Medieval settlement and field system south of Tresellern Farm, incorporating Prehistoric hut circle settlements


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011287

Date first listed: 28-May-1992


Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement and field system south of Tresellern Farm, incorporating Prehistoric hut circle settlements
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: North Hill

National Grid Reference: SX 23614 76370

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 settlements founded in the medieval period and 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 between 2 and 6 houses. Of these desertions, 20 were abandoned during the medieval period and 8 are known to have survived into the post- medieval period before abandonment. While many settlements in Cornwall are of medieval origin, well-preserved deserted sites are rare and virtually unknown off Bodmin Moor, where they provide the main source of evidence for the distinctive form and layout of medieval settlements in Cornwall and their development to produce the dispersed settlement pattern still evident today. Twelve of the deserted settlements on Bodmin Moor retain their complete or near complete field systems of several types. One such form is the regular enclosed field system whereby the individual plots, bounded by permanent hedges, wall or banks, often ditched, form a regular, systematic subdivision of the landscape. The individual plots often form subdivisions of larger blocks, with similar permanent boundaries, whose form may be determined by the local topography or by the boundaries of an earlier system of land division. Regular enclosed field systems appear during the medieval period with the decline of the unenclosed strip-field system, the manorial system that administered it and mixed farming in upland areas, coupled with the rising status of individual smaller land-holders keen to consolidate their new holdings by enclosure in a manner suitable for more specialised farming regimes appropriate to the local circumstances. Studies of these changes using evidence from Bodmin Moor has shown that the resulting regular enclosed field systems appear there during the 13th century with the process gathering pace in the 14th century and continuing into the post-medieval period. Consequently, regular enclosed field systems, particularly those retaining their association with a datable settlement, provide valuable information both on the nature of farming practices at the time of their use and on the development of farming methods, social organisation and land tenure during the medieval and early post-medieval periods. The location of many better preserved medieval settlements and field systems on Bodmin Moor in areas that have never been subject to intensive agriculture sometimes results in the survival of earlier traces of settlement within or near the medieval fields. These can include stone hut circles, the dwelling places of Prehistoric farmers on the Moor, mostly dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000 - 700 BC). The stone-based round houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; remains of a turf or thatch roof are not preserved. The huts occur singly or in groups and may be sited in the open or enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Although they are common on the Moor, their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices among Prehistoric communities. This monument on Tresellern Farm includes a rare and well-documented example of a medieval settlement which survived into, and was abandoned during, the early post-medieval period. The settlement has survived well, displaying clearly its internal organisation, unencumbered by modern buildings, and it will retain important evidence for the nature of the transition from the medieval to the early post-medieval farm hamlet. The small yards and garden plots included in the settlement's diversity of original features are complemented by the rare survival of its near-complete field system. This field system shows clear evidence for its careful planning and deliberate organisation. It has been little-modified by modern hedge-banks and is typical of the regular enclosed field systems that emerged during the later medieval period. Taken together, this settlement and its field system demonstrate well the organisation of farming practices and their relationship to the topography during the later medieval and early post-medieval period. Their proximity to other broadly contemporary deserted medieval settlements and field systems in the Withey Brook valley illustrates the wider settlement pattern and the nature of upland land use during this period. The Prehistoric hut circle settlement and other hut circles near the northern edge of the field system shows well the development of land-use on this hillside over a considerable period, represented also by the discovery of both Prehistoric and medieval artefacts within the area of the field system. Several of these hut circles also survive well, showing clearly their construction technique. Their proximity to other Prehistoric settlement sites, field systems and funerary cairns demonstrates the organisation of farming and ritual activities by Prehistoric communities.


The monument includes an unenclosed Prehistoric hut circle settlement, two other, broadly contemporary, stone hut circles, and a small deserted medieval settlement complete with its field system of embanked plots. It is situated around the southern flanks of a broad rounded spur projecting SE into the Withey Brook valley from the southern side of East Moor on eastern Bodmin Moor. The unenclosed hut circle settlement contains a cluster of six stone hut circles on the SE crest of the spur. The three hut circles in the NW edge of the settlement survive with circular rubble walls, up to 1.2m wide and 0.5m high, incorporating inner and outer facing slabs and defining levelled internal areas ranging from 3.25m to 6.5m in diameter. The easternmost and smallest of these three hut circles has a complete, continuous line of inner and outer facing slabs and an entrance gap facing south, marked on its eastern side by an edge-set slab set across the wall line. The other three hut circles, in the SE part of the settlement, are of similar construction but have suffered varying degrees of robbing of their walls' facing slabs and rubble for medieval and modern wall-building and field-clearance. A modern hedgebank includes in its course one side of the wall of two of these hut circles, resulting in a distinct curve in the field edge. The circular, levelled interiors of these hut circles range from 4m to 8.7m in diameter and are bounded by slighter rubble walling than the other hut circles, forming an incomplete circuit in two examples. The other two stone hut circles in this monument are situated 200m WSW of the hut circle settlement and adjoin each other on a north-south axis. They are also located close to the continuation of the same modern hedgebank that passes through the settlement, with a similar effect on their survival. These hut circles are each visible as a turf-covered platform, levelled by cutting slightly into the hillslope at their uphill, northern, edge and built out from the slope as a rubble terrace rising up to 1m above the slope surface at their southern edge. The platforms each contain a peripheral rubble wall up to 1.5m wide and 0.2m high around the circular interior area 8m in diameter. The modern hedgebank includes in its course the northern sector of the northern hut circle's wall, while a massive ground-fast boulder remains in the northern edge of the southern hut circle's wall. Several flint artefacts have been found within the medieval field immediately south of these hut circles. The deserted medieval settlement is centred 320m NE of the Prehistoric hut circle settlement. It is divided into three sectors by a hollowed trackway extending north from the centre of the settlement's southern edge, and visible for 40m to its junction with a broad and deeply channelled yard area running east, down the slope, from the centre of the settlement's western edge. The trackway survives as a 3m wide hollow, 0.5m deep, with occasional flat slabs visible embedded in its surface, the remains of a former rough paving. The yard area measures 40m east-west by a maximum 13m wide, sunken throughout and fairly level over its eastern half, but as its western half rises up the hillslope it narrows to 8m wide and is cut up to 1.3m deep. In the sector immediately north of the yard, the earthworks define the remains of two similar elongated farmhouses, of a type known as long-houses, each with an east-west long axis and separated by a gap of 6m. The long-houses are each visible as largely turf-covered rubble foundations and walling up to 1m high and 1.5m wide, forming a long, narrow, rectangular plan measuring externally up to 20m east-west by 6m north-south. The interior surface of the southern long-house has a clear north-south step marking off its eastern half, typical of the division between the domestic quarters at the higher end of the long-house and the cattle byre at the lower end. Further small scarps and hollows immediately west of the long-houses mark the former presence of ancillary structures there, while slight cultivation ridges are visible to the north. A turf-covered earth-and-rubble bank, up to 2.5m wide and 1m high, runs west from the long-house complex, along the northern edge of the yard area, then turns north, extending for 36m, defining the western side of the settlement's northern sector. The surviving northern and eastern limits of that sector are defined by modern hedgebanks. On each side of the track running into the settlement from the south, the SW and SE sectors are subdivided into small plots by earth-and-rubble banks of similar size and construction to that defining the northern sector's western side. In the SE sector these form three adjoining subrectangular plots, up to 36m long, east-west, by 13m wide, bounded along their eastern edge by a short natural erosion scarp at the edge of the valley floor marsh. These plots also contain cultivation ridges and furrows on an east-west axis. The SW sector is less regularly subdivided; along its northern edge, bordering the edge of the sunken yard, steps in the slope with traces of walling slabs define a rectangular area measuring 23m ENE-WSW by 7.5m wide, considered to mark the site of a third long-house. Ancillary structures are indicated by further scarping associated with projecting slabs immediately to the SW of the long- house in the centre of this sector. Earthen fieldbanks curve to form two adjoining small, rounded plots, of 0.1 hectare in the west of the sector and 0.15 hectare in the south. The medieval field system extends over 20 hectares around the slope of the spur, south-west from the deserted settlement, and is defined by turf-coverd earth-and-rubble banks of the same size and construction as those defining plots within the settlement; only those boundaries along the northern and western limits of the field system and one crossing its centre have been converted into modern, faced hedgebanks, and each of those preserves the line of its medieval predecessor. The field system is of a form known as a regular enclosed field system. It was constructed with three major boundaries running across the slope of the spur, the lowest following the edge of the marsh, the uppermost along the edge of the spur's summit crest, with the third boundary approximately midway between the other two at almost exactly the 250m contour level. The individual field plots were formed by subdivision of the two zones defined by these major boundaries. The subdividing banks are radial to the spur, such that the long axis of the plots always remains downslope. The spacing of the subdividing banks, and hence the size of the resulting plots, varies between the upper and lower zones defined by the major boundaries. The upper zone contains ten plots ranging in size from 0.45 hectares to 1.2 hectares, though only three plots exceed 1 hectare in extent. The eight plots in the lower zone range from 0.5 hectares to 3 hectares in extent, of which six exceed 1 hectare; the plot size in this zone also increases with distance from the medieval settlement, with two smallest plots nearest to the deserted settlement. Medieval pottery has been recovered from molehills within these smaller plots. Traces of finer radial subdivisions are also present within the upper zone field plot adjoining those two smaller plots. Breaks in the field banks, generally 2-3m wide, mark the sites of original gateways, usually at the junctions of the subdividing radial walls with the major contour boundaries. The angular course of the uphill major boundary of this field system indicates the original presence of a third, uppermost zone of smaller rectangular fields crowning the spur's summit itself; one small field remaining from that zone survives in the field system on the eastern side of the spur. In addition to the surviving field evidence given above, the medieval settlement at Tresellern is also attested by a documentary reference to 'Treselern' dated AD 1310, and its early foundation is further supported by its Cornish place-name containing the element 'res', meaning a ford, or 'ros', a hillslope or spur. Continuity of the settlement's occupation into the early post-medieval period is evidenced by the discovery, during the 19th century, of mid-16th century coins and an octagonal cheese-press at the settlement. Its last documentary reference occurs in a lease dated 1715, referring to a 'hall- house and the chamber over, with the barn at Tresellyn or Resellyn'. It is depicted as 'ruins' on the earliest Ordnance Survey map of 1813 and the robbing of some surviving superstructure is recorded by the late 19th century antiquary Baring-Gould. All modern post-and-wire fences and gates are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them 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.


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

Legacy System number: 15179

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Austin, D, Gerrard, G A M, Greeves, T A P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Tin And Agriculture Landscape Archaeology In St Neot Parish, , Vol. 28, (1989)
Baring-Gould, S, 'J Royal Inst Cornwall' in An Ancient Settlement on Trewortha Marsh, , Vol. 11, (1891)
King, G, Sheppard, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parochial Checklist of Antiquities 10: Parish of North Hill, , Vol. 18, (1979)
consulted 2/1992, Carter, A (RCHME), 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 2376,
consulted 2/1992, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription for SX 2476,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1011,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1061,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1066,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1074,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1074.1,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1076,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1079,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1080,
consulted 2/1992, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1120,
Ref: 3G/TUD/VK 137 pt2 5148, RAF air photo, (1946)
Title: 1": 1 mile 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, sheet No. 2376 Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing