MDE1034 - Hangman's Stone, Knap Down (Monument)


A well preserved standing stone, known locally as the Hangman's Stone. Probably prehistoric, measuring 1.5 metres high.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 6021 4688. "Mr Badcock seems to have been of the opinion that these ancient stones at Combe Martin, that were called the Hanging Stones, were some Druidical remains of a temple: and the Hangman Stone is the Stonehenge or Balanced stone, which was remarkable in all these edifices. It is said that there is but one pillar left, which served as a boundary between Combe Martin and the next parish ". [1] A menhir which now crowns Hangman Hill, in longitude 4 degrees. 0'6", latitude 51 degrees. 12'14". The stone is 5 feet 3 inches high, its breadth points north 39 degrees.The northwest side is 33 inches, the northeast 18 inches, the southeast 32 and a half inches and the south side is 16 inches, tapering to the top. This is probably 'the one pillar left' according to Badcock. [2] Given as longitude 4 degreess, 6 inches. latitude 51 degrees, 12 feet 14 inches. [3] Description in [2] is correct. Although the longitude and latitude are approximately correct Hangman Hill lies further to the north. The stone is of the local red grit stone and stands alone. [5] It is a prominent object on the skyline seen from the opposite side of the Combe Martin valley. There is a ditched bank north of the stone and an anciently walled spring to the south. This stone probably gave its name to the hangman hills. [5?] Well preserved. 0.8 metres wide, 0.4 metres thick and 1.5 metres high. Probably of pre-historic origin. There are no traces of any other stones in the vicinity. Positioned on 1/2500. [6] SS 603 469. Standing stone on Knap Down, listed as Bronze Age by Grinsell who also stated that it may be the 'Hangman Stone' described by Westcote on the boundary between Combe Martin and Trentishoe. [7] (SS 60204688). Standing Stone (NR). [9] This standing stone is as described and measured by [6], and there seems no reason to refute claims to its prehistoric origin. Nevertheless historical elements attributed to it by authorities [1],[2] and [7] appear to be entirely fallacious. Palmer [3] noted that Chanter and Worth had misidentified Knap Down as Hangman Hill, on the Tithe map [11] at SS 585 481 (now called `Little Hangman') and then described as 62 acres of pasture. Grinsell [7] is probably correct in ascribing the stone to Knap Down, though the Ordnance Survey 2 inch drawing [12] depicts enclosed ground and in 1842 [11] it would have been in one of several fields called `Vellacotts', making up a holding of 84 acres. Grinsells suggestion that it may be Westcotes `Hangman Stone' is unsupportable geographically. Westcote [8] says a series of stones marked the parish boundary of Combe Martin and Martinhoe (now Trentishoe) of which one was locally known as the `hang-man-stone' and associated with a sheep stealing legend. Chanter and Worth [2] are perhaps quoting the Badcock reference in Polwheles muddled account [1]. The `one pillar left' of a complex setting almost certainly applies to the stone on Mattocks Down, at SS 601 438 [17], dealt with at length by Westcote when it was a more complete setting.There is thus no reason to suspect that was ever anything other than a single, unnamed prehistoric standing stone. [10] Monument record reviewed as part of NRHE to HER pilot project. [18] A thick standing stone block, leaning slightly to the east, measuring 1.5 x 0.85 x 0.5m. It is situated atop a low mound in the eastern side of a field just within the National Park boundary. Whilst other stones have been historically associated with this upright stone, no traces of their existence could be found during the survey. The monuments condition is considered to be very good, despite the presence of a deep erosion hollow. The stone remains well-set and as described in 1992. [19] The stone is depicted and labelled on the 2021 MasterMap data. [20]

Sources/Archives (20)

  • <1> Monograph: Polwhele, R.. 1793. Historical Views of Devonshire. Cadell, Dilly and Murray. 1. P. 95.
  • <2> Article in serial: Chanter, J.F. and Worth, R.H.. 1906. The Rude Stone Monuments of Exmoor and its Borders. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 38. II, pp 538-552. P. 593 Plate Number: 1.
  • <3> Article in serial: Palmer, M. G.. 1937. Standing stones of the Ilfracombe District. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 69. P. 488; plate: 65; figure: 1.
  • <4> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1952. The Buildings of England: North Devon. Penguin Books.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comments. GC Swatridge, F1, 17 September 1953.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Fletcher, M.J.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F2, 15 August 1972.
  • <7> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgwater. David and Charles Limited. 48, 190.
  • <8> Monograph: Westcote, T.. 1845. A View of Devonshire in MDCXXX, with a pedigree of most of its gentry. Will. Roberts. P. 252.
  • <9> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1980. 1:10000 Map, 1980. 1:10000.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Quinnell, N.V.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 5 December 1989.
  • <11> Map: 1843. Combe Martin Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <12> Map: Ordnance Survey Map Collection. 1803-4. 2 Inch Drawing. 2 Inch.
  • <13> Report: Quinnell, N.V. and Dunn, C.J.. 1992. Lithic monuments within the Exmoor National Park: A new survey for management purposes by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.
  • <14> Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1953. Possible Bronze Age standing Stone from south-east. AO53/128/5. B/W. Negative.
  • <15> Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1972. Sole Remaining Stone Of Group,Poss Incl.'Hangman Stone'. OS72/F9/2A. B/W. Negative.
  • <16> Photograph: Swatridge, G.C.. 1953. Possible Bronze Age standing stone at Combe Martin taken from the south east. OS53/F128/5. B/W. Negative.
  • <17> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. Outside of Exmoor National Park. National Grid Reference SS 601 438.
  • <18> Archive: Historic England. 2016. NRHE to HER prototype website test. 34641.
  • <19> Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. Exmoor National Park Authority. MDE1034.
  • <20>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2021. MasterMap data. 1:2,500. [Mapped feature: #45253 ]

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Arches UUID
  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS64NW/5
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 2018
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20100
  • Local Heritage List Status (Proposed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 NW1
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 34641



Grid reference SS 2602 1469 (point)
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

Dec 11 2023 4:50PM


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