This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Tarr Steps

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Tarr Steps

List entry Number: 1021325

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Dulverton

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Withypool and Hawkridge

National Park: EXMOOR

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 25-Nov-1925

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Jun-2004

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 35719

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

Clapper bridges are structures designed to carry a trackway across a river by means of one, or more, large, flat stone slabs, either resting directly on the river banks or supported on dry stone piers. Many examples comprise a single slab while multi-span clapper bridges typically have between two and five spans. They were used by foot passengers and packhorse traffic and are frequently located on the course of a packhorse track. Although some clapper bridges are thought to be of prehistoric origin there is no evidence for this. It may be that surviving prehistoric monuments in the immediate vicinity of clapper bridges, such as those on Exmoor and Dartmoor has led to this assumption. It is more likely that clapper bridges were constructed and used from the late medieval period, around 1400 to the 19th century. They are found in areas of the country where the local rock yields large slabs of stone. Clapper bridges are very rare monuments with only just over 40 recorded nationally.

With over 17 spans, Tarr Steps is a highly unusual example of its class of monument where the typical arrangement is between two and five spans. It is an important and well known feature of the Exmoor landscape where it is accessible to the public at all times and continues to perform its original function of providing a dry route across a river. Tarr Steps has been described as one of the finest clapper bridges in the country.

History

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

Details

The monument includes Tarr Steps, a 55m long multi-span stone clapper bridge which crosses the River Barle; it is believed to be of medieval date and is Listed Grade I.

The Barle rises about 17km to the north west of the clapper bridge and cuts through a deep wooded valley between Simonsbath and Dulverton. The bridge is located adjacent to a ford on the single track road which connects the villages of Hawkridge and Winsford. It is constructed from rectangular rough-grit sandstone slabs, obtained locally from the Pickwell Down basement beds, with 17 spans set on stone piers which are raised about 1m above the river bed. Twelve of the horizontal spanning stones are single; four are in pairs and one, which forms the end span on the eastern side, has three parallel stones. The stones are between 2m to 2.9m long, 2m to 1.6m wide and up to 0.3m thick and are supported by piers which are constructed of dry-stone blocks laid one upon another and set at about 2m intervals. The average size of the supporting blocks is 2.2m long, 0.7m wide and 0.7m thick. Each of the piers have up to three stone slabs laid against them on either side. These appear to act as cutwaters on the upstream side in order to protect the piers from flood damage and as supports for the bridge on the downstream side.

Perhaps because of its megalithic character and its proximity to trackways which are thought to be of Bronze Age date, Tarr Steps has commonly been believed to date from the prehistoric period. However, recent research has suggested that it is more likely to be medieval. It is known from documentary sources that in 1279 the River Barle was crossed by a bridge at Three Waters, located less than 2km to the south. This suggests Tarr Steps was not constructed until after 1279 as it would seem unlikely that two bridges crossing the same river would have co-existed in such close proximity. Research into similarly constructed clapper bridges on Dartmoor suggest that they were unlikely to date from before about 1400.

The modern surfacing of the road on the north side of the bridge 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Grinsell, L V, Archaeology of Exmoor, (1970), 148-150
Jervoise, E, The Ancient Bridges of the South of England, (1930), 112
Other
SS 83 SE 1, National Monuments Record,

National Grid Reference: SS8676632111

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1021325 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 19-Nov-2017 at 09:00:33.

End of official listing