Icework at Sourton Tors


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019570

Date first listed: 09-Mar-2001


Ordnance survey map of Icework at Sourton Tors
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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: Okehampton Hamlets

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Sourton

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 54587 90003


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

Reasons for Designation

The icework at Sourton Tors is one of very few ice farms to have existed nationally, and represents an extremely rare survival of industrial ice production from the 19th century. Considerable quantities of documentation exist concerning the setting up, running and failure of this icework. This provides details concerning the precise processes involved in producing the ice for market, together with output figures and other information. Most of the ice was sold to fish buyers in Plymouth although some was sold for domestic use. A combination of unsuitable winters and finally the introduction of artificially produced ice heralded the demise of the icework in 1886. Despite late 19th century attempts to restore the area to its original form and later military use, the icework at Sourton Tors survives extremely well, with all the elements known from contemporary documentation remaining visible. The unusual nature of this industrial venture means that important and unique structures are known to survive.


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


The monument includes a 19th century icework, an associated pillow mound, together with part of an earlier area of ridge and furrow and later military training features, situated on the northern slope of Sourton Tors overlooking large tracts of North Devon. The icework includes a series of at least six terraces measuring between 45m and 150m long by between 9.4m and 17.6m wide. Within each of these terraces are small rectangular ponds denoted by transverse earthwork banks. A total of 32 ponds are known to have once existed and were filled with water carried from a nearby spring in a system of leats, many of which are still visible. During the winter months between 1875 and 1886 the ice which formed in these ponds was collected and taken to a substantial building with internal dimensions of 25m by 6.2m denoted by a mortared wall. To provide essential insulation, this storage building was cut deep into the ground and the displaced spoil now forms a 4m high linear dump situated immediately to its north. Access to the building was through a 2.5m deep gully cutting into the hillside. A small chamber, whose function is unknown, measures 2sq m, is built against the inner northern wall of the storage building and stands up to 1.2m high. Above the upper level of ice ponds is a narrow ditch measuring 0.6m wide by 0.15m deep with a slight associated bank on the downslope side. This ditch probably functioned as a boundary to the icework and as a means of preventing dirty surface water reaching the ponds. To the north of the iceworks are slight traces of ridge and furrow earthworks formed by historic ploughing. Overlying the ridge and furrow is a flat-topped sub-rectangular mound, surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried during its construction. This is a pillow mound which was built to encourage rabbits to colonise this hillside and measures 11.9m long by 3m wide and 0.9m high. The associated quarry ditch is 1m wide and 0.1m deep. The pillow mound is slighted at a point where a bank leads up to it. This bank also overlies the ridge and furrow and maybe some form of animal run used to control and trap the rabbits. The Sourton Tors area has been extensively used for military training purposes and this has left a rich array of different features. Within the monument there are a number of slit trenches, two of which are connected to each other by a narrow communication trench. These features are included in the scheduling, representing the subsequent use of this area for militay training.

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: 24088

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Harris, H, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in The Sourton Tors Iceworks, North-west Dartmoor, 1874-86, , Vol. 120, (1988), 177-200
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1998)
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1998)

End of official listing