Medieval strip fields, tinworks, prehistoric settlements, and a cairn on the lower western slopes of Hamel Down


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Medieval strip fields, tinworks, prehistoric settlements, and a cairn on the lower western slopes of Hamel Down
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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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)
Widecombe in the Moor
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 69542 79315, SX 69615 78947, SX 69854 79301

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 the lower western slope of Hamel 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.


The monument, which falls into three areas, includes a medieval field system, several tin openworks, at least five prehistoric settlements and a cairn situated on the lower west-facing slope of Hamel Down. Immediately to the west 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 northern and eastern 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 for grazing. Traces of a rectangular building at NGR SX 69647918 may be the remains of a barn or other structure associated with the field system. This structure survives as a 19.5m long by 5.5m wide stony platform standing up to 0.5m high. Some evidence of tinworking activity also survives within the monument. At least three small openworks cut through the field system. These openworks were formed by opencast quarrying for tin ore. Remains of prehistoric date include five small settlements and a cairn. Each settlement includes an enclosure, but only three contain visible dwellings. The settlement at NGR SX69657988 was partly excavated in 1938 when pottery and flints were recovered. The large enclosure at SX69567931 which is bisected by the Moretonhampstead to Widecombe road is denoted by a substantial rubble bank standing up to 3.5m wide and 1.3m high. The cairn stands in the south eastern corner of the monument and survives as a 13.4m diameter mound standing up to 1.3m high. Two small hollows leading into the side of the cairn suggests that it has been partially excavated or robbed. 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:
Legacy System:


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

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