MMO2522 - 19th Century peat cutting at Black Mires (Monument)


An area of peat cutting is of probable 19th Century date.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

An area of peat cutting of probable 19th Century date can be seen as irregularly shaped pits and disturbed ground on aerial photographs of the 1940s onwards, on the higher west facing slopes of Black Mires, Porlock Allotment, centred on circa SS 8384 4294. A number of small rectilinear pits less than 5 metres across are visible, but the clearest features are significantly larger and more irregularly shaped pits. Between 25 and 95 metres in length, these pits can be interpreted as evidence of sustained peat cutting in a preferred location. For instance, several pits have stepped faces indicating systematic cutting, perhaps by several generations of the same family as part of their commoners' rights. The pits are not densely spaced, as can be seen elsewhere on Exmoor, but well dispersed, with about 20 metres between the smaller pits and up to circa 200 metres separating the larger workings. In total, the cutting covers around 7 hectares but 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. This is one of four discrete areas of peat extraction to the northwest of Black Mires, differentiated by different styles of peat cutting, perhaps indicating they were worked by different individuals or groups. 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] A walkover survey undetaken by Cornwall Council for the Mires Project highlighted several specific peat cutting features: Feature 20 - SS 83826 42880 - Irregular peat cutting approximately 20 metres by 11 metres. Feature 21 - SS 83751 42894 - Rectangular peat cutting 8 metres by 2 metres, up to 0.4 metres deep. Feature 22 - SS 83751 42894 - Rectangular peat cutting 10 metres by 2 metres, up to 0.5 metres metres deep. Feature 23 - SS 83642 42901 - Rectangular peat cutting 12 metres by 2 metres, up to 0.3 metres deep. Feature 24 - SS 83618 42880 - Irregular peat cutting approximately 15 metres by 8 metres, up to 0.3 metres deep. Feature 35 - SS 83848 42951 - Rectangular peat cutting, 5 metres by 5 metres, and 0.15 metres deep. [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. NMR RAF 540/931 (F20) 3055-6 (8 November 1952).
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF 540-931 (F20) 4099-4101 (8 November 1952).
  • <3>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SW. MD002184. [Mapped feature: #38919 ]
  • <4> Report: Riley, H.. 2014. Turf Cutting on Exmoor: An archaeological and historical study - project report.
  • <5> Report: Kirkham, G. and Taylor, S.. 2008. Exmoor Mire Restoration Project: Archaeological Survey on Moorland Areas at Alderman's Barrow Allotment, Blackpitts-Exe Head, North Twitchen, Roosthitchen and Verney's Allotment. Cornwall County Council Historic Environment Service (Projects). p. 10-11; no. 20-24, 35.
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1478228, Extant 19 July 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 8377 4294 (496m by 246m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS84SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (7)

Related Events/Activities (2)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW271
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1478228

Record last edited

Jul 19 2021 2:42PM


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