Medieval farmstead and field system, post-medieval tinworks, prehistoric settlements and cairns north and west of Gibby Coombe


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019591

Date first listed: 19-Feb-2001


Ordnance survey map of Medieval farmstead and field system, post-medieval tinworks, prehistoric settlements and cairns north and west of Gibby Coombe
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: South Hams (District Authority)

Parish: Holne

County: Devon

District: South Hams (District Authority)

Parish: West Buckfastleigh

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 68307 69239


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. Over 130 deserted settlements retaining visible remains of medieval character are recorded on Dartmoor. Many of these are single abandoned farmsteads but the majority are small hamlets containing between two and six farmhouses. Documentary evidence indicates that most such settlements on the Moor were established between the 11th and mid-14th centuries AD. Although many of these settlements were deserted by the close of the medieval period, some where abandoned at a later period. Deserted medieval settlements are often visible as close groupings of small buildings, each containing a long house, its ancillary buildings and one or more adjacent small plots which served as kitchen gardens or stock pens. These components are arranged within the settlement around internal yards and trackways which led from the settlement to its associated fields, pasture and water supply. Occasionally such trackways show evidence for cobbling or paving. Long houses were the dominant type of farmhouse in upland settlements of south-west England between the 10th and 16th centuries. Rectangular in plan, usually with rubble or boulder outer walls and their long axis orientated downslope, the interiors of long houses were divided into two separate functional areas, an upslope domestic room and a downslope stock byre, known in south-west England as a shippon. The proportions of the plan occupied by the domestic room and the shippon vary considerably but the division between the two was usually provided by a cross passage of timber screens or rubble walling running transversely through the long house, linking opposed openings in the long side walls. Ancillary buildings were generally separated from the farmhouse itself, or else constructed as outshuts attached to the long house and often extending one end. These additional structures served as barns, fuel or equipment stores and occasionally contained ovens and corn-drying kilns. While many settlements in Devon are known from documentary sources to be of medieval origin, well- preserved deserted sites are rare. Consequently, those on Dartmoor provide the main surviving source of evidence for the distinctive form and layout of medieval settlements in Devon.

The medieval farmstead with its associated field system, the post-medieval tinworks, prehistoric settlements and cairns north and west of Gibby Coombe all survive well and will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the exploitation of this area during the Bronze Age, medieval and post-medieval periods.


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


The monument includes a medieval farmstead with an associated field system, post-medieval tinworks and leats, prehistoric settlements and cairns situated on a south east facing slope of Holne Moor overlooking the valley of the Holy Brook. The medieval farmstead survives as a cluster of at least three rectangular buildings, each denoted by a stone wall. The largest building within the farmstead sits on the west and the presence of opposed entrances indicates that it was originally a longhouse. A rectangular structure within the western corner of this building may be a corn drier suggesting that this structure was converted before finally being abandoned. The northern building contains three rooms and may also at one time have been a longhouse. The remaining structure is much smaller than the others and was probably a barn. The farmstead sits towards the southern edge of an extensive field system formed by a series of ditched banks. Within the major fields there are a number of smaller strip fields denoted by low banks and several clusters of small clearance cairns. Within the field system there are a large number of earthworks relating to prospecting and extraction of tin. Amongst the prospecting earthworks are a large number of pits and trenches. Most of the trenches appear to have been excavated with the aid of water carried to the area in a series of leats and stored within reservoirs. Extraction of the tin discovered during the prospecting phase was carried out using openworks. The openworks survive as substantial gulleys measuring up to 7m deep and in places the original rock cut edges are clearly visible. Cutting through all of the major openworks is the Wheal Emma Leat which was constructed in 1859 to carry water from the upper Swincombe River to supplement the River Mardle. The additional water was required by the Wheal Emma copper mine near Buckfastleigh. Within the monument the leat survives as a 2.6m wide and 0.7m deep channel crossed at five separate points by clapper bridges. In later years, the area was used for military training and several slit trenches were excavated at this time. Archaeology of prehistoric date also survives within the monument, although because of the intensive nature of the later activity, the remains are less extensive than their original distribution. At least six stone hut circles are known, and these survive as banks each surrounding an oval or circular internal area which varies from 12.5 sq m to 56.7 sq m with the average being 35 sq m. The heights of the surrounding walls vary between 0.4m and 1m, with the average being 0.72m. One of the huts has a visible doorway and two are butted by field walling. Three funerary cairns survive in the area immediately outside the historic field system and these vary in diameter between 4.4m and 14m and stand between 0.6m and 0.8m high. The cairn at NGR SX67786876 has a clearly defined kerb around its southern edge. The final visible feature of prehistoric date is a 330m length of reave which survives as a 2m wide and 0.5m high rubble bank leading towards the River Mardle.

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: 34427

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Butler, J, 'Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities - The North' in Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, , Vol. 4, (1993), 169
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1999)
Title: Holne Moor Survey Source Date: 1997 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1:2500 plan

End of official listing