MSO8565 - 19th Century water meadow at Great Bradley (Monument)


A post-medieval catchwork or field gutter system is visible on aerial photographs taken in 1947 as a series of earthworks. The system probably tapped Bradley Pond to the north for their water supply.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A water meadow system was noted on aerial photographs around Great Bradley Farm. [1,2] The system may be confused with the mill leat (MSO8563) at the farm. [3] A water meadow of probable 19th Century date is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks to the northwest and southeast of Great Bradley, centred at circa SS 8578 3403. This is a type of water meadow known as catchwork or field gutter system, commonly found on combe or hill slopes and designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream. The water is carried along the valley sides via one or more channels or gutters and when irrigation was required the gutters were blocked, causing water to overflow from gutter to gutter, 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. The system consists of several gutters on the east and west facing combe slopes of the stream from Bradley pond to the north, which they probably tapped for their water supply. A possible pond at circa SS 8581 3404 may be a small reservoir to provide an additional supply, or perhaps a facility add manure to the water supply thereby creating liquid fertiliser to be distributed on the slopes. The leat that powered Great Bradley's waterwheel can be seen taking a parallel course about 30 metres to the east and could be confused for a gutter. The gutters cannot be seen on aerial photographs taken after than the 1950s, but this may be due to a limited number of later images and some may survive as earthworks. [4-7]

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: Aerial photograph reference number . CPE.UK.1980 3359,3360 (April 1947).
  • <3> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. E Dennison, Somerset County Planning Department, 21 June 1984.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF 106G/UK/1655 4257-8 (11 July 1947).
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF CPE/UK/2082 4038-9 (19 May 1947).
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR 540/860 (F20) 4100-1 (2 September 1952).
  • <7> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.



Grid reference Centred SS 858 340 (448m by 490m) (Aerial survey)
Map sheet SS83SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (0)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO361
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11831
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 SE40
  • Pastscape / NRHE HOB UID: 932993
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34409

Record last edited

Mar 29 2021 11:10PM


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