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


Ordnance survey map of Coaxial field system and prehistoric settlements at Kestor
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Chagford

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Gidleigh

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

End of official listing