Coaxial field system and prehistoric settlements at Kestor
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016691
Date first listed: 10-Dec-1952
Date of most recent amendment: 04-Feb-1999
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: West Devon (District Authority)
District: West Devon (District Authority)
National Park: DARTMOOR
National Grid Reference: SX 66430 87033, SX 66621 85994
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. Elaborate complexes of fields and
field boundaries are some of the major features of the Dartmoor landscape. 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.
The coaxial field system and prehistoric settlements at Kestor survive well and are amongst the most visually impressive on the moor. Limited excavation has suggested that important Iron Age evidence survives together with information relating to medieval and post-medieval exploitation. Part of the late medieval Southill leat passes through the field system. Taken as a whole, this monument represents part of an impressive archaeological landscape which survives between the North and South Teign Rivers.
The monument, which falls into two areas of protection, includes part of the
prehistoric coaxial field system known as North Teign, two broadly
contemporary settlements, parts of which continued in use into the Iron Age,
at least four historic structures, a tor cairn, pillow mound, prospecting pits
and trench and a length of the Southill leat.
The coaxial field system includes a large number of fields arranged on a
single prevailing axis, subdivided by transverse boundaries. Within the area
defined by the fields there are two settlements. The largest of these
survives as a scatter of at least 41 stone hut circles extending around the
northern and eastern slopes below Kestor. The stone hut circles survive as
walls surrounding circular or oval areas with internal diameters ranging from
3.5m to 10.4m with the average being 6.87m. Some of the huts in this
settlement are amongst the most visually impressive on Dartmoor with over 20
having walls standing above 1m high. Twenty one of the huts have visible
doorways, one has a porch, one has a partition and another a cupboard. Four of
the huts were excavated between 1951 and 1952 by Lady Fox and in the large one
within Roundy Pound, evidence of iron smelting was recovered. It is generally
accepted that this activity dated to the Iron Age, although the situation is
somewhat confused by evidence for reoccupation of the hut during the medieval
period. The second settlement lies south of Kestor and survives as a group of
four stone hut circles associated with at least five small rectangular fields
which themselves form part of the coaxial field system.
On the western side of Kestor and just outside the field system is a tor
cairn which survives as a 10m long and 7m wide semi circular band of
relatively small stones. The remaining archaeological structures and features
are of historic date and include a solitary pillow mound, demonstrating
limited interest in rabbit husbandry at some time and four structures which
probably represent shelters and animal pounds associated with grazing
activities in this area. The final archaeological remains are connected with
industrial activity and include a length of the Southill leat which carried
water to a mill at Southill and the Teigncombe tinworks. This 8km long leat
is known to have functioned since at least the end of the 15th century and
represents the earliest documented long leat on the moor. Prospecting activity
linked with the Teigncombe tinworks survives within the monument and includes
at least four large prospecting pits and a substantial trench.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 28714
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 171
1:2500 plan, Probert, S. et al, Castor parallel system, (1991)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX68NE133, (1983)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX68NE143, (1986)
Title: Duchy Farms Report - Teigncombe Farm Source Date: 1990 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1:10,000 Map
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