MMO316 - Prehistoric settlement and field system southeast of Martinhoe Common (Monument)


A prehistoric settlement and field system with hut circles is visible on aerial photographs and at ground level as a series of earthworks. The presence of the hut circles suggest a Bronze Age or later date.

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Type and Period (4)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

An area of ridge and furrow is enclosed to the north and west by a low bank running from SS 6776 4693 to SS 6777 4651. At SS 6791 4671, there is a low bank forming a circular feature that does not appear to have been ploughed over. This may be a tree ring enclosure. The features were doubtful on the 1978 aerial photographs but looked good on those taken in 1946. [1-3] SS 679 466. A settlement consisting of three hut circles and the remains of a field system. An area of some 12 hectares (400 metres east to west by 300 metres centred on SS 679 467) on gentle southwest facing slopes at about 280 metres Ordnance Datum on the southeast side of Martinhoe Common, is shown on the 1889 [4] and 1904 [5] Ordnance Survey maps as open moorland and was not incorporated into pasture until 1945 [6]. McDonnell [1] notes that the 1946 aerial photographs show this area to be covered by ridge and furrow. SETTLEMENT. SS 6802 4669. Set into the slope, in what is now rough grassland last ploughed in the early 1980s, are the remains of a hut circle (A). It has been reduced by ploughing but is nevertheless clearly evident as a platform 8 metres in diameter within a turf covered stony bank, no more than 0.3 metres high at best, spread to about 2.3 metres. Around the northern uphill side the bank is predominantly an inner scarp. There is no trace of an entrance but it was probably in the south. The remains of a turf-covered field wall (D), about 0.2 metres maximum height and spread to 2 metres, extends from the east side of the hut south for some 20 metres before fading in the turf. SS 6792 4673. A second hut circle (B) levelled into the slope. McDonnell interpreted this from the aerial photographs [1-3] as a possible tree ring but it is clearly the foundations of a hut. It is about 8 metres diameter inside a turf covered wall now mainly reduced to an inner facing scarp 0.5 metres maximum height and 2.3 metres wide. Soil slip has tended to obscure the front southern rim of the platform. No entrance is apparent but it was most likely in the south. SS 6791 4679. The ill defined remains of a possible third hut (C), much reduced by ploughing , visible as a platform levelled into the slope. It is about 6 metres diameter and the backscarp is about 0.5 metres high. FIELD SYSTEM As stated the area has now been enclosed and ploughed and is now predominantly under pasture: Some areas utilised as hay fields and others left to rough grass. The remains of an earlier field system are spread out along these south facing slopes from about SS 6775 4693 to SS 6807 4665. This system is defined mainly by low turf covered stony banks, no more than 0.2 metres maximum height and spread to 2 metres to 2.5 metres wide. There are also a few lynchets at SS 6778 4667, SS 6785 4670 and SS 6792 4666 (alongside a cairn MDE11192). There appear to have been more lynchets spread over the southern slopes of this area but these have been too reduced by ploughing to be confirmed. The system may have extended northwards some 800 metres onto Martinhoe Common; where there are remnants of much ploughed down features, possibly field banks, lynchets and hollow ways (see MDE11181; and westwards about 1 kilometre where there is a hut circle, field banks and lynchets (see MDE11198). There is now no trace of the 'ridge and furrow' noted by McDonnell. It is probable that this was merely the intitial ploughing of the area in 1945 to break up the heathland. The bank D, running south from hut A and forming a small field about 30 metres square to the southwest, suggests that the field banks are contemporary with the huts circles and therefore originally prehistoric, though they may have been reused at some later period(s). From SS 6774 4690 south to SS 6773 4660 is a hollow way, part of a route from Woody Bay in the north across Martinhoe Common to Parracombe in the south. This hollow way, shown on the Martinhoe tithe map [7] before the enclosure walls were built, may originally have been contemporaneous with the field system. See attached 1:2500 plan for extent of features. [8] The hut circles described above and field system are visible on aerial photographs examined as part of the Exmoor National Park National Mapping Programme Project in 2007-2008. The hut circles are visible on vertical photographs from 1946, while the field system can be seen on photographs as recent as 2008. The settlement is particular clear on oblique photographs taken in February 2008 [10], which also shows overlying ridge and furrow ploughing as described by Richard McDonnell. This ridge and furrow is unlikely to be modern, as it is sinuous, almost S shaped in form, and is therefore more likely to date to the medieval period. Previous authorities have described the settlement and field system as belonging to the Prehistoric or Roman period; however the presence of the hut circles indicates that the settlement is Bronze Age or later. [2,9-11] The GIS mapping for this record has been edited to take into account the evidence of a recent English Heritage photograph, which shows the surviving field system remains apparently occupying the entire modern field. [12] A series of low earthwork banks are visible running across the south facing slope at SS 6780 4670. [13] The three low linear banks between 65 and 85 metres long, orientated on an east to west axis at SS 6780 4671 were revealed to be natural ridges in the subsoil during pipeline laying. [14] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [15]

Sources/Archives (15)

  • <1> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. SS6746b, SS6746c.
  • <2> Aerial photograph: SAINSBURY, ISS. Aerial photograph. RAF 106G/UK 1655 3191/92 (11 July 1946).
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. MAM/2649 (June 1978).
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1989, Devon 6(3).
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1904, Devon 6(3).
  • <6> Monograph: Bridle, H.. 1991. Woody Bay. Finial Publishing. 86.
  • <7> Map: 1842. Martinhoe Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 21 July 1993.
  • <9> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/72065 151-52 (15 April 1972).
  • <10> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 6846/001 (24931/026) (12 February 2008).
  • <11>XY Archive: Exmoor National Park National Mapping Programme: SS 64 NE. MD002172. [Mapped feature: #42108 ]
  • <12> Aerial photograph: English Heritage. 2008. Oblique aerial photographs of selected sites across Exmoor National Park. 24931_022 to 24931_032.
  • <13> Report: Nicholas Pearson Associates. 2000. Lynton Water Supply: Environmental report. 65.
  • <14> Report: Whitton, C.J.M.. 2000. Archaeological Recording on the South West Water Lynton Water Supply Pipeline. 3.
  • <15> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 915074, Extant 2 November 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 17937
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 60563
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 60564
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 60565
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 60566
  • Devon SMR: SS64NE/51
  • Devon SMR: SS64NE/51/1
  • Devon SMR: SS64NE/51/2
  • Devon SMR: SS64NE/51/3
  • Devon SMR: SS64NE/51/4
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE11179
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20551
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21630
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21631
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21632
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE21633
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 NE34
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 915074



Grid reference Centred SS 6791 4672 (439m by 424m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS64NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Nov 2 2021 10:35AM


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