MSO6988 - Hoar Oak Cottage; 19th Century house and yard at entrance to Long Chains Combe (Monument)


The remains of a 19th Century house and yard are thought to represent Hoar Oak Cottage, built by the Knights to house labourers in the Forest. They appear to have been used as a sheepfold after their original use ended.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Walls outlined on the Ordnance Survey Archaeological Division 6 inch map. [1] A D shaped enclosure with the remains of an adjoining rectangular building can be seen as an aerial photography mark. [2] SS7468 4232. This enclosure and building are situated on a natural outcrop, about 375 metres above Ordnance Datum, at the mouth of Long Chains Combe on the northwest bank of the Hoaroak Water. The D shaped stone walled enclosure, some 16 metres east to west by 13 metres, is in a poor condition. It is approached, from a track, up the side of the knoll and accessed by a stone revetted ramp to a narrow entrance in the southwest wall. There is also an entrance by a buttress in the staight northwest wall and another, now blocked, from the attached building through the curved southeast side. The enclosure appears to have had an internal partition about 4 metres parallel to the north wall. The rectangular ruined building, about 5 metres north to south by 4 metres, is attached to the northeast side of the enclosure and appears to be contemporary with it. There is an entrance in its south side and a stepped alcove in its southwest side where it abuts the enclosure. MacDermot [3] states that John Knight (shortly after he purchased over 16,000 acres of Exmoor in 1819) had cottages built for labourers and shepherds and these ruins were one of these buildings. The enclosure and building are shown unannotated on the 1891 Ordnance Survey [4] and are annotated 'Sheepfold' on the 1978 Ordnance Survey [5]. An artist's reconstruction of this sheepfold and shepherds' hut are shown in Burtons book [6]. [3-7] The rectangular building and D shaped enclosure are clearly visible on aerial photographs, apparently in a poor state of preservation. [8,9] A survey of the D shaped structure was undertaken in 2012 by Hazel Riley. Riley interprets the structure as the lost Hoar Oak Cottage in Exmoor parish [different to the Hoar Oak Cottage to the North in the parish of Lynton and Lynmouth]. Riley has indentified a rectangular building with the D shaped structure a store or outhouse. The cottage is enclosed by the semicircular wall forming a yard in front of the cottage. The dimensions and layout are very similar to other agricultural workers' cottages built on Exmoor. Hoar Oak Cottage, Exmoor was built by John Knight in the 1820s and 1830s to house labours in the forest. It is recorded in the 1841 Census Returns as housing four irish labours, but is not mentioned on any other census Returns. The cottage was built to house labourers working at the nearby 'gate-post factory' (see MSO7123). The survival of the yard wall suggests the site may have been used as a sheep enclosure once the cottage fell out of use. [12] This site is mentioned in the 2013 report by Hazel Riley, a field survey and synthesis of previous projects in the Hoaroak Valley, funded by the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership Scheme. [13] The feature is depicted at SS 7468 4232 on the 2020 MasterMap data and is labelled "Sheepfold". [14] A letter written by John Smyth to F L Smyth (who was employed by Frederick Knight on Exmoor) is undated but was in a group of papers dating to c.1867. It discusses a house at "Oar Oak". The roof is stated to need new timber and new slate to replace the existing. The bedroom floor and joist also needed replacing, and a buttress suggested "to be built against the south wall to keep him from falling out." The wall over the front door also needed rebuilding, and a new kitchen window and stairs were also required. New partitions were suggested between the kitchen and dairy, and in the bedroom. This description probably refers to the Hoar Oak Cottage in Lynton MMO2639 [15] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [16]

Sources/Archives (16)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1962. 6" SS74SW.
  • <2> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 7442.
  • <3> Monograph: MacDermot, E T. 1911. A History of Exmoor Forest. P. 436.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1846-1899. County Series; 1st Edition 6 Inch Map. 1:10560. 1891, Somerset 32, 44.
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1978. Ordnance Survey plan. 1:2500. Sheet SS 7442.
  • <6> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. P. 117.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 2 May 1995.
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR O/95026 064-65 (12 March 1995).
  • <9> Archive: English Heritage. 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 SW. MD002182.
  • <10> Aerial photograph: September 19. HSL.UK.71-167 Run 73. 7588.
  • <11> Article in serial: Mold, E.. 1981. The Hoar Oak Track. Exmoor Review.
  • <12> Report: Riley, H.. 2012. Hoar Oak Valley, Exmoor Forest, Somerset: An early 19th Century labourers' cottage on John Knight's Exmoor Forest Estate.
  • <13> Report: Riley, H.. 2013. Hoaroak Valley: Historic landscape survey and analysis. Hazel Riley. 34.
  • <14>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2020. MasterMap data. 1:2,500. [Mapped feature: #38531 ]
  • <15> Archive: Various. 1815-1999. Knight Archive. N/A. KN.CORR.010_NoDate2.pdf.
  • <16> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 895578, Extant 17 January 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 7468 4232 (36m by 27m)
Map sheet SS74SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (4)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO298
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10967
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SW78
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 895578
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33106

Record last edited

Jul 1 2022 10:50AM


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