Medieval strip field system, tinworks, part of a prehistoric settlement, a cairn and reave on Challacombe Down
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1021393
Date first listed: 13-May-1963
Date of most recent amendment: 29-Sep-2010
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Teignbridge (District Authority)
National Park: DARTMOOR
National Grid Reference: SX 68968 79649
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. 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 in this building
tradition dating to about 1700 BC. The stone-based round houses consist of low
walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area; remains of the turf or thatch
roof are not preserved. 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
particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of
surviving examples 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 from 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. The medieval strip field system on Challacombe Down forms part of the best preserved example of this type of field system in Devon and Cornwall. The clearly defined lynchets are under certain lighting conditions visually impressive and contribute substantially to the character of this part of Dartmoor. The substantial nature of the remains also means that well-preserved archaeological and environmental information relating to the character of medieval upland agriculture will survive. Later tinworking activity has caused some limited damage to the field system, but also contributes additional information concerning the character of the relationship between farming and mining. The earlier prehistoric remains provide a contrast to the much more intensive historic activity and taken together this area represents an important insight into the developing character of a much used upland landscape.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a medieval field system, several tinworks, part of a
prehistoric stone hut circle settlement, a cairn and length of reave on
Challacombe Down. Immediately to the south-east of the monument lies the
deserted medieval settlement at Challacombe. The settlement forms the subject
of a separate scheduling (SM36024).
The medieval field system survives as a series of narrow rectangular fields
denoted by substantial stone and earth banks. These mostly lie parallel with
the contours, but towards the southern and north western edges, the field
boundaries lie across the contour. The fields on the steeper slopes are
defined by the most substantial boundaries known as lynchets. The fields
were built during the medieval period by the farmers at the nearby hamlet of
Challacombe. Each field was farmed separately and the individual farmers
held fields throughout the area. Traces of ridge and furrow within many of
the fields indicates that they were cultivated, although in others the large
amounts of surface stone suggests that they could only ever have been used
Considerable evidence of tinworking activities also survives within the
monument. Amongst the earliest is a small area of streamworking earthworks
on the lower western slopes of Challacombe Down, but most dramatic are the
substantial rock-cut openworks which in places cut through the field system.
The largest of these is known as Scudley Beam which is up to 75m wide and 15m
deep. The openworks were formed by opencast quarrying for tin ore and the
prospecting pits, leats and reservoirs found in their vicinity, represent the
evidence for prospecting which eventually led to the discovery of the tin
lodes which were exploited using the openworks. The tin ore quarried from the
openworks was crushed and processed at nearby stamping mills. Two separate
mills survive within the monument. The first stands below Scudley Beam and
survives as a series of stone-faced pits, walls and platforms. The second
tin mill at NGR SX69197913 survives as a partly stone-faced rectangular
hollow with a wheelpit at its south western end. Another structure connected
with the tin industry survives at SX69468000 and has been identified as the
wheelpit and machinery base for a water wheel which powered flat rods serving
East Birch Tor Mine some 720m to the north. The final group of tinworking
remains include three circular buddles and a wheelpit at SX68877911. This
dressing floor was constructed in around 1927 as part of the Golden Dagger
Mine and a photograph taken at this time clearly illustrates the original
Remains of prehistoric date include part of a settlement, a length of reave
and a cairn. The settlement lies in the north western corner of the monument
and survives as two agglomerated enclosures containing three stone hut
circles together with a further single enclosure containing one hut. The
reave represents a continuation of the Hameldown North Reave and ascends the
eastern side of Challacombe Down to join the Headland Warren boundary wall at
SX69058039. The cairn stands at SX69107940 and survives as a 12m diameter
flat-topped mound standing up to 0.5m high.
All modern fences and other apparatus 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: 36022
Legacy System: RSM
Greeves, Tom, Tin Mines and Miners of Dartmoor, (1986)
Title: Duchy Farms Survey - Challacombe Source Date: 1990 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1:10000 plan
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