MSO7028 - 19th Century water meadow at Larkbarrow (Monument)
Please read the caveat document.
Type and Period (1)
A water meadow system is visible on aerial photographs around Larkbarrow Farm. [1,2] A field gutter system, centred at SS 8175 4265, runs westwards on the steep slopes of Long Combe, below Larkbarrow Farmhouse. The system comprises at least five contour leats, which are culverted through the field walls and fed by two much larger carriage gutters. These carriage gutters convey water from the springs in Long Combe Head and continue westwards along the slopes of Long Combe (MSO7046 and MSO7048). This water management system most probably dates from the mid 19th Century.  This field gutter system was recorded at 1:2500 scale using differential GPS at part of an archaeological survey of the Larkbarrow area. The survey was undertaken by the Exeter office of English Heritage at the request of the Exmoor National Park Authority. A client report was produced as part of the survey work.  An extensive water meadow of a type known as a catchwork or field gutter system is visible on aerial photographs of the 1940s onwards as a series of parallel water channels or gutters cut into the slopes of Long Combe. The gutters were probably created in the mid 19th Century as part of the extensive agricultural improvements in this area associated with Larkbarrow and Toms Hill Farms. It is clear that the catchwater gutters in Long Combe are divided into two systems, those associated with Toms Farm to the west, and those of Larkbarrow Farm to the east. The two systems are largely divided along the line of the estate boundary between SS 8141 4285 and SS 8129 4240. The more complex system is within the Larkbarrow estate, the earthworks covering an area of at least 24 hectares. The most coherent section is immediately to the south of the Farm itself, centred on circa SS 8175 4268. Five or six gutters run west along the south facing valley slope from a stream fed by a spring at circa SS 8204 4281. The gutters appear to pass through the gardens of Larkbarrow Cottage, possibly via the culverts described by the above authority. At least one of these gutters continues west into the Toms Farm estate. Two gutters are visible on the north facing combe slopes, centred at circa SS 8167 4254 and SS 8152 4257, probably directly abstracting from the Long Combe river. The southernmost of these appears to have been reused as a trackway. Less coherent and smaller scale gutter systems are visible to the east around Long Combe Head, strung between the spring fed streams that feed Long Combe. Such catchwork systems are usually found on steep combe sides and are designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream along the valley sides via one or more channels or gutters. When irrigation was required the gutters were blocked, causing water to overflow, 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 March and April. By the 1960s many of the gutters have been significantly damaged by modern agricultural improvement. [5-10] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project.  On 2 December 1857, Robert Smith wrote to Frederic Knight. His letter states that "I have set out the Larkboro’ draining & water Carriages, which will improve the farm very much & the future Hay crops will repay the outlay." 
- <1> SSO1179 Unpublished document: Francis, P.. 1984. A Survey and Description of the Catch Meadow Irrigation Systems. P.39.
- <2> SEM6707 Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3066-3067 and 3183 (11 April 1947).
- <3> SMO7314 Unpublished document: JAMIESON, EJ. Field Investigators Comments. English Heritage Field Investigation, 2001.
- <4> SEM4 Report: Jamieson, E.. 2001. Larkbarrow Farm, Exmoor, Somerset.
- <5> SMO4068 Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/931 (F20) 3103-4 (8 November 1952).
- <6> SMO4068 Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 543/2821 (F64) 163-4 (27 April 1964).
- <7> SEM7171 Aerial photograph: Griffith, F.. 1980s-1990s. Oblique aerial photographs of the Devon part of Exmoor National Park. DAP LD22, 23, LF15, 16 (10 January 1989).
- <8> SMO4069 Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8242/16 (15661/3) (8 April 1997).
- <9>XY SMO7567 Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SW. MD002184. [Mapped feature: #38215 ]
- <10> SEM7396 Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
- <11> SEM8493 Report: Riley, H.. 2017. Agricultural Reclamation at Larkbarrow Farm, Exmoor. Exmoor Mires Partnership ELB17 Project Report.
- <12> SEM8179 Article in serial: Davies, H., Fyfe, R. and Charman, D.. 2015. Does peatland drainage damage the palaeoecological record?. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 22. 1.
- <13> SEM7987 Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 974864, Extant 6 July 2021.
- <14> SEM8631 Archive: Various. 1815-1999. Knight Archive. KN.CORR.013_1857.12.02, p4.
|Grid reference||Centred SS 818 426 (1018m by 387m) Aerial survey|
|Civil Parish||EXMOOR, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET|
Related Monuments/Buildings (8)
- Parent of: Post-medieval contour leat above Long Combe (Monument) (MSO7046)
- Parent of: Post-medieval contour leat at Long Combe (Monument) (MSO7048)
- Parent of: Post-medieval water meadow at Long Combe (Monument) (MSO7047)
- Part of: 19th Century contour leat from Great Buscombe to Swap Hill (Monument) (MSO7020)
- Related to: 19th Century drainage system on Swap Hill (Monument) (MMO2497)
- Related to: 19th Century leat north of Tom's Hill Farm (Monument) (MMO2543)
- Related to: 19th Century leat on Tom's Hill (Monument) (MSO7049)
- Related to: Leat, South of Tom's Hill Farm (Monument) (MMO2544)
Related Events/Activities (3)
External Links (1)
- http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=974864 (Original Monarch entry: 974864)
- Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO417
- Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11872
- National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW121
- National Park: Exmoor National Park
- NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 974864
- Somerset SMR PRN: 34450
Record last edited
Jul 6 2021 3:31PM
Your feedback is welcome. If you can provide any new information about this record, please contact us.