Eluvial tin streamworks and prehistoric coaxial field system together with other archaeological remains on Whitchurch Common


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020089

Date first listed: 07-Mar-2002


Ordnance survey map of Eluvial tin streamworks and prehistoric coaxial field system together with other archaeological remains on Whitchurch Common
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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: Peter Tavy

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Sampford Spiney

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Whitchurch

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 53375 75231, SX 53514 74883, SX 53778 75179, SX 53879 75195, SX 54095 74470, SX 54182 74474


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 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. On Dartmoor, tin streamworks represent intermittent tin working activity dating from the medieval period to the 20th century. During this time previously abandoned works were often brought back into production, while some streamworks are still not exhausted, raising the possibility that they may become viable once again. Streamworks exploited tin deposits that had been detached from the parent lode and redeposited by streams and rivers within either alluvial deposits in valley bottoms or in eluvial deposits in shallow, steeper tributaries on hillsides. The technique involved large scale extraction (which has left major earthworks visible in the landscape) and the use of water to separate tin from the lighter clays and silts which contained it. The water derived either from canalised streams or reservoirs fed by specially constructed leats which can be seen running for several miles along the contours of many hillsides. The streamworks themselves survive as a series of spoil dumps, channels and disused work areas which indicate their character and development. Streamworking was particularly prevalent on Dartmoor, being by far the most numerous and extensive type of tinwork on the moor. Remains are to be found in most valley bottoms and on many hillsides, where they make a dominant contribution to landscape character as well as providing unusually detailed evidence for medieval industry. Streamworks on Dartmoor will be considered for scheduling where they are well preserved and representative of the industry in this area, or where there is a demonstrable relationship with medieval and later settlement and its associated remains.

The eluvial tin streamworks and earlier, prehistoric, coaxial field system, together with other archaeological remains on Whitchurch Common represent a particularly well-preserved palimpsest. The monument retains a substantial variety of visually impressive archaeological sites, with abundant evidence for the use of the area in both prehistoric and historic times.


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


The monument, which falls into six separate areas of protection, includes two eluvial streamworks and an earlier, prehistoric, coaxial field system, together with a range of other archaeological remains situated on Whitchurch Common. Amongst the other prehistoric archaeological remains are two round cairns, two ring cairns, two cairnfields, two stone hut circle settlements, an agglomerated enclosure, a simple enclosure and a further field system. All of the prehistoric remains are likely to be of Bronze Age date (c.2000-700BC). Archaeological remains of historic date include two medieval farmsteads, a medieval field system, a cache, two boundary stones, a series of leats and reservoirs, prospecting pits, shelters, split stones, World War II artillery and mortar emplacements, slit trenches and other associated structures. The larger eluvial streamwork is 1.2km long while the part of it surviving within the monument extends from NGR SX53517572 to SX53797464. This streamwork survives as a substantial gully measuring up to 4m deep and 130m wide. In the bottom of this gully are a series of parallel banks representing spoil from the extraction process and the fossilised positions of the work areas known as tyes. Analysis of these banks has revealed at least six distinct phases of exploitation. Water, so necessary for the extraction of the eluvial tin, was carried to the site in a series of leats. It was stored in reservoirs close to the tinwork before being fed through another group of leats to the streamwork itself. Within the streamwork at its upper end is a small tinners' building complete with doorway and fireplace. The second streamwork lies to the west of the first one and survives as a 150m long gully containing a few parallel banks. This streamwork is earlier than the large one and in later years two reservoirs were constructed within it to serve the eastern tinwork. The coaxial fields surviving within the monument form part of a larger field system which extends over parts of the Whitchurch and Peter Tavy Commons. Within this monument, three main reaves lie approximately parallel to each other and are separated by large blocks of land, most of which are not included within the scheduling. At the western end of the southern reave is a terminal reave and to this at least eight fields are connected. The two prehistoric settlements lying within the monument are considered to be broadly contemporary with the coaxial field system. The northern settlement includes four stone hut circles associated with an irregular shaped field system. The stone hut circles survive as rubble walls each surrounding a circular or oval internal area measuring between 10 sq m and 83 sq m. The second settlement lies on the western slopes of Barn Hill and includes six stone hut circles situated within an agglomerated enclosure. The agglomerated enclosure includes at least four elements and is attached to the southern end of the coaxial field system's terminal reave. The two cairnfields surviving within the monument both include a main cluster of mounds together with a number of outliers. The northern cairnfield is associated with a prehistoric settlement and includes 27 mounds standing between 0.3m and 1m high. The southern cairnfield includes 12 mounds, most of which survive in a tight cluster at NGR SX53627499. Two further mounds within the monument represent the site of funerary cairns. The first at NGR SX53977486 survives as a 0.5m high mound surrounded by a 0.9m high stone kerb. The second cairn stands at NGR SX54177448 and includes a 5m diameter mound standing up to 0.6m high. Two broadly contemporary ring cairns survive at NGR SX53487518 and SX53707493. The northern cairn survives as a 7m diameter flat area surrounded by a 2.4m wide and 0.3m high rubble bank. Beyond this bank is a 1m wide berm leading to a 3m wide and 0.2m deep ditch. The southern ring cairn includes a 3m wide and 0.3m high rubble bank surrounding an 11m diameter internal area. Archaeological remains relating to the agricultural exploitation of this area during the medieval period include two farmsteads and a field system. The farmstead at NGR SX53707489 includes a longhouse and three small paddocks, whilst the longhouse at NGR SX53697475 has been truncated by the Beckamoor Combe streamwork. This area was used for military training during World War II. Four artillery emplacements, two mortar emplacements, a number of slit trenches and other structures date to this time. The Grimstone and Sortridge Leat is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

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: 22234

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Gerrard, S, 'DTRG Newsletter' in The Beckamoor Combe Streamwork Survey, , Vol. 3, (1992), 6-8
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (1993)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2000)
MPP Fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2001)
Title: Cox Tor Survey Source Date: 1991 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1:2500 plan

End of official listing