MSO10400 - Post-medieval land drainage system at Elsworthy (Monument)


Post-medieval drainage ditches are visible forming an extensive system of earthworks on aerial photographs across the upper and southern slopes of Elsworthy.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

An extensive system of open drainage channels occupy most of Hayes Allotment. The system is generally more extensive and detailed than the aerial photographic evidence shows. The dimensions of the channels vary with degrees of condition and can be up to 0.8 metres deep, vertical sided and 1 metre wide. [1] These and similar systems appear to date from the time of Frederic Knight's management (1841 to 1897), and perhaps particularly to Robert Smith's agency, 1848 to 1861, who was an acknowledged authority in irrigation. [2] A system of post-medieval drainage ditches is visible on aerial photographs, across the upper slopes of Elsworthy. The ditches were most likely cut as part of the Knight family's attempt at improvement, associated with the construction of Tom's Hill Farm around 1850. Centred approximately SS 8088 4134, this extensive drainage system covers an area of approximately 87 hectares. Orientated predominantly northeast to southwest, across the contours of Elsworthy, they were possibly intended to direct run off water towards Rams Combe and Sparcombe Water to the south and two unnamed tributaries to Long Combe to the north. 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. Many of the drainage systems in this area appear to be associated with areas of peat cutting and particularly extensive pits can be seen to the southwest of this area of drainage. However, it is clear that the most extensive cuttings follow the line of the drains and it is probable these postdate the attempts at improvement and were opportunistically exploiting the abandoned excavations. [3-9]

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor National Park Field Survey. 18 January 1983.
  • <2> Monograph: Orwin, C.S. + Sellick, R.J.. 1970. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. David and Charles Limited. 2nd Edition. P.81.
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8141/5 (15661/5) (8 April 1997).
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3162-4 (11 April 1947).
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 106G/UK/1501 (F20) 3070, 4192-3 (13 May 1946).
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 939-40, 942-3, 979-80 (29 April 1973).
  • <7> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. P.32, 33.
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 543/2821 (F64) 0163-4 (27 April 1964).
  • <9> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SW. MD002184.



Grid reference Centred SS 8105 4130 (2072m by 1030m) (Aerial survey)
Map sheet SS84SW

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Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

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External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO2465
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO2466
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW230
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW231
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1477851
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1477856
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 18811

Record last edited

Jan 4 2017 9:27AM


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