MSO6763 - 19th Century water meadow south of Wellshead Farm (Monument)


A catch work or field gutter water meadow system of probable 19th Century date is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks. This was probably an integrated system with Wellshead Farm.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A water meadow system was seen on aerial photographs around Wellshead Farm. [1,2] A water meadow of probable 19th Century date, of a type known as a catchwork or field gutter system, is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks associated with Wellshead Farm, centred on circa SS 8301 3979. 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 main body of the system comprises four parallel gutters, covering approximately 5 hectares of the south facing slope above the River valley. A head main or carriage gutter probably tapped a spring-fed tributary to the Exe to the west of Wellshead Farm, supplying the system with water. Before distribution on the combe slope it is likely that the water passed through the farmyard, picking up manure which was subsequently spread as liquid fertiliser. This is a type known as an integrated system. A shorter single gutter is also visible to the east of the farm. [3-6] The field system was altered in this area between the Tithe Map of c 1840 [7] and 1st Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch map [8] which may give a time bracket for the construction of the water meadow gutter system. This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [9]

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: 1947. LHL CPE/UK/1980. 4316.
  • <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. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4315-6 (11 April 1947).
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 1056-8 (29 April 1973).
  • <5> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <6>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 83 NW. MD002191. [Mapped feature: #42179 ]
  • <7> Map: 1840. Exford Tithe Map and Apportionment.
  • <8> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <9> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 974470, Extant 10 August 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO382
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11813
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NW41
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 974470
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34391



Grid reference Centred SS 828 398 (691m by 243m) Aerial survey
Map sheet SS83NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Aug 10 2021 5:31PM


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