MDE8687 - Medieval or post-medieval field system on Butter Hill (Monument)


A field system visible during field survey on aerial photographs covering an extensive area north of Countisbury Church and on Butter Hill, towards Foreland Point. It may predate the early 19th Century walled enclosures to the south.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

Linear features, apparently field banks, are visible on aerial photographs around the Triangulation Station on Butter Hill [1]. Although they extend north of the Triangulation Station, they seem to form part of a field system stretching southwards towards Countisbury. [2] A number of field boundaries, probably dating to the medieval or post-medieval period, are visible on aerial photographs as linear earthworks on the western side of The Foreland, near Countisbury Common. Covering an area of approximately 10 hectares, the boundaries extend from approximately SS 7476 4988 to SS 7495 5032, running northeast and southwest of the triangulation station at SS 7487 5008. The boundaries are mostly irregular, and do not appear to follow a logical pattern, which suggest that they are representative of several phases of activity. None of the boundaries are depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map [4], suggesting they were abandoned prior to publication in 1891. [3-5] Substantial area of relict field banks. Immediately north and west of Countisbury Church and extending to the area around Lloyd's Signal Station (MDE20754) are a group of enclosures above the cliff slopes. Those nearer the village tend to be smaller enclosures in the nature of infield plots. To the north of the group of modern fields are further relict enclosures including an isolated group of 4 on Foreland Point (MDE8691). This group is defined by very slight stone banks, unlike the substantial banks defining the southern group. [6] Extensive multiperiod field systems on Countisbury Common and The Foreland running from SS 7535 5075 to SS 7485 4992. The earthworks were surveyed in 1986 and examined again during the survey by the National Trust in 2004. The possibly medieval system to the north of Countisbury Church consists of small infield or garden plots with a building platform c11 metres long by up to 5 metres wide next to the churchyard. To the north an area of more regular enclosures has banks of different sizes and may represent development over a considerable period of time. Another system with smaller fields was identified on the west side of the spur between Countisbury Common and Foreland Point with relict field banks to the west. A small area of four enclosures with low banks forming a rectangular group along the summit of The Foreland which may be of prehistoric origin. [7] SS 748 499. Low banks forming a system of rectangular fields identified by McDonnell on aerial photographs north of St John's Church, Countisbury. [8,9] SS 7480 4998. The remains of a field system, composed of turf covered earth and stone banks each about 2 metres wide and 1 metre high. It comprises a series of irregular rectangular fields covering an area of some 15 hectares or more around the steep gulley of Church Slade and on the summit of Butter Hill. Further fragmentary banks, all probably contemporary with this system, continue northwards as far as Foreland Point but the core is concentrated around SS 7480 4998. The date of this system is not known but it appears to be relatively modern. It probably predates the early 19th Century walled enclosures abutting it on the southern side. [10] SS 7475 4988. A former field boundary was cut through during the installation of an electricity cable in 2021. The remains of the boundary measured 10 metres in length, 1.8 metres wide and 0.49 metres high, and was formed by two deposits; the section excavated contained no finds. The boundary had been cut by a small quarry to the northwest (MDE21081), and incorporated into a current field boundary to the southeast. It had also been cut by a path and a trackway. [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. [12,13]

Sources/Archives (13)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. OS/72065 19 (15 October 1972).
  • <2> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North, 14 October 1993, SS 75 SW1.
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/910 4009-10 (17 October 1952).
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1891.
  • <5> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 75 SW. MD002169.
  • <6> Report: Thackray, D. + Thackray, C.. 1986. Lynmouth: Foreland Point, Countisbury Hill & Watersmeet, Devon. 11.
  • <7> Report: Berry, N.. 2004. Archaeological and Historic Landscape Survey of Kipscombe Farm, Countisbury, Devon. Site distribution map 3; Site 051.
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. MAM/2069 (June 1982).
  • <9> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 18 April 1994, SS 74 NW69.
  • <11> Report: Rainbird, P. and Payne, N.. 2021. A new electricity cable route on land at Countisbury Common, Countisbury, Exmoor, Devon: Results of an archaeological watching brief. AC Archaeology. p3, 5, Figure 2a, Plates 2-3.
  • <12> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 926291, Extant 15 December 2021.
  • <13> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 766172, Extant 15 December 2021.

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 18102
  • Devon SMR: SS74NW/76
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE11731
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20751
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO273
  • Local List Status (Candidate)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW69
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 75 SW1
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • National Trust HER Record: MNA149667
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 766172
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 926291
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (50-100)



Grid reference Centred SS 7476 5000 (511m by 654m) Aerial survey
Map sheet SS75SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Record last edited

Dec 15 2021 2:20PM


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