this period of settlement remains a strong influence on the existing settlement pattern in Cornwall, both on and off the Moor. Elaborate complexes of fields and field boundaries are a major feature of the Moor landscape. Irregular aggregate field systems are one method of field layout known to have been employed in south west England during the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). Irregular aggregate field systems comprise a collection of field plots, generally lacking in conformity of orientation and arrangement, containing fields with sinuous outlines and varying shapes and sizes bounded by stone or rubble walls or banks, ditches or fences. Irregular aggregate field systems often incorporate or are situated near stone hut circles, the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on the Moor, mostly also dating from the Bronze Age. The stone-based round houses survive as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; the remains of a turf or thatch roof are not preserved as visible features. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may occur in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Prehistoric field systems and hut circles are important elements of the existing landscape and provide important evidence on the organisation of farming practices and settlement during the prehistoric period. The relatively unintensive post-medieval land use of upland areas which has allowed the preservation of much surviving prehistoric and medieval settlement evidence also permits the survival of medieval field systems which often abut or impinge on the earlier, prehistoric, remains. Regular enclosed field systems are one such field system type known to have been employed during the later medieval period (AD 1066-1550). They comprise a methodically-arranged collection of field plots in which individual holdings were systematically distributed through different parts of the field system's overall area. This was achieved by several known methods of field layout depending on whether the field system was superimposed on an earlier, sometimes unenclosed, field system or whether it was newly established on the area covered, and whether or not the field system comprised a cohesive or dispersed collection of plots. The resulting regular enclosed field systems often include collections of elongated strip-form plots, each plot representing one unit of an individual's holding. Medieval field systems also form an important element of the existing landscape, providing information on the organisation of medieval farming and settlement, its expansion onto the uplands and providing evidence for the successive changes in land use that have affected the Moor. This deserted medieval settlement on Tresibbet Farm has survived well, showing clearly its internal layout, the relationship between the settlement and its field system, and the form and construction of its constituent buildings. This is one of the largest deserted medieval settlements on the Moor and the presence of distinct groupings of long houses within its linear pattern is unusual. The incorporation of the prehistoric settlement and field system into the medieval layout shows both the changing nature of settlement and farming activity across these periods and the influence that prehistoric activity can retain on those of later periods. The contraction of the medieval settlement's occupation and its final abandonment in the early post-medieval period typifies the later development of these upland settlements but it is rare to find such intact settlement and field system evidence from the prehistoric to the post-medieval periods in such close physical association. This provides a rare opportunity to observe a near-continuous sequence of land-use episodes from the Bronze Age to the present day. Of the monument's early occupation, the hut circle settlement has also survived well; its manner of levelling hut circles by terracing is found elsewhere in this vicinity but is generally an unusual feature. The proximity of the monument to other prehistoric and medieval settlements and field systems on this valley side sets this monument in its wider context of land-use at each phase in its development.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a deserted medieval settlement and its regular enclosed field system situated on the eastern slope of the upper River Fowey valley on southern Bodmin Moor. Incorporated within the medieval field system is a prehistoric settlement of four large stone hut circles with traces of its irregular field system. Two farmhouses of the medieval settlement were later modified and one was occupied into the early post-medieval period before its abandonment. The deserted buildings in the medieval settlement are arranged in a linear pattern, extending NNW-SSE over 270m of the valley's eastern mid-slope at about the 250m contour level. A hollowed routeway, up to 3m wide and 1m deep, runs the length of the settlement, linking most of its buildings and extending beyond the settlement at each end. At intervals, this routeway, called a hollow way, branches at right-angles, upslope and downslope, to provide access to the adjacent fields. The settlement contains at least seven farmhouses, each of a distinctive form called a longhouse and each adjacent to the hollow way. A group of three longhouses and their ancillary buildings is located at each end of the settlement, with a single long house, 50m from each group, at the centre of the settlement. The long houses survive with walling of coursed rubble and edge-set facing slabs, up to 1.2m wide and 1.2m high, defining an elongated rectangular outer wall whose long axis is orientated directly downslope, generally ENE-WSW on this slope. The long houses range in overall internal size from 10m by 4.7m to 16.5m by 4.2m. Most of the long houses retain visible evidence for transverse subdivision by slighter rubble walling or by large edge-set slabs. These subdivisions mark a downslope shippon, or stock-byre, up to 4m long, from the upslope domestic quarters. Opposed entrance gaps, up to 1.5m wide, usually occur in the long outer walls at the junction of the domestic quarters with the shippon. The domestic quarters are also visibly subdivided in four long houses, each possessing a small room, up to 2.7m long, at its upslope end. This is considered to have formed a bedroom or a dry storage area, consistently raised above the floor level of the remainder of the domestic quarters. Other subdivisions within the domestic quarters are usually of edge-set slabs, forming screens between rooms and between the domestic quarters and the cross-passage. All except the central long house of the settlement have adjoining or adjacent ancillary buildings, usually one or two but up to three with each long house, totalling ten ancillary buildings visible in the settlement as a whole. The ancillary buildings are also rectangular, with long axes parallel or at right-angles to the long house. They are built in a similar manner to the long houses, with coursed rubble and slab walling up to 1m wide and 1.2m high, and they range in size from 3m by 1.5m to 6.5m by 3.5m internally. Two ancillary buildings with the SSE group of long houses are transversely subdivided by edge-set slabs and one building with the NNW group has foundations of a triangular partitioned area, 2m long and up to 1m wide, against its northern wall. The other ancillary buildings lack visible subdivision. In addition to these surviving physical remains, an historical record of AD 1311 referring to the settlement of `Tresebed' is considered to relate to this deserted settlement. A broadly contemporary regular enclosed field system extends both upslope, ENE, and downslope, WSW, from the settlement's linear axis. The field system is defined by earth-and-rubble banks, up to 1.5m wide and 0.7m high, some of which are incorporated into the modern pattern of field boundaries, with refurbished rubble-facing and additional stone-walling. Where banks run along the contour, a substantial deposit of ploughsoil and hillwash, called a lynchet, has accumulated against their uphill sides. The field system survives over 7ha, within which its major field banks run directly across the contour, 25m to 80m apart, generally following near-straight courses from the settlement's hollow way to the foot of the slope, to a maximum 230m to the WSW, and up to near the crest of the slope, to a maximum 120m to the ENE. The bank marking the south east surviving extent of the field system along the slope is accompanied along its south east side by a ditch, up to 2m wide and 0.6m deep. Lynchetted cross-banks within the field system subdivide the resulting strips at intervals into individual plots, ranging from 0.1ha to 0.55ha each. Finer subdivision of plots adjacent to the settlement's hollow way produces several small yards and garden plots of 0.02ha to 0.1ha. The hollow way forming the axis for both the settlement and field system ends to the south east as a visible feature where it meets the ditched bank delimiting the field system's surviving extent. To the north west, it survives 100m beyond the surviving limit of the settlement and field system, its hollowed course lined by modern refurbished hedgebanks, 3m-4m apart. The field system contains remains of two further medieval buildings. One survives as a rubble-walled rectangular stance, measuring 5m by 4m internally, located in a northern plot, 60m west of the hollow way. The other is a slight, rubble-walled rectangular structure, measuring 3m by 2.5m internally, considered to be a medieval tin-miners' store, built within the southern end of a prehistoric hut circle's interior, 100m south west of the settlement's central long house. The medieval field system contains elements near the centre of its area which derive from its incorporation of an earlier, prehistoric, irregular aggregate field system on this hillside. The walls of the prehistoric field system also survive as banks of earth and heaped rubble, up to 1.5m wide and 0.7m high. They include many sinuous irregularities in their courses, contrasting with the generally straighter medieval boundaries, though some of the latter incorporate lengths of prehistoric wall, with the irregularities, near the settlement's central long house. The prehistoric field system survives over 2ha of the slope and includes at least four plots, of 0.09ha to 0.5ha each. The smallest plot extends west from the central medieval long house and two further adjoining plots extend WSW, forming a row of increasing plot size and width down the slope. The fourth plot extends east from the area of the medieval settlement's NNW group of long houses but only its distinctively sinuous eastern wall survives. This prehistoric field system incorporates a settlement of four stone hut circles, three spaced 17m-25m apart in the central plot of the row of three plots, the fourth situated 45m to their south at the boundary of the central and lower plots. The hut circles are each levelled out from the slope by a rubble terrace supporting their wall and interior. They survive with walls of heaped and coursed rubble, up to 2m wide and 1m high, rising to 1.5m above ground level including the height of the supporting terrace. Their walls, containing frequent edge-set inner and outer facing slabs, define levelled circular internal areas, ranging from 4m to 9.5m in diameter. The southern hut circle, which contains the slight rubble-walled medieval structure, is truncated along its ENE side by a straight, lynchetted cross-bank of the medieval field system. A fifth hut circle within the monument is situated 9m south of the uphill end of ditched boundary forming the south eastern limit of the medieval field system. This is the northern of five hut circles dispersed along the crest of the hillslope. It survives with a heaped rubble wall, up to 1m wide and 0.4m high, defining an internal area 4.75m in diameter, levelled into the slope. Its wall has inner and outer facing slabs and an entrance gap, 0.5m wide, facing south west, flanked by edge-set slabs, up to 0.5m high, across the wall-line. The next hut circle in this dispersed group is located beyond the monument, 30m to the SSE. Partial occupation of the medieval settlement after most of its buildings had been abandoned resulted in modification to two of its long houses. The central long house was re-built as a slighter rectangular structure whose coursed rubble walls, up to 0.7m wide and 0.7m high, overlie those of the long house except along the northern side where they run 1m to the south. Occupation of the settlement's NNW long house continued into the post-medieval period. It was extended and refurbished to give total internal dimensions of 16.5m by 4.2m and walling surviving up to 1m wide and 1.3m high. Its interior was converted entirely to domestic use; the east wall of the western, downslope, room contains an intact bread oven, 1m in diameter with a stone-framed entrance 0.4m square. Beyond the monument, other deserted medieval and prehistoric settlements with field systems are located 1km to the south east and 650m to the NNW along the same side of the valley. All modern post-and-wire fences, gates and gate fittings; the bed of the water-course crossing the slope near the centre of the settlement and its buried pipe are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features, including hedgebanks and stone walls, 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.

Selected Sources

CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text consulted 1993
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plot and field trace for SX 2075,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 1975 & SX 2075,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 1975-6 & SX 2075-6,
consulted 1993, Carter, A./Fletcher, M.J./RCHME, 1:2500 AP plots and field traces for SX 1975-6 & SX 2075-6,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1009.04,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1044,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1044.07,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1044.12,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1044.15,
consulted 1993, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1045,
FMW visit on 15/9/1981, Sheppard, P.A., AM107 FMW report for CO 614, (1981)

National Grid Reference: SX 20036 75869


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