MDE11943 - Medieval or post-medieval deserted settlement southwest of Desolate Farm (Monument)


Earthwork remains in a field known locally as "Old House Close" form a series of amorphous and irregular platforms. They probably represent at least two farm complexes, predating or contemporary with the habitation at Desolate.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

Earthworks centred at SS 7711 4974 immediately west of Desolate, represent settlement possibly predating or contemporary with the habitation at Desolate itself. The site lies within a pasture field on south and west facing slopes at the head of a shallow combe running eastwards into Dogsworthy Combe close to the sea. The earthworks represent at least one farm complex forming a straggle of platforms up the slopes of the combe. They are bounded on their north side by a substantial field bank and on their south by a very disturbed linear hollow which is probably both a hollow way and the result of surface water run off. Within this area, the earthworks have been disturbed by differential land improvement which has smoothed the earthworks in the southern part of the site. The edge of this improvement is now marked by a strong west to east scarp emerging from a gateway at its eastern end and running westwards parallel with the field boundary. The earthworks are characterised by a series of amorphous and irregular platforms which are difficult to interpret in detail, but which appear to form at least two blocks or complexes. The field is known locally as "Old House Close". [1-4] The remains of a possible hamlet or farmstead and associated fields, potentially of medieval date, are visible on aerial photographs as cropmarks and low earthworks. The site now lies under improved pasture, on a north-east facing slope at the head of Desolate combe at circa SS 7707 4967, immediately to the southwest of the current settlement at Desolate. The earthworks described above by [1] can be seen on aerial photographs of 1946. The improvement and differential land improvement also described above appears to have begun by 1952. By 1972 the entire field has been improved and the settlement earthworks, including a number of probable platforms, and a number of field boundaries are visible as cropmarks. A subrectangular field, approximately 90 metres by 50 metres in size, may occupy a levelled area centred on circa SS 7702 4967. On photographs of 1970, very diffuse cropmarks at circa SS 769 495 may indicate the settlement or field system continued to the south and west. However, these cropmarks, and those described above are too unclear on the available aerial photographs to be transcribed. [5-9] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [10]

Sources/Archives (10)

  • <1> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. R Pile and S Pile, Coombe Farm.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 19 April 1994.
  • <3> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <4> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R. & Riley, H.. 1994. Desolate settlement/ink survey . 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1655 (F20) 3142-3 (11 July 1946).
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/910 (F20) 3004-5 (17 October 1952).
  • <7> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/70064 032-033 (3 May 1970).
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/72065 013-014 (15 April 1972).
  • <9> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 NE. MD002168.
  • <10> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1002074, Extant 6 December 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO450
  • Local List Status (Candidate)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NE36
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1002074



Grid reference Centred SS 7701 4963 (264m by 288m) Aerial survey
Map sheet SS74NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Dec 6 2021 9:52PM


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