MMO2523 - 19th Century peat cutting at Black Mires (Monument)


An area of extensive peat cutting which probably dates to the 19th Century.

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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 northwest facing slopes of Black Mires, Porlock Allotment, centred on circa SS 8350 4331. Three distinct forms of pits can be observed here. Firstly, a small number of isolated rectilinear pits five to ten metres wide and up to fifteen long are visible, some displaying 'tails', possibly prospecting trenches, up to 40 metres long. Secondly, significantly larger and more irregularly shaped pits. The largest example in this group at circa 100 metres in length can be seen at circa SS 8334 4339. These pits, which often display stepped sides in plan, have been interpreted as evidence of sustained and systematic peat cutting in a preferred location, perhaps by several generations of the same family as part of their commoners' rights. The third group is visible as densely grouped pits, irregular but largely rectilinear in shape, centred on circa SS 8369 4321. The close spacing and interlocking pattern may indicate a high level of organisation. 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. 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] During a survey produced by Cornwall Council five peat cuttings were visible in this area. Feature 19 - SS 83531 43387 - A peat cutting approximately 25 metres long and 2 metres wide. Feature 25 - SS 83599 43188 - A cluster of predominantly small irregular peat cuttings. Feature 26 - SS 83642 43299 - A probable peat cutting approximately 16 metres by 4 metres, with a depth of 0.3 metres and surrounding banks 3 metres metres across. These banks stand 0.5 metres above the surrounding ground surface giving the impression of a raised subrectangular platform 22 metres by 10 metres overall. Feature 27 - SS 83658 43296 - A cluster of irregular predominantly small peat cuttings. Feature 28 - SS 83695 23337 - A cluster or irregular predominantly small peat cuttings. [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 CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3166-7 (11 April 1947).
  • <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: #38921 ]
  • <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; no. 19, 25-28.
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1478234, Extant 19 July 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 8352 4328 (492m by 340m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS84SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Events/Activities (2)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW272
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1478234

Record last edited

Jul 19 2021 2:36PM


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