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A prehistoric and historic archaeological landscape within Merrivale Newtake

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 prehistoric and historic archaeological landscape within Merrivale Newtake

List entry Number: 1016148

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: 24-Nov-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 25-Sep-1997

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 28788

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 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. The prehistoric and historic archaeological landscape at Merrivale Newtake represents a complex array of inter related structures and features belonging to the three main periods of upland exploitation. The medieval field system is most extensive, but within the area is also well preserved evidence for prehistoric settlements and land division boundaries, together with a medieval farmstead and tinworks. In the post medieval period a warren, blowing mill, shelters, caches and tinworks highlight the continued intensive use of this area.

History

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

Details

This monument, which falls into six areas, includes three irregular aggregate field systems associated with prehistoric stone hut circle settlements, a length of the Great Western Reave, part of Merrivale Warren, several clearance cairns, a deserted medieval settlement and field system, a blowing mill, a tin streamwork, an adit, a shelter and two tinners'caches situated on a west facing slope within Merrivale Newtake overlooking the valley of the River Walkham. Two prehistoric settlements lie within the scheduling. The largest is associated with three blocks of irregular aggregate field systems and includes at least 57 stone hut circles surviving as stone and earth banks surrounding a circular or oval internal area. The hut interiors vary in diameter between 2.1m and 8.2m with the average being 4.71m and the height of the surrounding walls is between 0.3m and 1.3m high with the average being 0.67m. Thirty of the huts have visible doorways, two have a porch, three are partitioned, one has a bench and one has a courtyard. Most of the huts are abutted by field boundaries suggesting that the field systems were added later. The second prehistoric settlement is much smaller and includes two unenclosed stone hut circles. The remaining major prehistoric feature within the scheduling is a length of the Great Western Reave which has a total length of over 10km and is the longest known prehistoric land division boundary on Dartmoor. The reave is not continuous and within the monument two prominent gaps in its length are visible. The reave itself varies in character along its length, but typically it is composed of large stones and rubble and measures between 2m and 3m wide and is up to 0.8m high. This reave appears to deliberately exclude the large prehistoric settlements within Merrivale Newtake from the territory bordering the River Walkham. A deserted medieval settlement lying within the scheduling includes two longhouses, an outbuilding and farmyard. The western longhouse survives as a rectangular two roomed building terraced into the hillslope. Boundary walls lead from the north eastern, north western and south western corners of the building which lies in the northern part of a 24m long by 23m wide farmyard defined by a single faced rubble wall standing up to 0.8m high. On the southern side of the farmyard is a single roomed outbuilding with a north facing doorway. A gap in the farmyard wall immediately east of this outbuilding may represent an original entrance. The second longhouse lies 40m to the east and survives as a rectangular building terraced into the hillside. The field system associated with this settlement lies to the south and includes at least six fields together with a funnel shaped earthwork and several clearance cairns. The fields are rectangular in shape and the southernmost ones have been truncated by a tin streamwork. The funnel shaped earthwork appears to have been designed to guide animals from the open moor through a constricting passage to the river. Leading north from the western farmstead is a 700m length of curving linear boundary bank and ditch. This boundary is clearly contemporary with the medieval longhouse to which it is attached, and was probably intended to delimit ownership. A series of tinworking earthworks and other structures survive within the scheduling. The largest of these is an eluvial tin streamwork which survives as a substantial 3m deep hollow containing parallel spoil dumps standing up to 1.5m high. Evidence of further mining survives where an adit cuts into the hillside. The adit survives as a 15m long, 2.4m wide and 1.7m deep east to west orientated gully and on either side of the gully there is a 2m wide and 1m high rubble bank. This bank was thrown up during the early stages of the adit being cut. Water flowing from the adit indicates that it is still draining underground workings to the east. Dating of this particular adit is uncertain, but it is perhaps tempting to see it as having produced ore which was subsequently processed at the nearby blowing mill. The blowing mill is terraced into the hillside and is composed of drystone coursed walling standing up to four courses and 1m high. The interior of the mill building measures 8.8m long by 4.8m wide and is filled with loose rubble. The doorway faces south and adjacent to it on the western side is a mouldstone into which molten tin was ladled. The bellows which operated the furnace within the mill were powered by a wheel which would have rotated in the well preserved and now waterlogged wheelpit lying along the northern wall of the building. This blowing mill is one of three above Merrivale Bridge, all of which have a mouldstone adjacent to their doorway. It has been suggested that they may date to around 1700 AD. Three other structures related to the exploitation of tin survive within the scheduling. The first is a shelter which has been inserted into the south eastern end of an earlier longhouse. The interior of the building measures 7.2m long by 3.6m wide and its rubble wall stands up to 0.7m high. The remaining two are caches attached to an earlier medieval boundary wall. Another shelter lying within the scheduling is built within the western half of a stone hut circle. The western and southern walls of the shelter are formed by the hut walls, whilst the remainder are of rubble construction. The scheduling also includes 12 pillow mounds and a vermin trap which form part of Merrivale Warren. This consists of at least 27 pillow mounds which are scattered along the lower slopes of Great Mis Tor, Little Mis Tor and Over Tor. The pillow mounds survive as flat topped, oval shaped mounds of soil and stone surrounded on four sides by the ditch from which material was quarried during their construction. The vermin trap lies on a steep slope adjacent to the River Walkham and survives as a U-shaped bank. Other archaeological features surviving within the vicinity of this monument are the subject of separate schedulings except for the area of streamworking east of the monument which is not currently considered to be of national importance.

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
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 70
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 71
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 79
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991)
Gerrard, G A M, The Archaeology of the Early Cornish Tin Industry, (1986), 254-5
Gerrard, G A M, The Archaeology of the Early Cornish Tin Industry, (1986), 218
Other
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1994)
Title: SX57NE Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor: SX 55547646

National Grid Reference: SX 55378 76366, SX 55422 76459, SX 55575 76126, SX 55581 75795, SX 55596 76530, SX 55702 75465

Map

Map
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End of official listing