MSO9344 - Post-medieval water meadow at Higher Spire Farm (Monument)


A post-medieval field gutter system is visible on aerial photographs taken in 1947.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

A water meadow system was seen on aerial photographs taken in 1947 around Higher Spire Farm. [1,2] A post-medieval water meadow, known locally as a Catch Meadow Irrigation System is visible as earthworks on aerial photographs. It is associated with Higher Spire Farm. An incomplete system of parallel gutters are situated on slopes to the south east and east of the farm. It has been mapped form aerial photographs. [3-5] A water meadow of probable 19th Century date is visible on aerial photographs to the northeast and southwest of Higher Spire, at circa SS 8849 3281. 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. One of the parallel gutters to the east of the farm is marked on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map, indicating that the system probably predates 1890. [6-9] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [10]

Sources/Archives (10)

  • <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: 1947. LHL CPE/UK/1980. 2163.
  • <3> Report: Winton, H.. 1999. Winsford Hill, West Somerford. 20 December 1999.
  • <4> Aerial photograph transcription: Davis, J.D.. 1999. Winsford Hill Project/Ink AP Transcription. 1:2,500.
  • <5> Archive: Winton, H.. 1999. RCHME: Winsford Hill Project, Somerset. AF1301154.
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF 106G/UK/1655 4262-3 (11 July 1946).
  • <7> Monograph: Cook, H. + Williamson, T.. 2007. Water Meadows: History, Ecology and Conservation. Windgather Press. 1st Edition. 1-7, 28-9.
  • <8> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1890.
  • <9> Archive: English Heritage. 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 83 SE. MD002198.
  • <10> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 933000, Extant 1 February 2022.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO363
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11833
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 SE42
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 933000
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 34411



Grid reference Centred SS 884 328 (533m by 453m)
Map sheet SS83SE

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Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Feb 1 2022 3:59PM


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