MSO9193 - Prehistoric settlement and field system at Codsend Moor (Monument)


The remains of prehistoric field systems, cairn groups, hut circles and house platforms on Codsend Moors and the east side of Hoar Moor, stretching for nearly 2km across the south facing hillside.

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Type and Period (3)

Protected Status

Full Description

Centred SS 871 406. The remains of extensive prehistoric field systems, cairn groups, hut circles, house platforms and the remnants of a massively built circular enclosure (MSO9191) lie on the east side of Hoar Moor and the west two thirds of Codsend Moors. The regular system of rectangular fields is defined by substantial stone banks which in places are 3.0 metres wide and 0.5 metres high. Fields stretch for nearly 2 kilometres across the south facing hill side orientated up and slightly across the slope at about 30 degrees east of north. A broad band of peat bog divides the system in two. The main concentration of between 20 and 30 cairns straddles the boundary between the two moors but other smaller groups can be found scattered across Codsend Moors. These cairns are up to 12 metres in diameter and usually less than 0.8 metres high. [1] A rectilinear field system with hillslope enclosure (MSO9191), two probable hut circles and field clearance cairns situated on a south facing slope on Codsend Moor. The group is sited on enclosed land between Dunkery Beacon and the River Quarme. In 1981 R. McDonnell located extensive remains of prehistoric settlement and fields on Codsend and Hoar Moors [16]. The present survey has defined four main groups of surviving features within the general area indicated by McDonnell. The present group, centred at SS 8705 4068 comprises 10.5 hectares of fields and other features, with a further 2.25 hectares of more fragmentary fields of the same "system" situated further north in the area centred SS 8700 4113. The larger group is associated with a hillslope enclosure (MSO9191). The field boundaries of the system survive as substantial banks, or scarps where soil has accumulated against the north and west faces, composed of small and medium size stones (averaging 0.1 to 0.2 metres in diameter) and occasional larger stones and boulders. Where fully visible these banks have an even, bowl profile spanning an average width of 3 metres and are 0.3 to 0.9 metres high. At (A) is the only possible, true field entrance; a small break 2.6 metres wide. The overall pattern formed is rectilinear, dominated by a series of parallel boundaries running diagonally across the contours at a bearing of 27 degrees. Contour-following banks divide some of the resulting strips into smaller, rectilinear areas. There are several smaller, more sinuous banks and scarps north and east of the hillslope enclosure. These are of uncertain function but possibly relate to another phase of land use. Field banks run into marsh in all directions from the main concentration; there is no doubt that the "system" was formerly more extensive and is now overlain by peat cover. There is no evidence that any boundary extended onto open moorland beyond the present Inclosed land; the intermittent bank at the extremity of the north concentration is probably the original north end of the "system" as a whole. Mainly on the west and south east margins of the fields are a small number of field clearance cairns: twelve were recorded but thick bracken cover could be hiding more. All are small, round or oval heaps of small and medium size local stone partly turf covered. They are 2.5 to 5.0 metres in diameter. Two are located on field banks. There may be some reason to doubt their contemporaneity with the fieldsystem given their grouping on the east and south west margins of the fields where banks are poorly preserved. Conversely the clearance is in the vicinity of two hut circles with which it could be directly associated. At SS 8689 4064 is a probable hut circle. An oval structure measuring 7 metres by 5 metres internally, with traces of coursed walling on the east, 1 metre thick, is offset to the north west in a larger, subcircular and apparently earthen mound of 12 metres diameter. The hut circle, therefore, appears heavily embanked on the south east side where the earthen mound is 0.9 metres high. On the remaining sides the feature is 0.3 to 0.5 metres high. A possible entrance only 0.50 metres wide, is located in the north west arc. There are two possible explanations; either the hut circle is inserted into an earlier feature or it is deliberately embanked around the south east side. At SS 8715 4047 is a fragmentary hut circle, slightly oval along the contour and with an internal diameter of 4.6 to 6.9 metres. The walls, now only low banks of turf covered stone, are spread to between1 and 2.3 metres in width and only 0.25 metres high on the east and west. The interior has been levelled into the slope by cutting in to a depth of 0.45 metres on the north side and building up to 0.65 metres on the south side. No entrance is visible. A short scarp (B), 9 metres long was the only indication of a sub-circular enclosure. The precise relationship of the hillslope enclosure (MSO9191) to the field system is not clear. That the two were associated at some time during their functional periods seems inevitable. However, (C), an east to west field bank does meet the east wall of the enclosure as an eroded but clear scarp. Its line could be continued into the enclosure as the scarp forming the south limit of the building platform. This introduces the possibility that the latter scarp is a re-used field boundary, indicating a primary position for the field system with the enclosure built over it. The relationship remains conjectural. Both field system and enclosure are cut by post-medieval field boundary and field drainage channels: the only direct dating evidence. All the remains are, however, typologically prehistoric. The field layout bears superficial resemblance to the reaves of Dartmoor, though on a much reduced scale. Only one comparable field system is published for Exmoor itself: the much more overgrown system in high moorland at Great Hill (MSO7348), some 2.5 kilometres to the north west. It presents a superficially similar layout of long parallel boundaries divided by much smaller transverse banks. [2-4] A roughly co-axial fragmentary field system on an approximately northnortheast to southsouthwest alignment can be seen as earthworks on aerial photographs, was undoubtedly originally much more extensive. The field system appears to abut, and may be directly associated with, the circular hillslope enclosure (MSO9191) this may represent a phase of enclosed settlement pre- or post-dating the unenclosed settlement indicated by the hut circles situated at circa SS 8969 4064 and SS 8714 4047. Several mounds between 6 and 8 metres diameter have been transcribed to the west and south of the field system, which may indicate later, post-medieval clearance, as described above, but vegetation cover makes the identification of such features from aerial photographs difficult.The northern area of field boundaries at circa SS 8700 4113, was not recognised during the NMP survey. Although morphologically similar to the other islands of relic field system on Codsend Moors, most strikingly MSO9202 roughly 500 metres to the southeast, the difference in alignment between these two areas (20 degrees east of north as compared to 50 degrees), may also indicate different phases of enclosure. [5-8] An extensive multi-period field system and potentially associated settlement enclosures are visible as earthworks on Codsend Moors. The field boundaries are defined by massive spread rubble banks and lynchets 0.25 metres high and 2 metres wide. Two phases of enclosure can be seen. The most widespread and probably ealiest is roughly co-axial in form, comprised of long narrow fields aligned loosely northeast to southwest, across the incline of the moor. The second field system is less extensive and its boundaries are more sinuous in plan, overlying the first. The remains are most clearly visible in four or five discrete sections across Codsend Moor and Hoar Moors, which have been recorded separately. [13] Other earthworks in the area aligned northwest to southeast are surface irrigation channels but do not form a water meadow system. [15] Fields defined by massive spread rubble banks and lynchets 0.25 metres high and 2 metres wide. (SS 8689 4064) Large stone built mound that may be a robbed out cairn or hut circle. Depression slightly on upslope side. The entrance is doubtful. [16] Pollen profiles record evidence for land use from Mesolithic to modern and suggest that the field systems were in use from the late Bronze Age or Iron Age to Romano-British period. [19] The hut circles are regionally and nationally significant since unenclosed hut circles on Exmoor are relatively rare. The examples on Codsend Moor make up 11% of the total. Although the field systems can be separated into four groups there is evidence to suggest they may have been more extensive originally with isolated elements away from the four sites. [20] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [21,22]

Sources/Archives (22)

  • <1> Article in serial: Burrow, I, Minnitt, S and Murless, B. 1982. Somerset Archaeology 1981. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 126. P. 62.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Pattison, P. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Visit, 17 September 1987.
  • <3> Collection: Pattison, P., Quinnell, N.V., Fletcher, M. and Sainsbury, I.. 1987-1988. RCHME: Exmoor Pilot Survey, SS 84 SE, Somerset.
  • <4> Technical drawing: Pattison, P. and Sainsbury, I.. 1987. Codsend Moor Part 1/ink survey . 1:1250. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 964-7 (29 April 1973).
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. ENPA MAL 77014 029-30 (20 May 1977).
  • <7> Aerial photograph: Meridian Air Maps. 1982. Infrared False Colour Aerial Photography. 2246 and 2247.
  • <8> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SE. MD002185.
  • <9> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. SCPD 3.008.0001-0003 (December 1977).
  • <10> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 8640, 8641, 8740 and 8840.
  • <11> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. CPE.UK 1980 4168 and 4169 (April 1947).
  • <12> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. HSL.UK 71-177 Run 87 8626-7 (September 1971).
  • <13> Article in monograph: Pattison, P and Sainsbury, I. 1989. Prehistoric Earthworks on Codsend and Hoar Moors, Somerset. From Cornwall to Caithness: Some Aspects of British Field Archaeology. Archaeopress. Bowden, M. et. al.. p79-91.
  • <14> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. CPE/UK/1980 4307 (April 1947).
  • <15> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. E Dennison, Somerset County Council, 6 June 1984.
  • <16> Technical drawing: McDonnell, R. 22/1/1981. with sketch plan.
  • <17> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. SCPD 3.008.0012 (April 1981).
  • <18> Aerial photograph: Aerial photograph reference number . SCPD 3.008.0028-0029 (March 1984).
  • <19> Article in serial: Francis, PD and Slater DS. 1990. A record of vegetational and land use change from upland peat deposits on Exmoor. Part 2: Hoar Moor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Societ. 134. PP 1-25. P. 1-25.
  • <20> Report: Riley, H.. 2009. Hoar Moor and Codsend Moors, Exford and Cutcombe, Somerset, Exmoor National Park: Historic Landscape Analysis. P. 15-25.
  • <21> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 974503, Extant 26 January 2022.
  • <22> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36065, Extant 14 March 2022.

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO157
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO389
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10410
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11201
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO9230
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NE23
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE115
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE37
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36065
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 974503
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33531
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33532
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33533
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 19345
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33534
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 34427



Grid reference Centred SS 8756 4062 (2656m by 1235m)
Map sheet SS84SE

Finds (0)

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Record last edited

Mar 15 2022 3:05PM


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