MSO10379 - 19th Century drainage ditches at Beckham (Monument)


Three ditches identified from 1947 aerial photographs and site visits have been interpreted as open land drains and are thought to date to the Knights agricultural activities in the 19th Century.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

Three features were identified from 1947 aerial photographs and site visits. SS 8088 4206. The northernmost feature is an irregular sided ditch, north of the sheepwash stream on the southern flank of Swap Hill. The ditch measures 0.9 metres wide and 0.2 metres deep, and it has no bank or visible upcast. SS 8084 4184. The central of the features is an eroded, shallow sided drainage gutter, 2 metres wide at the top, 0.5 metres wide at the bottom and 0.3 metres deep. SS 8091 4183. The southern feature is a deep vertical sided drainage ditch 1.5 metres wide and 1 metre deep. The features have been interpreted as open land drains. [1] A system of post-medieval drainage ditches is visible on aerial photographs, across the slopes of Beckham, Exmoor parish. The ditches were most likely cut as part of the Knight family's attempt at agricultural improvement of the former royal forest, possibly associated with the construction of Tom¿s Hill model Farm around 1850. Centred on approximately SS 8084 4195, these earthworks cover an area of approximately 20 hectares and form one of three relatively small and discrete drainage systems that feed into tributaries to the south of Long Combe. Two more can be seen nearby, one immediately to the east and west. The drains are arranged in two groups, one in a slightly irregular herringbone pattern at circa SS 8084 4195 and the other adapting natural streams at circa 8074 4219, both draining in to the same unnamed tributary to Long Combe. Similar but even more extensive drainage systems are visible to the west towards Warren Farm, some draining into natural streams and water courses, others appearing to drain into the various contour leats. According to Orwin, many miles of drainage ditches were cut across parts of Exmoor, but this technique did not address the underlying issue of compacted ironpan soils and failed to provide adequate drainage for improvement. [2-5] 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> Unassigned: Committee for Rescue Archaeology in Avon, Gloucestershire and Somerset. 1982. [No title]. 22-23 July 1982.
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF 540/931 (F20) 3107-8 (8 November 1952).
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 939-40 (29 April 1973).
  • <4> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. p32-3.
  • <5>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SW. MD002184. [Mapped feature: #47382 ]
  • <6> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1477888, Extant 14 July 2021.

External Links (0)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO2475
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW234
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1477888
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 18779



Grid reference Centred SS 8088 4201 (521m by 598m)
Map sheet SS84SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Jul 14 2021 11:26AM


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