MMO2842 - Post-medieval water meadow southeast of Exford (Monument)


A post-medieval water meadow of a type known as catch-work or field-gutter system is visible as earthworks on aerial photographs. It appears to be a detached system, with possible 20th Century damage at its northwestern extent.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Earthworks visible on aerial photographs indicate the presence of a post-medieval water meadow of a type known as catchwork or field gutter system, to the immediate southeast of Exford, centred approximately on SS 8580 3818. Such water meadows are typically found on steep combe or hill slopes and are designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream along the slope via a series of roughly parallel channels or gutters. When irrigation was required the gutters were blocked, causing water to overflow from gutter to gutter, 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. The water meadow is sited on southwest facing slopes overlooking the River Exe, below a farm or dwelling annotated as Melcombe on the current Ordnance Survey base map. This settlement is named as the Rectory on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map, a dwelling possibly unlikely to have maintained such a water meadow. It is therefore not immediately clear with which farmstead the gutters recorded may be associated, and they may therefore form what is known as a detached system. The northwest extent of the system might have been damaged by 20th Century construction, including that of a sewage works. [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. NMR RAF 540/858 (F14) 0091 (1 September 1952).
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1890.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2004. 1:10000, 2004. 1:10,000.
  • <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 83 NE. MD002192. [Mapped feature: #32809 ]
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1485056, Extant 22 September 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 8578 3818 (441m by 278m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS83NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NE119
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1485056

Record last edited

Sep 22 2021 9:54AM


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