This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

A partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, round cairn, post medieval farmstead, millstone and stone cutting pits 580m ESE of Merrivale Bridge

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: A partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, round cairn, post medieval farmstead, millstone and stone cutting pits 580m ESE of Merrivale Bridge

List entry Number: 1013427

Location

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

County: Devon

District: West Devon

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Dartmoor Forest

National Park: DARTMOOR

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 20-Nov-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Jan-1996

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 24191

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

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 provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, major 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. Stone hut circles and hut settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on Dartmoor. They mostly date from the Bronze Age, with the earliest examples on the Moor in this building tradition dating to about 1700 BC. The stone-based round houses consist of low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; remains of the turf or thatch roof are not preserved. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may lie in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Although they are common on the Moor, their longevity and their relationship with other monument types provide important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

In addition to the partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, the monument includes a round cairn. Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, the latter predominating in areas of upland Britain where such raw materials were locally available in abundance. Round cairns may cover single or multiple burials and are sometimes surrounded by an outer ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major visual element in the modern landscape. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Dartmoor provides one of the best preserved and most dense concentrations of round cairns in south western Britain. Of more than 600 post-medieval farmsteads recorded on Dartmoor, around 100 are now deserted. Although some of these were established as late as the 18th and 19th centuries, many have their origin as medieval settlements, some perhaps dating back to as early as the 11th century. Those founded in the post- medieval period represent a time in which arable farming increased in popularity on the Moor, resulting in a large number of new farms being built on previously unenclosed moorland. Many of these farms were abandoned after a relatively short time and provide rare examples of planned single period farmsteads. Most deserted post-medieval farmsteads survive as single farmhouses associated with a variety of outbuildings, including: ash houses, barns, cow houses, dairies, hulls, stables, linhays, shippons, cartsheds, dog kennels and lavatories. Other features commonly found with farmsteads include gardens and farmyards which acted as a focal point for many farming activities. In most cases, deserted post-medieval farmsteads are associated with contemporary field systems, many of which still remain in use for grazing or cultivation. Deserted post-medieval farmsteads will provide information about the developing character of agricultural exploitation within an upland landscape during the historic period, and reflect a response to changing environmental and economic conditions. Surviving examples are relatively rare away from the moorland areas in south west England, and consequently those on Dartmoor provide a major source of evidence for this type of site. Despite partial excavation and limited stone robbing and splitting, the partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, round cairn and post-medieval farmstead 580m ESE of Merrivale Bridge survive well and together form a popular visitor attraction. Many of the stone hut circles within the settlement are particularly well preserved and are regularly used for educational purposes. The post-medieval farmstead, although an intrusive element within the monument, represents an excellent example of a small scale early 19th century upland farming venture.

History

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

Details

This monument, which falls into two areas, includes a partially enclosed stone hut circle settlement, round cairn, post-medieval farmstead, millstone and stone cutting pits situated on a gentle west facing slope overlooking the valley of the River Walkham. The stone hut circle settlement includes a scatter of at least 36 stone hut circles together with four separate enclosures. The north western enclosure survives as a 53m long and 29m wide area defined by a 1.5m wide and 0.9m high rubble wall, except on the northern side where no boundary is visible, although originally a palisade or similar feature may have completed the circuit. Two stone hut circles are associated with this enclosure, both lying at the northern end, although only one is attached to the boundary wall. The central enclosure survives as a 57m long and 31m wide irregular shaped area defined by a 3m wide and 1.5m high rubble wall which is double faced in places. The irregular shape of this enclosure may be the result of a number of earthfast boulders being incorporated into the circuit. Some of the larger stones within the wall have been split using the tear and feather technique. A gap in the northern circuit of the enclosure wall may represent an original entrance. A solitary stone hut circle lies within the eastern part of the enclosure, whilst within the western part lie two post-medieval stone splitting pits and a complete cider mill, edge runner stone. The southern enclosure is also irregular in shape, measures 35m long by 30m wide and is defined by a sinuous single orthostatic wall composed of large boulders. A stone hut circle is attached to the northern length of boundary wall. The eastern enclosure is the largest within the settlement and despite partial remodification during the early part of the 19th century survives as a 68m long by 47m wide irregular shaped area defined by a 1.5m wide and 0.6m high sinuous single orthostatic wall composed of large boulders. A stone hut circle is linked to the southern part of the enclosure boundary. The stone hut circles are composed of stone and earth banks each surrounding an internal area. Of the 36 hut circles, six are oval in plan and the remainder are circular. The internal diameters of the circular buildings vary from 4.6m to 10m, with the average being 6.32m, whilst the lengths of the oval buildings vary between 3.5m and 7.4m and the widths are between 2.5m and 5.8m. The height of all the walls vary between 0.4m and 1.2m, with the average being 0.77m. Sixteen of the huts have visible doorways, four lie within or are attached to enclosures and one has a porch. Within the southern part of the settlement a string of six freestanding huts with a marked linear distribution may have once been linked together by a palisade or similar structure which now survives as a buried feature. Six of the stone hut circles within the monument were excavated by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1895. All of the huts were found to contain charcoal, although only two hearths were located. One or two were paved, but the only artefact recovered was a flint flake. A round cairn lies immediately south of the settlement and includes a 3.4m diameter mound standing up to 0.4m high and surrounded by a low kerb of edge set stones. A large slab measuring 1m long by 0.15m thick lies across the mound and may have once stood nearby. The origin and function of this cairn cannot be established with certainty, although given its location between a settlement and major ceremonial site, a funerary origin does seem the most likely. West of this cairn, a 7m long by 1.7m wide and 0.3m high rubble bank is visible. Although only a relatively short length of this bank is visible, it may survive largely as a buried feature, and may either be part of the Great Western Reave or a length of enclosure boundary associated with the nearby stone hut circles. The area was further utilised during the post-medieval period, during which time a farmstead was established and surface extraction of granite was widespread. The farmstead survives as a two roomed building together with a small garden and small field. The western room of the farm house measures 7m long by 4m wide and the eastern one is 4m square. The walls are composed of roughly faced drystone and measure 1m wide and stand up to 0.9m high. A large roughly squared granite slab standing upright at the western end of the building formed the face of the chimney breast. A stone faced gully runs parallel to the northern wall of the building and may have been built to provide drainage. An open ended rectangular enclosure leading off from the southern side of the building measures 20m long by 10m wide and is defined by a 1.6m wide and 0.7m high stone and earth bank which is revetted on the external face. This enclosure may have been built to serve as a garden, whilst the prehistoric enclosure to which the building is attached may have been reused as a field. This farmstead was erected in the first half of the 19th century although the absence of any ancillary buildings or associated enclosures would suggest that it was inhabited for only a very short time. The other major post-medieval activity on the site was quarrying and splitting of surface rock. In some instances the stone was roughly dressed on the site and at one point a cider mill edge runner stone survives propped on top of several smaller stones, presumably in preparation for transport. This stone survives as a 2m diameter and 0.3m thick circular slab of granite with a flat base and convex upper surface. Close to this stone are two small rectangular stone cutting pits similar in character to many others found within the monument. These pits represent the site of large granite boulders which have been cut up and removed. Further evidence for surface working of granite is provided by a large number of rocks bearing lines of drill marks indicative of tear and feather stone splitting. The area surrounding the monument may contain other features and deposits which are not currently being proposed for scheduling because they cannot be accurately assessed or mapped. Further stone hut circles, a length of reave and stone alignments within the vicinity of this monument are the subject of other schedulings. The monument is in the care of the Secretary of State.

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

Books and journals
Bray, A E, A Description of the Part of Devonshire Bordering on the Tamar , (1836)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 74
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 73
Crossing, W, Crossing's Dartmoor Worker, (1992), 113
Worth, R H, Worth's Dartmoor, (1981), 108
Worth, R H, Worth's Dartmoor, (1981), 139-140
Baring Gould, S, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, (1895), 86
Baring Gould, S, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, (1895), 86
Other
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57NE75, (1985)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX57SE276, (1986)
Gerrard, S., English Heritage Book of Dartmoor, 1997, Forthcoming
Gibson, A, Single Monument Class Description - Stone Hut Circles, (1987)
Gibson, A, Single Monument Class Description - Stone Hut Circles, (1991)
Haynes, R.G., Ruined Sites on Dartmoor - Middleworth, 1966, Unpublished Manuscript
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard,
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, (1994)
Photarc Surveys Ltd, Merrivale Prehistoric Village, (1991)
Photarc Surveys Ltd, Merrivale Prehistoric Village, (1991)

National Grid Reference: SX 55551 74979, SX 55628 75045

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1013427 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 22-Nov-2017 at 06:48:13.

End of official listing