MMO2715 - Post-medieval drainage ditches around Horcombe, Burcombe and Wester Emmetts (Monument)


An area of post-medieval drainage ditches is visible on aerial photographs. They were most likely cut as part of the Knight family's attempt at agricultural improvement, probably in around 1845.

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Full Description

An area of curvilinear post-medieval drainage ditches is visible on aerial photographs on moorland around Horcombe, Burcombe and Wester Emmetts, Exmoor [1]. They were most likely cut as part of the Knight family's attempt at agricultural improvement of the former Royal Forest of Exmoor, probably at the same time as the construction of Kinsford and Cornham Farm, around 1845. Centred at approximately SS 7452 3814, the ditches run in a variety of different directions, apparently following the contours of the various slopes above three un-named tributaries of the River Barle. It appears that the ditches were designed to channel water into these natural channels and on to the river. The ditches vary in length from 80 to 400 metres in length, and are typically about 1.5 to 2 metres wide. They cover an area of approximately 60 hectares. Evidence of peat extraction can be seen between the ditches. According to Orwin, many miles of drainage ditches were cut across parts of Exmoor, but in some areas failed to provide adequate drainage for the land to be enclosed [2]. Large areas of Exmoor were successfully drained, including these areas, which appear to have been used as grazing for sheep during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Other ditches are visible in the surrounding areas, some draining into natural streams and water courses, others appearing to drain into specially constructed leats. Like these, many of the ditches are associated with areas of peat cutting. However, the curvilinear and irregular form of these ditches is in marked contrast to the regular, parallel drainage channels seen elsewhere in the former Royal Forest. [1-4] 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 OS/73087 619-21 (17 April 1973).
  • <2> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. 32-33.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889.
  • <4>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 73 NW. MD002189. [Mapped feature: #43629 ]
  • <5> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1483659, Extant 22 November 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 7444 3811 (1405m by 828m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS73NW

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Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NW55
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1483659

Record last edited

Nov 22 2021 4:55PM


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