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Historic England Research Records

Enclosure On Little Hangman Hill

Hob Uid: 1460177
Location :
Devon
North Devon
Combe Martin
Grid Ref : SS5851348057
Summary : A substantial earthwork visible on aerial photographs encircling the cliff top of Little Hangman, Combe Martin has been interpreted as a probable Tor Enclosure, dating to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. Also known locally as Tor Cairns, similar sites have been recorded on Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. Subsequent analytical survey of the site identified a series of small level platforms cut into the steep natural slopes within the enclosure's interior.
More information : A substantial earthwork identified from aerial photographs encircling the cliff top of Little Hangman, Combe Martin has been interpreted as a probable Tor Enclosure, dating to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age.
The earthwork, centred on SS 5850 4806 follows a roughly circular route around the summit of Little Hangman. It varies in width from between 5 to 7.5 metres, and the total area enclosed is approximately 1200 square metres. On the northern, seaward side, a natural geological shelf has been incorporated into the earthwork. A site visit revealed edge set slabs of stone visible in the earthwork, and there are indications that the summit of Little Hangman was quarried to provide this material.
Similar sites have been recorded on both Bodmin Moor in Cornwall and Dartmoor in Devon, but were previously unknown on Exmoor. The precise function of Tor Enclosures is uncertain, and further study is required to ascribe a precise date and function to this site. (1-3)

The enclosure discovered during the Exmoor NMP (National Mapping Programme) survey on the conical coastal hill of Little Hangman was interpreted as a prehistoric enclosure and tentatively ascribed to the Neolithic period (5). Given its potential importance, in May 2009 English Heritage’s Exeter Archaeological Survey and Investigation team, at the request of the National Trust Regional Archaeologist and the Exmoor National Park Archaeologist, carried out a large scale analytical survey of the site using differential GPS equipment and enhanced by graphical methods, a photographic record of the site was also taken (4). The north-western sector of the site could not be surveyed due to dense gorse cover. The survey and investigation of the site showed that the enclosure is incomplete; the enclosing scarp is clear on the south and east sides, its possible progression around the west side of the hill top is masked by gorse and to the north the ground shelves away steeply to the sea. Inside the enclosure the natural ground continues to rise steeply to the centre as a small flat-topped summit. As such, the only level ground available is directly inside the enclosing scarp and on that afforded by several platforms and scoops, some caused by natural rock formations but others created artificially, some are the result of quarrying but this does not appear to account for all of the platforms. In particular, those clustered along the seaward side of the site seem less indicative of quarrying. The precise date and function of the enclosure remains open to debate, but a prehistoric origin appears likely. (4-5)

New reference: Historic England research report about EH's 2009 level 3 analytical earthwork survey was output in May 2016. (6)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR OS/89114 653 04-MAY-1989
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Source Number : 2
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : R Wilson-North communication by email 11-OCT-2007
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Source Number : 3
Source : Devon Archaeological Society proceedings
Source details : Silvester, R J 1979 "The Relationship of First Millennium Settlement to the Upland Areas of the South West" pages 176-188
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Vol(s) : 37
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Hazel Riley and Rebecca Pullen/MAY-2009/EH:
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Source Number : 5
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : C. Hegarty and K. Toms (2009) ‘Exmoor National Park NMP, Historic Environment Enabling Programme, Project Number 5107 MAIN: Management and Summary Report’.
Page(s) : 12, 35-38.
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Source Number : 6
Source : Research Department Report Series
Source details : Riley, H 2016 'Little Hangman and Challacombe Common, Exmoor National Park: Two Possible Earlier Neolithic Enclosures on Western Exmoor', Historic England research report series no. 6-2016 (available online)
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Vol(s) : Jun-16

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Late Neolithic
Display Date : Late Neolithic
Monument End Date : -2200
Monument Start Date : -2900
Monument Type : Tor Enclosure
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Bronze Age
Display Date : Early Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -1600
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Tor Enclosure
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SS 54 NE 105
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2007-04-01
End Date : 2009-07-01
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: LITTLE HANGMAN ENCLOSURE SURVEY
Activity type : ANALYTICAL EARTHWORK SURVEY
Start Date : 2009-05-12
End Date : 2009-05-21