MMO1888 - 19th Century water meadow north of North Furzehill Farm (Monument)


A water meadow of probable 19th century date, of a type known locally as a catchwork or catch-meadow system, is visible as a ditch or water channel on aerial photographs.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A simple post-medieval water meadow of a type known locally as a catchwork or catch-meadow system was constructed on the south-west facing slopes above the West Lyn River, to the south-west of North Furzehill Farm, Lynton and Lynmouth parish. Catchwork systems are usually found on steep combe sides and are designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream along the valley sides via a series of channels or gutters. When irrigation was required the gutters were blocked, causing water to overflow, thereby irrigating the slopes. This film of water prevented the ground freezing during the winter and raised the temperature of the grass in the spring, thereby encouraging early growth, particularly important during the hungry gap of the March and April. In more complex systems any excess water then returned to the feeder stream at the valley bottom or was removed by a tail drain. The use of a series of parallel gutters to increase the area irrigated is a common feature of Exmoor systems. This system appears to be an example of a `detached system', where the water meadow is not directly attached to its farmstead and only distributed what liquid manure was carried to it. Although similar systems were operating elsewhere by the 17th century, this water meadow is probably 19th Century in origin. Many such systems on Exmoor continued in use well into the 20th century, but this example may have partly passed out of use by 1889, as it is only partially depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of that year. Its depiction on this map also demonstrates that it was in operation prior to the creation of the mill pond at SS 72554520, which is not shown until the 2nd Edition of 1904. [1-5] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [6]

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/931 (F20) 3037-8 (8 November 1952).
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1904.
  • <4> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <5>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 NW. MD002173. [Mapped feature: #33063 ]
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1464926, Extant 16 December 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 7243 4516 (214m by 106m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS74NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 NW114
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1464926

Record last edited

Dec 16 2021 2:41PM


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