Principal Archaeological Landscape: Molland Moor
Exmoor National Park Authority
01 January 2011
Date last amended
Previously known as Molland Common.
The area is dominated by two ridges, Moorhouse Ridge and Black Ball, running northwestsoutheast. These are separated by a broad, shallow combe: Long Breach Bottom, which eventually joins the Dane’s Brook. The boundary of Exmoor National Park forms the south side of this location, with the boundary of Cussacombe Common to the west, Litton Water and Dane’s Brook to the north and West Anstey Common to the eastern edge.
Description of Archaeology
This area is mostly covered in slight ridge and furrow, and this is also present extensively over Exmoor’s southern commons (i.e. Winsford Hill, Withypool Common, Bradimoor and Anstey). The ridge and furrow field systems on Molland Moor appear to be late medieval but have not yet been dated conclusively. The ridge and furrow is narrow (1.2-2m in width) and includes a number of relict field boundaries. The boundaries appear organised and have a planned layout.
A relationship is implied between these field systems and both the extant and relict farmsteads that lie off the moorland at the top of Dane’s Brook (the extant farms are Lyshwell, Cloggs and Shircombe) and elsewhere. At least five desertions have been recorded around Molland Moor, perhaps suggesting that the ridge and furrow fields were the result of a greater population here during the later medieval period.
Prehistoric remains are also present on Molland Moor. The ridge and furrow overlies two barrows but elsewhere the medieval cultivation remains respect the prehistoric archaeology (like the stone setting in Long Breach Bottom). The area also contains three high quality palaeoecological sites (Gourte Mires, Long Breach and Anstey’s Combe), which have been radiocarbon dated (Fyfe and Adams 2008).
The ridge and furrow on Molland Moor is both extensive and well preserved, and this makes the area a good, but representative one for this form of field system, which survives across the commons of southern Exmoor. The extensive area of ridge and furrow suggests that a significant workforce was needed to manage this land; a greater understanding of the ridge and furrow systems may contribute to a deeper knowledge of the exploitation of the moors throughout history. Its relationship with earlier prehistoric features is also significant. The ridge and furrow systems, which form such an integral part of the southern Exmoor commons, are a very poorly understood phenomenon. Further research into them would
provide valuable insights into how the moors developed and were exploited during the medieval period.