A prehistoric settlement complex, length of reave, tin streamwork and stamping mill on the western slopes of Cosdon Hill


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)
Dartmoor Forest
West Devon (District Authority)
South Tawton
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 62316 91298, SX 62348 91127, SX 62367 89930, SX 62818 90393, SX 62832 90576, SX 62851 91226, SX 62862 91915, SX 63018 90376

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 settlement complex the monument includes a length of territorial reave. The reaves are part of an extensive system of prehistoric land division introduced during the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They consist of simple linear stone banks used to mark out discrete territories, some of which are tens of kilometres in extent. The systems are defined by parallel, contour and watershed reaves, dividing the lower land from the grazing zones of the higher moor and defining the watersheds of adjacent river systems. Occupation sites and funerary or ceremonial monuments are often incorporated in, or associated with, reave complexes. Their longevity and their relationship with other monument types provide important information on the diversity of social organisation, land divisions and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. They show considerable longevity as a monument type, sometimes surviving as fossilised examples in medieval field plans. They are an important element in the existing landscape and, as such, a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Within the monument there is also a well preserved group of historic tinworking earthworks including an eluvial streamwork together with its water supply and a stamping mill. The Cosdon Hill prehistoric settlement complex is one the best preserved and largest on the Moor, and the tinwork adjacent to the Taw Marsh Reave is a particularly fine example of a clearly defined, multi-phase eluvial streamwork.


This monument includes an extensive prehistoric settlement complex, a length of the Taw Marsh territorial reave and an eluvial tin streamwork, together with two reservoirs, a leat and stamping mill. Most of the settlement complex lies on the eastern side of the Taw Marsh reave and survives as clusters of both enclosed and unenclosed stone hut circles. A total of at least 54 stone hut circles survive as stone and earth banks surrounding an oval or circular shaped internal area. There are four discrete clusters, the largest of which is adjacent to the reave and includes at least 22 hut circles, two simple and one agglomerated enclosure. Within this cluster six of the huts are unenclosed. A short distance to the east lies a further simple enclosure containing five stone hut circles. A further hut is linked to the enclosure wall and another lies just outside its perimeter. South of this enclosure lies another simple oval shaped enclosure which contains three stone hut circles. To the east of this enclosure lies the fourth element of this settlement complex and this survives as a cluster of at least 19 unenclosed and three partially enclosed stone hut circles. The settlement complex extends to the west of the Taw Marsh reave and here it survives as a cluster of 32 stone hut circles, six of which are connected to fragmentary lengths of boundary wall. Six clearance cairns surviving within the vicinity of the settlement suggest farming activity. The Taw Marsh reave which separates the settlement complex is considered to represent the western edge of the prehistoric territory known as Cosdon. Within the monument it survives as a linear earthwork measuring 3m wide and 0.7m high and leads from SX 62759173 to SX 62218926. For most of its length it is covered in peat and its stone core is only visible in those places where the peat has been eroded. The reave is cut by the tin streamworks on the Small Brook and Ivy Tor Water. The eluvial tin streamwork on the Ivy Tor Water survives as a substantial hollow and within it the linear banks representing the spoil dumps thrown up during the systematic extraction of the tin deposits are clearly visible. Within the southern part of the streamwork the parallel dumps are curved, but elsewhere they form straight lines. In most instances, the dumps lie parallel with the Ivy Tor Water, although in some places they lie at right angles to the stream. There is evidence of several distinct periods of working. At least some of the water used by the streamwork was derived from the slopes of Cosdon Hill via a leat which in the first instance carried water to two reservoirs in which it was held before being released. Within the streamwork at SX 62859176 a stamping mill in which tin ore was crushed is visible. The mill building survives as a rectangular drystone structure with internal dimensions of 4.2m long by 2.5m wide. This is one of the smallest mill buildings known on Dartmoor and its size is much more reminiscent of a tinners' shelter. The buddles in which the crushed tin was separated and concentrated lie immediately north east of the mill building and survive as small triangular hollows. This mill probably crushed ore derived from the nearby streamwork. Other archaeological features surviving within the vicinity of this monument are the subject of separate schedulings. The area surrounding the monument may contain further archaeological features and deposits, but these are not included because they are not visible and cannot therefore be accurately mapped or assessed.

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:


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 202
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 202
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 201
Fleming, A, The Dartmoor Reaves, (1988), 54
Gerrard, S, 'The Archaeology of Dartmoor: Perspectives from the 1990s' in The Dartmoor Tin Industry: An Archaeological Perspective, (1994), 182
Gerrard, S, 'The Archaeology of Dartmoor: Perspectives from the 1990s' in The Dartmoor Tin Industry: An Archaeological Perspective, (1994), 182
Greeves, T, 'Dartmoor Magazine' in Blowing And Knocking - The Dartmoor Tin Mill Before 1750, , Vol. 23, (1991), 20
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, (1996)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1996)
National Monuments Record, SX6391/4/197, (1977)


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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