MMO2518 - 19th Century peat cutting on Madacombe (Monument)


An area of peat cutting of probable 19th Century date. This is one of four discrete but possibly associated areas of extraction visible as earthworks on the northwest facing slopes at Madacombe.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

Peat cutting of probably largely 19th Century date can be seen as numerous irregularly shaped large pits and an extensive area of disturbed ground on aerial photographs of the 1940s onwards, centred on circa SS 8264 4319. The area of extraction appears to be divided into two, perhaps both physically and temporally, by a probably 19th Century field boundary. To the east of the field boundary the evidence for peat extraction resembles that to the south at circa SS 8279 4279, with the cutting on a relatively small scale. The visible pits are widely spaced and generally subrectangular in shape, on average under 4 metres wide but varying in length from 3 metres to over 25 metres long. The greatest indication of extraction here is the disturbed character of the ground surface, which, with the visible pits, may indicate a level of speculative cutting. To the west of the field boundary the cuttings appear more developed. The individual cuttings are more extensive, some approaching 40 metres in width, and also show evidence of sustained and cumulative exploitation. For instance, several pits have stepped faces, indicating systematic cutting. These larger pits may reflect the cumulative nature of some peat cutting on Exmoor, where one family cuts the same peat beds for generations as part of their commoners' rights. In total, this area of peat cutting covers around 3 hectares of common land. Due to the difficult nature of the evidence which can vary in appearance on aerial photographs from year to year, the transcription attempts only to convey the general area and character of the excavations, and should be taken only as indicative of the extent of individual pits. The heyday of peat cutting on Exmoor was in the first half of the 19th Century, although cutting probably took place on a smaller scale from the medieval period well into the 20th Century. [1-3] A study of the archaeology and history of peat exploitation on Exmoor’s moorlands provides additional background on the practice and sites. [4] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [5]

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF 540/931 (F20) 4103-5 (8 November 1952).
  • <2> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 72, 232-3.
  • <3>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SW. MD002184. [Mapped feature: #38953 ]
  • <4> Report: Riley, H.. 2014. Turf Cutting on Exmoor: An archaeological and historical study - project report.
  • <5> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1478160, Extant 19 July 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 8264 4317 (233m by 232m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS84SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (7)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW267
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1478160

Record last edited

Jul 19 2021 3:08PM


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