MMO380 - Post-medieval water management at Ashott Barton (Monument)


An extensive water-meadow of probable post-medieval date is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks. The transcribed earthworks may incorporate a mill stream and race that powered a watermill at one of the farm's barns.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A water meadow was seen on aerial photographs around Ashott Barton. [1,2] A stream is shown on the Ordnance Survey Archaeological Division map as the start of Pennycombe Water. [3] A water meadow of probable 19th Century date, of a type known as a catch work or field gutter system, is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks associated with Ashton Barton, centred on circa SS 8181 3886. Such water meadows are typically found on 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 extensive water meadow is visible for over approximately 13 hectares on the south facing slopes overlooking Pennycombe water, which it appears to tap for water. The main body of the system lies to the southeast of Ashott Barton, and probably forms an integrated system, whereby the head main or carriage gutter passed through the farmyard to collect fertiliser. The gutter earthworks can still be seen within the farmstead on aerial photographs of 1999. The western end of the water meadow lies adjacent to New Barn, an outfarm of Ashott Barton. The barn housed a water-mill and it is probable that the transcribed earthworks include the mill stream and mill race that powered the water wheel. [1,4-7] The course of the leat that appears to have fed the watermill at the farmstead can be seen on the 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps, fed from Pennycombe Water at SS 8118 3897 and returning to it at SS 8200 3881. [8,9] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [10]

Sources/Archives (10)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4315-8 (11 April 1947).
  • <2> Report: Francis, P.T.H.. 1984. A Survey and Description of the "Catch Meadow" Irrigation Systems Found in the Exmoor Region of West Somerset. 39.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1962. 6" SS83NW.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF 540/860 (F20) 4084-6 (3 October 1952).
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8138/4 (18584/04) (12 October 1999).
  • <6> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <7>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 83 NW. MD002191. [Mapped feature: #43354 ]
  • <8> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <9> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <10> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 974465, Extant 23 August 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11811
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO6761
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NW39
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 974465
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 34389



Grid reference Centred SS 8181 3883 (1283m by 370m) Aerial Survey
Map sheet SS83NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Oct 25 2021 3:42PM


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