MDE12830 - Mortuary enclosure east of the Chapman Barrows (Monument)


Embanked quadrilateral enclosure with slight ditch outside the low surrounding bank, once considered to be the result of former turf cuttings and natural tumps. Now thought to be a mortuary enclosure, though it could also be a longhouse.

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Type and Period (4)

Protected Status

Full Description

At SS 7035 4323 there is an embanked quadrilateral enclosure, 25 metres long by 10 metres, with a slight ditch outside the low surrounding bank. All corners are rounded. There is a hummock at the southwest corner, but this might be a big anthill. [1] The enclosure earthworks and ditch are clearly visible after swaling. [2] SS703 432. This is a misinterpretation of an area of old turf cuttings and natural tumps. The turfs were probably cut to top the enclosure wall running to the north. No survey action. [3] In January 2009 the rectangular enclosure identified by Eardley-Wilmot [1,2] was reconsidered and surveyed at 1:500 by English Heritage's Exeter Archaeological Survey and Investigation. The earthworks describe a roughly rectangular enclosure with rounded corners, measuring 45 metres long by 20 metres wide overall and orientated northwest to southeast. It comprises a level internal area measuring 30 metres by 6 metres, surrounded on at least three sides by a stony turf covered bank approximately 0.3 to 0.5 metres high and 3 to 4 metres wide; the internal edge of the bank is not clear at the southeast end, raising the possibility that the feature is open ended. Traces of a 4 to 5 metres wide external ditch are visible along parts of the southwest bank and around the northwest end. The enclosure is centred at SS 7036 4321. [4,5] This site was subjected to survey by the RCHME in 2009. It was suggested it may represent the remains of a turf stack or peat drying platform, or a medieval or post-medieval stock enclosure associated with Radworthy Farm, but its shape and position were thought to suggest a Neolithic mortuary enclosure. [5, 12] This feature is not likely to be peat cutting, but comparison to other sites further afield raises the possibility that it is a Neolithic mortuary enclosure. [6] A geophysical investigation of the rectilinear earthworks show high resistance anomalies along much of the earthwork banks, and some shadowing along the line of the possible external ditch. The geophysical survey results appear to agree with the earthwork survey, which depicts the southeast end of the enclosure as open ended with a slight scarp or terrace completing the rectangular form. The enclosure has been compared with mortuary enclosures, and the geophysical survey does reveal a similar form, but the size and length of the enclosure's bank also correlates with the excavated ground plans of some large longhouses. The peat cutting interpretation can be rejected as the squared edges have been built up rather than cut in, and appear to be of stone construction. [7] Its location between Chapman Barrows and Longstone support its suggested role as a mortuary enclosure in a highly significant burial and ritual landscape. [8] Given its size, its location on the edge of an area of disused turf pits and its similarity to known turf stacks, it remains a possibility that this enclosure could represent the remains of a turf stack. [9] A detailed measured earthwork survey was undertaken of this site by the Longstone Landscapes group, with support from the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership Scheme. [10] Geophysical survey results from 2014 suggest that the enclosure may have had stone facing or orthostats around some areas of the outer edge of the bank. The combined magnetometry and resistivity results strongly suggest there are features inside the enclosure, which are potentially archaeological in origin. The results suggest that the earthwork is unlikely to be the result of peat cutting. [11] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [12]

Sources/Archives (13)

  • <1> Unpublished document: Eardley-Wilmot, H.. 20/02/1979. Letter and Plan.
  • <2> Archive: Devon County Council. Various. Devon SMR / HER records / parish files - Exmoor records. Site visit, H Eardley-Wilmot, 15 June 1982.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 9 March 1995.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. English Heritage Field Investigation, 12 January 2009.
  • <5> Technical drawing: Riley, H.. 2009. Enclosure on Challacombe Common, Earthwork Survey. 1:500.
  • <6> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. R Wilson-North and H Riley, 2009.
  • <7> Report: Pullen, B.. 2009. Rectangular Enclosure, Challacombe Common, North Devon, Exmoor National Park; Earth Resistance Survey Technical Report.
  • <8> Article in serial: Wilson-North, R.. 2011. From Barrows to Burnt Mounds. Exmoor Review. 52. 85-89. P.85-86, 88.
  • <9> Report: Riley, H.. 2014. Turf Cutting on Exmoor: An archaeological and historical study - project report. 41.
  • <10> Technical drawing: Longstone Landscapes Project. 2014. Mortuary enclosure survey, Challacombe Common. 1:200. General: Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <11> Report: Mitcham, Doug. 2014. Geophysical surveys of a rectangular enclosure and stone setting on Challacombe Common, Exmoor National Park.
  • <12> Report: Riley, H.. 2016. Little Hangman and Challacombe Common, Exmoor National Park: Two possible earlier Neolithic enclosures on western Exmoor.
  • <13> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1043639, Extant 17 January 2022.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 7353
  • Devon SMR: SS74SW/23
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20192
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SW100
  • National Park: Exmoor
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1043639



Grid reference Centred SS 7037 4321 (44m by 30m) Estimated from sources
Map sheet SS74SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Record last edited

Jan 17 2022 9:11PM


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