MMO308 - Deserted medieval settlement and field system at Holwell (Monument)


Two areas of varied earthworks thought to represent a deserted settlement includes terraced and hollow ways, strip lynchets and a linear quarry. The remains are thought to date to the medieval and post-medieval periods.

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Type and Period (3)

Protected Status

Full Description

The earthworks of an apparently substantial deserted medieval village are recorded on National Monuments Record aerial photographs taken March 1979. The site lies south of the present Parracombe village and Holwell Castle, near Higher Holwell, the only standing building here. (Higher Holwell now abandoned). Two holloways with earth banks are visible, forming a 't', and other rectlinear platforms and crofts can be seen. Sketched on SMR overlay. [1,2] The earthwork remains of settlement, hollow and terraced ways, strip cultivation and quarrying are centred at SS 6680 4415 within a single permanent pasture field; they cover an area of 4.5 hectares. They appear to represent medieval or later activity. The earthworks are dominated by a substantial terraced way which runs approximately northwest to southeast across the field. At its northwest end it turns due north as an embankment way for some 55 metres before being lost at the field boundary. Another hollow way, running south-south-west to north-north-east joins the principal terraced way in a "T" junction. The settlement earthworks relate closely to this pattern of ways. They form at least two distinct groups of platforms and enclosures. The first, centred at SS 6681 4419, lies immediately north of the "T" junction of hollow ways. It consists of at least two platforms: a rectilinear, well defined platform lying adjacent to the way on its northern side. It measures 23 metres by 7 metres and is raised by some 0.5 metres when viewed from the northeast. 16 metres to its east is a subrectangular platform and embanked area measuring 15 metres by 10 metres. The second group lies at the extreme eastern edge of the field at SS 6692 4411. It comprises a massive cut scarp, 2.8 metres high, into the natural hill slope defining a roughly rectangular, level area measuring at least 34 metres by 20 metres, adjacent to the terraced way on its southern side. A smoothing of the terraced way scarp at this point indicates former access up into the area. The remains of at least two possible buildings are visible here. The best survives as an "L" shaped bank defining a platform area measuring 13 metres by at least 5 metres. The second is more fragmentory; it lies adjacent to, and on the west side of a platform. A third area of amorphous earthworks which may represent settlement lies immediately southwest of the "T" junction of ways, at SS 6678 4417. It is defined by hollow ways on its eastern and northern sides and by quarrying to the west. To the south is an area of strip cultivation (see below). Within the area defined and adjacent to the quarrying is a cut scarp into the natural hill slope which may represent platforming its form is less convincing than its position at the junction of the two ways. Other features include a well defined, linear stone quarry 2.8 metres deep at the western edge of the field (see MDE21196). The slight remains of a catchwater leat runs west to east across the field. In the southwestern quadrent of the field is an area of parallel banks some 19 metres apart which represent strip cultivation. They are poorly preserved and their relationship with the settlement features and ways is not clear. At the extreme northwest corner of the field are two strip lynchets running northwest to southeast. They are well preserved and up to 1.2 metres high. They are truncated at their western end by the field boundary, but formerly contained westwards. Traces of further strip cultivation survives in the surrounding fields to the west and east of the site as very slight, amorphous scarps. To the north at SS 668 444 is another area of strip cultivation (MDE10861). Surveyed at 1:1000 scale, 1st October, 1993. [3-5] A rapid examination of air photography [5] shows this settlement site, trackways, etc, as earthworks c.550 metres south of Holwell. This site may well be associated with the strip lynchet system MDE10861. [6-8] The 1:1000 field plan [3] has been incorporated into an air photo transcription of the area around Parracombe. It is likely, but not certain, that the deserted settlement is associated with the medieval strip fields which surround it (MDE10861). The development of the medieval settlement pattern at Parracombe appears to have been complex and it is possible that the deserted settlement once was one of many foci of the village. [9-11] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [14]

Sources/Archives (14)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR SS6644 1460/6, 10, 203 (7 March 1979).
  • <2> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Devon County Council staff comments. S Timms, 1983.
  • <3> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R. and Sainsbury, I.. 1993. Parracombe, SS 64 SE 38/ink survey . 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 1-OCT-93,.
  • <5> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Aerial photograph reference number . NMR, SS 6644/1/5-6, SS 6644/2/7-8, SS 6644/3/9-10, SS 6644/6/201-204, SS 6644/8, 14.
  • <7> Archive: Miller, A.. 1995. RCHME Aerial Photograph Primary Recording Project. 7 Dcember 1995.
  • <8> Aerial photograph transcription: Winton, H.. 1999. Parracombe Project/Ink AP Transcription. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Winton, H.. 1999. RCHME/EH Aerial Photographers Comment. RCHME: Parracombe, West Exmoor, 20 December 1999.
  • <10> Monograph: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 2001. The Field Archaeology of Exmoor. English Heritage. p 116-119.
  • <11>XY Archive: Winton, H.. 1999. RCHME: Parracombe Project, Devon. AF1301153. [Mapped feature: #37877 ]
  • <12> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. DAP/HX 4,5 (30 January 1987).
  • <13> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. DAP/LC 12,13 (10 January 1989).
  • <14> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 909923, Extant 9 November 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 21485
  • Devon SMR: SS64SE/128
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE10863
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20930
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 SE38
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 909923



Grid reference Centred SS 6679 4413 (290m by 259m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS64SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Nov 9 2021 5:35PM


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