MDE21579 - 19th Century field system and boundary stones on Holdstone Down (Monument)


Holdstone Down was inclosed in the 1870s. A series of shale boundary stones subdividing the Down are marked on historic and modern (2013) mapping.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

A series of boundary stones sub-divide Holdstone Hill to the southwest, northeast and southeast and are visible on the 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps and the 1963 6 inch map. [1-3] Modern (2013) mapping suggests that the stones are still mostly extant. [4] The Enclosure Award (1864) for Holdstone Down is held in the Devon Record Office. [5] Holdstone Down was inclosed in the 1870s ([6]) and was divided up into 270 plots or strips ([7]). Some of these, around the southern edge of the Down, were marked by field banks. The majority of plots on the higher part of the Down were defined by marker stones. These were placed at the corners of the plots and were inscribed with the number of the plot to which they related. The numbers on the stones can be correlated with the numbers on the Inclosure map and apportionment. Many of the marker stones have been lost through erosion, animal rubbing, swaling, and more recently through vandalism (local information), and are now only visible as stumps poking through the turf. However, a number do survive largely intact, and some have numbers still easily legible on them. The marker stones are of the local shale, which is soft and easily split. They are usually about 0.5 metres high. It seems that these unfenced plots were never cultivated, but were used to preserve the earlier common rights and probably for common grazing by mutual consent ([7]). Only two have slight banks around them (MDE9014 and MDE9015) and it seems likely that these were used for habitation perhaps in the context of the Holdstone Estate (MDE8962). For a full account of the landscape see MDE8573. [8,9] An historical study of Holdstone Down and an archaeological survey of the southeastern boundary of the site was undertaken in 2015. Holdstone Down was one of four large areas of common ground in Combe Martin parish. The Tithe Map for Combe Martin dated 1842 [9] shows Holdstone Down as unenclosed 'Commons' with a wide droveway between the holdings of Holdstone Farm and Verwill Farm, giving access for livestone to the grazing on Holdstone Down. Every inhabitant of Combe Martin had rights of turbary (to cut turves for fuel) on Holdstone Down. The Inclosure Act of 1836 authorised the enclosure of common land, providing that two thirds of the people involved agreed to this. In 1845 a parish meeting in Combe Martin unanimously agreed to proceed with the enclosure of Combe Martin's commons. Following delays due to the negligence of the appointed surveyor, in 1871 the Inclosure Award for Combe Martin allocated plots of land on the commons to all those with common rights in the parish. These are delineated on the map and details of the allocations are given in the award [6]. The works involved a survey, copying the map and schedule, constructing new roads and marking out 270 plots on the four commons. The plots on Holdstone Down were marked by upright stones, inscribed with a number which corresponded to the plots shown on the Inclosure Map. The Inclosure Award notes that the owners of some adjoining plots on Holdstone Down wanted to enclose only the outer boundaries of these plots; this was allowed, and the award gives a date by which all of the enclosure boundaries on the four commons had to be complete: 4th May 1871. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1889 shows that this process of enclosure was not completed [1]. Just 18 years after the Commissioners’ deadlines for the completion of the enclosure boundaries, the marker stones for the plots adjoining the road are shown, but only three boundaries and an enclosure are depicted (Fig 6). The partial enclosure of the higher areas of Holdstone Down, west of the road, did not result in the loss of this area of coastal heath. The owners of the plots surrendered their interests and in 1965 Holdstone Down was registered as common once again, under the Commons Registration Act. The archaeological survey studied the area between Moorlands (SS 62526 47691) and the southwestern edge of the down at SS 62260 47203, surveying at a scale of 1:2500 using survey grade differential GPS. Profiles were taken of existing boundary banks and the location of boundary stones were noted. The remains of the inclosure boundary on the east and southeastern part of Holdstone Down comprise four stone faced banks, two low banks, and three marker stones; the latter are labelled 36, 24 and ?23. The 1st Edition map of 1889 [1] shows 22 of these stones along the boundary. By the 1980s many of the marker stones on Holdstone Down had disappeared [7]. Most of the plots on Holdstone Down are long and narrow, and about an acre in area. This is because they were designed to accommodate the many people in Combe Martin who had rights of turbary on the down: the plots were not really suitable for livestock or cultivation, although some people did grow potatoes in their plots.[1,6,7,10,11] 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 (12)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1963. 6 Inch Map: 1963.
  • <4> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. Catherine Dove, 3 September 2013.
  • <5> Unpublished document: 1864. Holdstone Down Enclosure Award.
  • <6> Map: Unknown. 1871. Combe Martin Inclosure Map 1871.
  • <7> Article in monograph: Beaumont, M.. 1989. Tithes and Enclosures. Out of the World and into Combe Martin. Combe Martin Local Histor.
  • <8> Technical drawing: Sainsbury, I. and Wilson-North, R.. 1993. Holdstone Down/ink survey . Unknown. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 4 June 1993.
  • <10> Map: 1843. Combe Martin Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <11> Report: Riley, H.. 2015. Holdstone Down Inclosure Boundary and Marker Stones. Features HD1-2, HD4-9.
  • <12> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 859250, Extant 8 November 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 21026
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 54791
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 60597
  • Devon SMR: SS64NW/25/1
  • Devon SMR: SS64NW/45
  • Devon SMR: SS64NW/92
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20914
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21663
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE8959
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MEM23277
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 NW13
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 859250



Grid reference Centred SS 6189 4761 (1273m by 902m) (8 map features)
Map sheet SS64NW

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Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Nov 8 2021 2:11PM


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