MMO2886 - Post-medieval drainage system between Hangley Cleave and Long Holcombe (Monument)


Two possible phases of post-medieval drainage ditches are visible on aerial photographs as earthworks. They may have been designed to direct water from the moor's summit towards Kinsford Water and other smaller streams in the area.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A complex series of interconnecting drainage ditches are visible as earthworks on moorland between Hangley Cleave and Long Holcombe, Exmoor. Centred at approximately SS 7602 3598, the ditches extend across an area of some 93 hectares, cutting across the contours of the slope.They apparently were designed to direct water from the summit of the moor towards Kinsford Water and other smaller streams in the area. This drainage system was most likely constructed during the mid 19th Century as part of the Knight family's attempt at agricultural improvement in the area. According to Orwin, many miles of drainage ditches were cut across various parts of Exmoor, but failed to provide adequate drainage for the land to be enclosed. Orwin also refers to the Knight family's land agent, Robert Smith, who advocated the construction of so-called "sheep drains" on the wetter areas to provide extra grazing land for stock. A similar system is visible on Long Holcombe to the east, but as the two systems are divided by a contemporaneous boundary wall they have been recorded separately. [1-3] The extensive system of 19th Century drainage gutters is visible as earthworks. On the southern part of the ridge, there may be two systems of gutters, one superseded by the more extensive currently active one. [4] The moor is covered by an extensive system of drainage ditches. On the lower and steeper slopes, these ditches reached a considerable size – over 1 metre across and up to a metre deep – with some examples that were even larger. For the most part, and on the flatter parts of the moor, they were less than 0.5 metres across and 0.3 metres deep. Unlike the later and more rigidly geometric systems present on Exmoor (e.g. Aclands), the ditches of this system were often sinuous. In almost all cases, the ditches were choked with vegetation and were not free flowing. It was noted in numerous places small rectangular water filled pits had dug into the course of the ditches, presumably for stock watering holes. SS 7615 3624. The top of the main descent for the drainage ditches coming off the moor. The width of this section of ditch is exceptional – over 6 metres – with a flat base and stones visible in that surface. It is possible that a structure, or perhaps some more elaborate water management system, survives beneath the turf in this area. [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: Meridian Air Maps. 1983. Infrared False Colour Aerial Photography. 2325-27.
  • <2> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. 33, 57.
  • <3>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 73 NE. MD002190. [Mapped feature: #37865 ]
  • <4> Report: McDonnell, R.. 2008. Hangley Cleave: Report on an Archaeological Walkover Survey. 3, feature number 007.
  • <5> Report: Bray, L., Green, T., Wapshott, E. + Walls, S.. 2011. Emmett's Grange, Exmoor, Somerset: Management plan and archaeological assessment. Appendix 1, p37, 39.
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1486578, Extant 22 November 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NE89
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1486578
  • Report Site Reference: 369 SEM7641
  • Report Site Reference: 378 SEM7641



Grid reference Centred SS 7607 3587 (1477m by 1105m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS73NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Nov 22 2021 8:33PM


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