MSO7005 - Medieval packhorse track northeast of Mole's Chamber (Monument)


Part of a packhorse track leading from Porlock to Barnstaple is visible here as a hollow way in use as a rough track. It is believed to be of medieval date, although it probably continued to be used throughout the post-medieval period as well.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

The original NRHE record for this site referenced the Somerset HER/SMR record PRN 33156, which refers to a medieval packhorse routeway. [1] Bridlepath/packhorse track Porlock to Barnstaple. An ancient way from Porlock by Hawkcombe Head, Acmead (now Larkbarrow), Preyway, Exe Head, Driver and Moles Chamber to Bratton and Barnstaple. A portion of it may be seen between Driver and Moles Chamber [2]. MacDermot [3] states it was never more than a bridlepath, though no doubt it was used for pack-horse traffic. SS 7315 4000 to SS 7000 3858. Part of this route (south from the B3358, Challacombe to Simonsbath road near Driver Cottages (now renamed Moorland Way) southwards to Mole's Chamber) is shown as a Bridle Road on the 1890 Ordnance Survey plan [4]. The first 250 metres of this route as still in use as a rough track from the B3358 to Acklands. Where the Acklands track turns south at SS 7304 3995 several hollow ways are visible crossing it. From here it continues as a series of hollow ways, some partly utilised as a path. The route follows the south side of an unnamed stream till it reaches Lew Combe where it crosses over and follows the north side of the stream up to the site of Mole's Chamber. Here it crosses another ancient way from Lynton to South Molton. From 100 metres southwest Mole's Chamber to the plan edge the modern enclosure road is on the route. [2] A section of this routway can clearly be seen on aerial photographs as a series of interweaving ruts and sunken hollows, east of Mole's Chamber crossing the stream between Black Hill and Great Vintcombe. In other areas the track is barely discernible on aerial photographhs. This section is also depicted on a map of Exmoor Forest at the time of enclosure reproduced in C.S. Orwin and marked as the "Barnstaple Bridleroad." The same map marks numerous "watering places" where tracks and roadways crossed rivers or streams, and it is likely that this crossing was used for the same purpose. [5-7] The route is shown on the 1818 Inclosure Maps for Exmoor. The southeastern end is labelled "No. 11 Barnstaple Bridle Road". The Award describes this as "One public bridle road of the breadth of six feet" and its route is described in detail, beginning at Mole's Chamber and ending at the entrance of the Brendon Road against Brendon Common. It is not clear how much of the original routeway followed this depicted route, as not all of the routeways on the map were laid out at this time. [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> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records. PRN33156.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 2 August 1995 RCHME Field Investigation.
  • <3> Monograph: MacDermot, E.T.. 1973. The History of the Forest of Exmoor. David and Charles Limited. Revised Edition. 13.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1890, Somerset 44(7).
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 1039-40 (29 April 1973).
  • <6> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition.
  • <7>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 73 NW. MD002189. [Mapped feature: #45137 Earthworks, ]
  • <8> Map: Kelsey, F.J.. 1818. A Map of Exmoor Forest Referred to by the annexed Award. 4 inches : 1 mile. Pen and Ink.
  • <9> Map: Kelsey, F.J.. 1818. The Map Referred to in the annexed Award [Exmoor Inclosure Award]. 4 inches : 1 mile. Pen and Ink.
  • <10> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 909567, Extant 29 November 2021.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO307
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NW31
  • National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 909567
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33156



Grid reference Centred SS 7252 3968 (1580m by 687m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SS73NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Jun 28 2022 2:09PM


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