Tinworks, field systems, settlements, warren, cairns and a stone alignment at Headland Warren


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Teignbridge (District Authority)
Teignbridge (District Authority)
North Bovey
West Devon (District Authority)
West Devon (District Authority)
Dartmoor Forest
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 68284 81028

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 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. Warrens are areas of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares. They usually include a series of purpose-built breeding places, known as pillow mounds and buries, vermin traps and enclosures designed to contain and protect the animals, and living quarters for the warrener who kept charge of the warren. Pillow mounds are low oblong-shaped mounds of soil and/or stones in which the animals lived. They are usually between 15m and 40m long and between 5m and 10m wide. Most have a ditch around at least three sides to facilitate drainage. Inside are a series of narrow interconnecting trenches. These were excavated and covered with stone or turf before the mound was constructed. Vermin traps of various kinds are found within most warrens. These include a small stone-lined passage into which the predator was funnelled by a series of ditches or walls. Over 100 vermin traps have been recorded on the Moor, with the majority lying in the Plym Valley. Warren boundaries were often defined by a combination of natural features such as rivers. Within the warrens themselves smaller enclosed areas defined by a ditch and bank are sometimes found, and some of these may have been specialised breeding areas. Many of the warrens on the Moor contain a house in which the warrener lived. Most of the surviving warren earthworks probably date to between the 17th century and the later 19th century, with some continuing in use into the early 20th century. At least 22 warrens are known to exist on the Moor and together they contribute to our understanding of the medieval and post-medieval exploitation of the area. All well-preserved warrens are considered worthy of protection.

Tin has been exploited on Dartmoor since the prehistoric period and surviving remains are numerous, well-preserved and diverse, with the two main types of tinwork being streamworks and mines. The three different forms of tinwork used to mine lode tin were lode-back pits, openworks and shafts. Lode-back pits survive as shallow shafts which were sunk onto the lode outcrop to extract cassiterite. These pits generally occur in linear groups following the line of the lode, with associated spoil dumps. Many tin lodes have been worked at the surface by digging pits onto the backs or surface exposures of the lode to remove the mineral that lay above the water table. Openworks are also known as beams and they were formed by opencast quarrying along the length of the lode. The term openwork refers to the field evidence for opencast quarrying of the lode, which produced relatively narrow and elongated gulleys. Shaft mining is synonymous with underground extraction, with access to the lode being through near vertical or horizontal tunnels known as shafts and adits. Underground workings are often complex in character, with considerable layout variations reflecting developing extraction techniques. Within the vicinity of most mines are found the remains of prospecting activity. This generally takes the form of small pits and gulleys. Some mines have associated surface buildings which provided a variety of services for the working miners. The ore quarried for all three forms of mine was taken for processing to nearby stamping mills. A national survey of the tin industry in England was completed in 1999. This demonstrated the number and diversity of surviving remains and the significance of some areas for understanding the origins and development of the industry. Dartmoor is one such area and here a representative selection of sites with significant surviving remains has been identified as nationally important. Over 130 deserted medieval 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. Although many of these settlements were deserted by the close of the medieval period, some where abandoned at a later period. 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. Ancillary buildings were generally separated from the farmhouse itself, or else constructed as outshuts attached to the long house and often extending one end. 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. Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, and may cover single or multiple burials and are sometimes surrounded by an outer ditch. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Dartmoor provides one of the best preserved and most dense concentrations of round cairns in south-western Britain. Stone alignments or stone rows consist of upright stones set in single file or in avenues of two or more parallel lines, up to several hundred metres in length. They are often physically linked to burial monuments, such as small cairns, cists and barrows, and are considered to have had an important ceremonial function. The Dartmoor alignments mostly date from the Late Neolithic period (c.2400-2000 BC). Due to their comparative rarity and longevity as a monument type, all surviving examples are considered nationally important, unless very badly damaged. Stone hut circles and hut settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers on Dartmoor. They mostly date from the Bronze Age, with the earliest examples on the Moor dating to about 1700 BC. The huts may occur singly or in small or large groups and may lie in the open or be enclosed by a bank of earth and stone. Although they are common on the Moor, their longevity and their relationship with other monument types provide important information on the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. They are particulary representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. The tinworks, field systems, settlements, warren, cairns and stone alignment at Headland Warren together form an important archaeological landscape illustrating the complicated character of an area containing the most intensive remains of past human activity on Dartmoor. The four post-medieval mines survive very well despite attempts to demolish many of the associated buildings. A comprehensive picture of the layout of the four mines survives, together with a range of earthworks relating to the mines and earlier workings. The rabbit warren survives well and will contain information relating to this particular industry. Important information concerning the relationship between warrenning and mining will survive and enhance our understanding of both industries. The medieval farmstead and associated field system has seen some damage as a result of later mining, but will contain information relating to agricultural activity and may throw light on the complex relationship between medieval tinworking and farming. The prehistoric archaeology surviving within the monument provides crucial evidence regarding agriculture and ritual and may provide clues to the origin of tin working in the south west of England. Taken together this monument represents an important resource for our understanding of the complicated archaeological inter-relationships found in upland areas of Britain.


The monument includes a wide variety of archaeological remains situated within and immediately adjacent to Headland Warren. Extending over much of the monument are earthworks and structures relating to the extraction of tin. Amongst these remains are streamworks, openworks, lode-back pits, prospecting pits and gulleys, leats and reservoirs together with at least four major 19th to 20th century mines and their associated shafts, adits, pumping systems, tramways, wheelpits and dressing areas. The use of the area as a rabbit warren is reflected in the survival of a series of pillow mounds, vermin traps, boundary stones and enclosures. Archaeology belonging to the medieval period is represented by a farmstead and field systems, some of which contain ridge and furrow. From the prehistoric period at least three separate stone hut circle settlements with fields and enclosures survive together with two cairns and a stone alignment. Taken together the monument contains an impressive array of archaeological remains from three major periods.

Much of the surviving archaeology relates to the extraction of tin deposits and lodes. Three major areas of streamworking earthworks survive within the monument and each lies adjacent to the separate streams leading through the monument. The most visually dramatic element of the monument, however, are the openworks which trend roughly west to east and many survive as substantial sharp sided linear opencast quarries. The openworks are the result of surface mining and are generally thought to date to between 1450 and 1750 AD. Another form of surface working was the use of lode-back pits which are essentially small shafts dug onto the back of the lode. These are believed to have been the precursor to deep mining and also probably date to the period before 1750 AD. Large numbers of leats and reservoirs, used to carry and store water survive within the monument. Water was crucial for many different parts of the prospecting, extraction and dressing process and the leats, together with the reservoirs provide crucial information relating to the character and relative dating of many elements surviving within the various tinworks.

The Headland Warren area contains at least four major post-medieval mines, although at times they were amalgamated and given different names. The four mines are Birch Tor, East Birch Tor, Vitifer and Golden Dagger.

The earliest of these is Vitifer Mine which is first documented in the 1780s and continued in use, together with Birch Tor, until about 1870. After this time sporadic and limited exploration accompanied by reworking of dumps continued until 1925. East Birch Tor Mine is first recorded in 1836 and continued sporadically producing tin until 1927. Golden Dagger is first recorded in the 1850s although it is known that mining had commenced here much earlier. This mine was the last to operate on Dartmoor, being finally abandoned in 1939. Much of the archaeological evidence relating to the extraction of tin from these mines survives underground and is therefore not visible. At the surface however there are a range of structures visible at each mine and amongst these are shafts, adits, stamping mills, reservoirs, leats, tramways, whim platforms, dressing floors, wheelpits, ancillary buildings such as miners' drys, count houses and accommodation.

The rabbit warren at Headland Warren was certainly established before 1754 and continued in use until around 1920. A total of at least 37 pillow mounds, at least five vermin traps and a series of drystone built enclosures survive within an area denoted by at least 14 boundary stones and a length of drystone walling.

During the medieval period much of Headland Warren was enclosed by a series of fields many of which would have been associated with the farmstead at NGR SX 68488076. The farmstead includes at least two longhouses and associated enclosures.

Evidence of prehistoric activity is relatively scarce compared with that for the later periods. However, an agglomerated enclosure associated with at least 11 stone hut circles survives at NGR SX 68508128, a further stone hut circle and enclosure exist at SX 68908078 and part of a further settlement stands at SX 68458053. A small cairn measuring 8m in diameter and standing up to 0.6m high is situated at SX 67678050 and further east is a triple stone alignment at SX 68998077. This stone alignment is aligned SSE to NNW, measures 141.7m long and includes 57 upright stones. The southern end is denoted by a blocking stone and towards the northern end is a grouping of stones which may indicate a fourth row, but is more likely to be the result of partial reconstruction in the 19th century.

All post and wire fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 19-20
AI/34/2002, Newman, P, Headland Warren and the Birch Tor and Vitifer Tin Mines, (2002)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX68SE192, (1995)


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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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