MMO2880 - Post-medieval drainage system on Great Woolcombe, Little Halscombe and Horsen (Monument)


An area of regular post-medieval drainage ditches is visible on aerial photographs taken in 1964.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

An area of regular post-medieval drainage ditches is visible on aerial photographs on Great Woolcombe, Little Halscombe and Horsen on Exmoor. Centred at approximately SS 7769 3769, the ditches extend across an area of more than 175 hectares, and appear to direct water from the higher ground to the many streams and combes which subsequently flow into the River Barle. In some places the ditches apparently follow the contours of the various slopes, while in others they cut directly across them. Several of the larger ditches may in fact be leats; others are larger presumably because of an increased volume of water, particularly those which drain directly into the streams. The ditches were most likely cut as part of the Knight family's attempt at improvement, probably during the mid 19th Century. According to Orwin, many miles of drainage ditches were cut across parts of Exmoor, but failed to provide adequate drainage for the land to be enclosed. Orwin also refers to Robert Smith, the land agent for the Knight family, recommending the construction of "sheep drains" on the boggy ground. Other similar ditches are visible in the surrounding areas, some draining into natural streams and water courses, others appearing to specially constructed leats and channels. Many of the ditches are associated with areas of peat cutting. [1-3] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [4]

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 543/2821 (F62) 168-71 (27 April 1964).
  • <2> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. 33, 56.
  • <3>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 73 NE. MD002190. [Mapped feature: #40664 ]
  • <4> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1486548, Extant 22 November 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 7799 3766 (2234m by 1452m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS73NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Related Articles (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NE83
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1486548

Record last edited

Nov 22 2021 5:07PM


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