MSO7375 - 19th Century water meadow at Wilmersham Farm (Monument)


A catch water or field gutter water meadow system, believed to cover over two hectares and believed to be of a 'detached system' type. It is probably 19th Century in date.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Water meadow system seen on aerial photographs around Wilmersham Farm. [1,2] Aerial photographs examined as part of the Exmoor National Mapping Programme reveal that an extensive post-medieval water meadow or field-gutter system was constructed on a southeast facing slope above Dady Combe to south and west of Wilmersham Farm. The water channels, also known as gutters, are centred on circa SS 8745 4364, but in total cover an area of over 2 hectares. 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. Any excess water then returned to the feeder stream at the valley bottom or was removed by a tail drain. The use of a series of parallel gutters to improve the coverage is a common feature of Exmoor systems. Although apparently associated with Wilmersham Farm, the water source must be some distance to the south-west of the Farm, therefore it is more likely that this water meadow is an example of a `detached system' than an `integrated system', i.e that the water meadow distribute only what fertaliser was carried to it. Although similar systems were operating elsewhere by the 17th Century, this water meadow is probably 19th Century or later in origin. Similar water meadows on Exmoor continued in use well into the 20th Century (see MSO7373 and MMO1726). [3-6] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [7]

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Report: Francis, P.T.H.. 1984. A Survey and Description of the "Catch Meadow" Irrigation Systems Found in the Exmoor Region of West Somerset. 39.
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. LHL/CPE/UK/1980 3172 (April 1947).
  • <3> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF CPE/UK/1980 F20 3172-3173 (11 April 1947).
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 255-6 (17 April 1973).
  • <5> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-29.
  • <6> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SE. MD002185.
  • <7> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36148, Extant 15 March 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 875 437 (347m by 406m)
Map sheet SS84SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO165
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11883
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE74
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36148
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34461

Record last edited

Mar 15 2022 1:42PM


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