MSO7119 - Pinkworthy (or Pinkery) Pond (Monument)


An artificial lake of about 1.2 hectares, formed by the damming of the headwaters of the River Barle in c. 1830. The pond can be drained by the removal of wooden plugs in pipes in the dam wall (MEM22686).

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

SS 7231 4229 Pinkworthy Pond (pronounced Pinkery) is an artificial lake, formed by damming the headwaters of the River Barle. Orwin [2] states that John Knight dammed up the headwaters of the Barle... making a reservoir some seven acres in extent and some thirty feet in depth at its lower end. The work of dam construction and the associated 'canal' (see MSO6847), was carried out by two hundred Irish labourers. There is no record, nor any tradition, for the purpose of this stored water. Orwin says it was obvious that the so called 'canal' was intended for the conveyance of water from the pond but the use to which the water was to be put remains uncertain. He states that it was probably not a source of water power but suggests the pond and canal were constructed to provide irrigation water for the stretch of land from Pinkery Farm to Honeymead. The present area of the pond is about 1.2 hectares (2.9 acres) and was never the seven acres stated by Orwin. The pond is drained by removing wooden plugs in two 12 inch pipes placed in the dam wall (MEM22686) [3]. It has been emptied twice, once in 1889, when the body of a Parracombe farmer, Richard Gammin, was recovered [3], and secondly in 1913 in the course of an unsuccessful search for a suspected suicide, after which the pipes were replugged and it was refilled [2]. The overflow from the pond is via a rock-cut tunnel through the southeast end of the dam into the River Barle. There is a length of embanked ditch (similar in construction to the 'canal') running down the southern half of the eastern side of the pond. Its purpose is not clear. It along with a similar embanked ditch between the dam and the start of the 'canal' but, if this was the case, it was not completed. It is still not clear why the pond was constructed. It does not appear to have been for irrigation purposes in association with the 'canal' (MSO6847) or for water power to work an incline on a proposed railway from Porlock Weir to Simonsbath as suggested by Youell [4]. Burton [5] suggests one of the theories why John Knight took the trouble to make the pond was 'because he wanted to have a lake on his estate'. Note: The name of the pond is shown as Pinkery Pond on the 1890 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map [6] but this was changed to Pinkworthy Pond on the revision of 1904 [1]. [1-7] The pond was formed by large dam across valley at head of River Barle (MEM22686). The overflow is in the southeast corner via a rock-cut channel. There was formerly a plug under the dam to drain the pool. [9] This was constructed by John Knight c. 1830 although exact purpose is not known. Perhaps for irrigation purposes or to provide water for inclined planes at Prayway head above Simonsbath on the Exmoor-Porlock railway (MSO7906). A letter dated 28th November 1826 from John Knight to Charles Bailey asking for a lease of land 25ft wide for the purpose of a 'railroad with inclined planes from Porlock to Exmoor forest'. Water transported by canal (MSO6847). Suggested that the dam (MEM22686) was not strong enough to pound the water to intended height and pond only covers half the original 7 acres. [2] The documentary evidence is conflicting and it is not clear why the pond was constructed as none of the suggestions make a great deal of sense. [14] The Knight family created this large feature early in their time on Exmoor, likely around 1830. The River Barle was dammed against the blanket bogs of the high Chains for an unknown purpose. The reservoir only contains around half the water it used to – a tunnel in the dam (MEM22686) was cut to reduce the water level, in addition to the existing wooden plug which could be used to drain the pond. [15] A large scale metric survey of the Pinkworthy (or Pinkery) Pond environs was undertaken by Hazel Riley in 2012 as part of the Exmoor Mires Project. Pinkworthy (or Pinkery) Pond is an artificial body of water which measures 170 metres north-south and 100 metres east-west. This is located high up on the south side of the Chains, created by the construction of a massive earth and stone dam (MEM22686) across the headwaters of the River Barle. This feature was created by John Knight and was probably completed by 1830. There is little known documentary evidence as to its original purpose but several theories have been advanced; it is suggested by Hazel Riley that John Knight constructed the Pond to provide a body of water to power agricultural machinery for his new farms, but this scheme was unrealised as the difficulties of arable farming on this part of Exmoor became evident. [16] The feature is labelled "Pinkworthy Pond" on 2021 MasterMap data. It is shown at a slightly smaller size to the 1st Edition map. [6,17] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [18] The pond is mentioned in a publication on the industrial archaeology of Somerset. The source suggests it may have acted as a water source for a counter balanced incline at Warren Farm for the proposed Railway (MSO7906), but states "there are other indications that it was intended as a tub-boat canal for distribution of lime". [19]

Sources/Archives (18)

  • --- Unpublished document: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2024. Exmoor Local Heritage List assessed by the Panel on 21 February 2024.
  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. County Series; 2nd Edition (1st Revision) 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1904 Revision (Surveyed 1887) 1:2500.
  • <2> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition. 31-2, 54-5, 112.
  • <3> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 177-178.
  • <4> Article in serial: Youell, R.F.. 1974. New evidence to explain the mystery of Pinkworthy Pond. Exmoor Review. 15. 102-103. 102-03.
  • <5> Monograph: Burton, S. H.. 1972. The West Country. Robert Hale Ltd..
  • <6>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1890 (Surveyed 1888) Somerset 32:15. [Mapped feature: #38293 ]
  • <7> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 26 June 1995.
  • <8> Article in serial: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2004. Pinkery Pond - Still an Enigma. Exmoor Park Life. 15.
  • <9> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. M Aston, 11 July 1977.
  • <11> Monograph: MacDermot, E T. 1911. A History of Exmoor Forest. 437.
  • <12> Photograph: 1984. Slide (SCC Planning Department). 3.014.0090.
  • <13> Unpublished document: Various. 1826-1860. Records regarding railways in Exmoor, Porlock, etc..
  • <15> Monograph: Siraut, M.. 2013. A Field Guide to The Royal Forest of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority. 26-27.
  • <16> Report: Riley, H.. 2012. Metric survey of Pinkery pond and its environs. 26.
  • <17> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2021. MasterMap data. 1:2,500.
  • <18> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1043780, Extant 17 January 2022.
  • <19> Monograph: Daniel, P. (Ed.). 2019. A guide to the industrial archaeology of Somerset. Association for Industrial Archaeology. 2nd Edition. p 70, W19.2.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10886
  • Local Heritage List Status (Unassessed)
  • Mires Feature Reference (Monument) (The Chains): ECH12(130)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SW104
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1043780
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33025
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33028



Grid reference Centred SS 2723 1423 (205m by 184m)
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Mar 4 2024 5:11PM


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