Prehistoric coaxial field system and cairns, an historic enclosure and part of RAF Sharpitor, situated on and around Peek Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020238

Date first listed: 11-Feb-2002


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric coaxial field system and cairns, an historic enclosure and part of RAF Sharpitor, situated on and around Peek Hill
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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: Walkhampton

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 55632 70000


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. 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 prehistoric coaxial field system and cairns, historic enclosure and part of RAF Sharpitor together form a group of archaeological sites containing a wide variety of information concerning the use of this area over a prolonged period of time. Despite partial damage as a result of military activity, the prehistoric archaeology survives well and will contain evidence relating to the use of this crucial border area between two major prehistoric territories. The structures and buildings associated with RAF Sharpitor were dismantled after operations ceased, but enough remains to provide an insight into this unusual and significant military base. The civil defence bunker provides a further dimension to this site and is one of a comparatively small number to survive intact.


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


The monument includes a length of the Walkhampton Common Reave, two further parallel reaves, a tor cairn, ring cairn, historic enclosure and cairn, a radio navigation master station in the South Western Gee chain and a civil defence bunker, all situated on the upper slopes of Peek Hill, which overlooks large tracts of West Devon. The Walkhampton Common Reave separates the Meavy and Walkham valleys and within this monument it survives as a rubble bank leading south west from Sharpitor. A further two reaves lie parallel to the Walkhampton Common Reave and together they form two narrow fields. A short distance to the south east of these fields are two cairns, representing Bronze Age funary monuments. The tor cairn at NGR SX55656995 is built around the summit rocks of Peek Hill and survives as a band of stones measuring up to 5m wide. The ring cairn lies 30m to the south west and survives as a 2.2m wide rubble bank surrounding a 13.6m diameter internal area, within which are a number of edge set stones suggesting the survival of internal structures. A small circular structure cut into the centre of the cairn is probably a shelter. The enclosure is built onto the south eastern edge of the Walkhampton Common Reave and survives as a roughly rectangular area measuring up to 140m long by 120m wide denoted by a low rubble bank and external ditch. A small cairn in the southern corner of this enclosure is probably the result of stone clearance. The enclosure is more recent than the reaves which it cuts or abuts and the presence of a ditch suggests an historic date. In the area immediately north of Peek Hill a large number of concrete platforms together with associated earthworks and spreads of bricks and mortar represent the remnants of RAF Sharpitor, a radio navigation master station in the South Western Gee chain. During World War II and on until the 1960s this station, together with others, formed a chain of transmitters which permitted accurate navigation of aircraft. A 240 foot (73m) high timber tower supported the transmitting aerials and around this were a group of buildings containing the services essential for the operation. In 1956, an underground civil defence bunker was built at the site for the Royal Observer Corps. This structure appears on the surface as a 17m long by 12m wide and 1.3m high flat-topped oval mound. At the southern end is a 0.65m square concrete lined opening which has been blocked with material to prevent access, whilst at the other end a smaller opening represents a ventilation shaft. Further remains will survive below ground. At NGR SX55506992 is a small rectangular platform cut into the hillside. This measures 3m long by 2.4m wide and the material displaced during its construction forms a bank around its upper edge. The purpose of this structure is unknown, but it is considered to have formed an outlying part of RAF Sharpitor. Scattered throughout the monument are small pits associated with mining and quarrying activities. Those with associated crescent shaped banks relate to mineral prospecting, whilst most of the others are probably the result of small scale extraction of surface stone. A Dartmoor Preservation Association boundary stone within the enclosure is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground below and around it is included.

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: 24090

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1994), 85
Fleming, A, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in The Prehistoric Landscape Of Dartmoor Part 1: South Dartmoor, , Vol. 44, (1978), 122
Wilkinson, B, 'Dartmoor Magazine' in R.A.F. Sharpitor, , Vol. 44, (1996), 6-8
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, Gerrard, S., (2000)

End of official listing