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Historic England Research Records

Grimspound

Hob Uid: 445637
Location :
Devon
Teignbridge
Manaton
Grid Ref : SX7007308084
Summary : Grimspound consists of the remains of a partly enclosed stone hut circle settlement and field system dating from the late Bronze Age. It is situated in a fold of hills between Hookney Tor and Hameldon at a height of 1500 ft on the eastern side of Dartmoor. The Grim's Lake, a winter-bourne tributary of the west Webburn river, runs through the north side of the enclosure and passes under the walls. The enclosure comprises an earth and stone wall (enclosing 3.59 acres) surrounding an area containing at least 24 stone hut circles. These have been variously interpreted with uses such as dwelling huts, store houses and cattle pens. The enclosure walls are built of large facing slabs coursed horizontally with a filling of small stones between. The entrance, through the south east side of the enclosure, is flanked by walls of boulders over 2 metres high and the passage is 6 feet wide, roughly paved and stepped. In 1894, 16 of the hut circles were partly excavated and numerous structures and artefacts were uncovered, including porches, paved floors, 'hearths', 'raised benches', pottery, `anvil stones', flints and cooking stones. A number of low rubble banks within the enclosure define at least four small paddocks or garden plots set against the western wall. A small number of lynchets may represent the remains of stock control boundaries. South-east of the enclosure are at least 9 more stone hut circles along with lengths of rubble walling, forming at least four partly enclosed areas or fields. Two small caches, one set against the southwest section of enclosure wall and the other built into the eastern section, provide evidence of post medieval activity on the site. The site has undergone reconstruction since it was first recorded in 1797, not always accurately. There was further restoration work in the 1960s, under the direction of Lady Fox. In 1991 the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England carried out a survey on the site. In the care of English Heritage
More information : SX 700809 Grimspound (NR). (1)

This is an enclosed settlement situated in a fold of hills between Hookney Tor and Hameldon at a height of 1500 ft on the eastern side of Dartmoor. The Grim's Lake, a winter-bourne tributary of the west Webburn river, runs through the north side of the enclosure and passes under the walls. The wall is 9-10ft wide, and stands 4-5ft high in places: it is massively built of large facing slabs coursed horizontally with a filling of small stones between. There is no justification for the reconstruction of 1895 showing a hollow core between double walls. A ditch or gully has been scarped for a short distance on the north-west side, where the fall to the stream makes the position vulnerable. The imposing entrance, which incorporates huge boulders, is on the upper side, approached steeply downhill from Hameldon; the passage is 6ft wide, roughly paved and stepped. The apparent extension of the side walls is due to collapse, which has been reconstructed; the straight joints marking the original wall face are apparent.

The area enclosed is 3.94 acres; it contains 16 dwellings, 6-7
store huts (nos 2 13-15, 22-24 on plan) and five cattle pens built against the main wall (Fig 10). The huts are all small, 8ft 6 ins to 15ft in diameter, with walls 3-4 ft thick; there is a misconception that the walls had an external casing of turf and one hut, no 3, has been so reconstructed. Large pillar stones are used as jambs for the narrow doorways, which were probably lintelled. Two huts, nos 3 and 5, have a screen wall at the entrance, forming a sort of vestibule; one hut is double, the western element (no 19) perhaps being added to the eastern (no 18). The store huts, in which no hearths were found, are slight constructions, one stone thick, badly overgrown with heather today.

Excavations were conducted by a committee of the Devonshire Association in 1894-95, in the manner of the time. In the dwelling huts part of the floor was apparently raised, cooking was carried out on a hearth, and in ashes in a small pit 9 ins deep, and the roof was probably supported on a centre post bedded on a flat stone. No dating evidence was recovered, only a few pieces of flint being found. Grimspound differs only in the strength of its walls from other enclosed settlements like Dean Moor or Raddick Hill occupied in the Late Bronze Age: its situation is clearly indefensible and is related to the water supply, indicating that the inhabitants were pastoralists. (2)

TDA XXVI, 101; LXXVII, 85. (Reports of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee). (3)

A barbed and tanged arrowhead, with Breton affinities, was picked up in 1957 near the modern path just inside the entrance. Now in Plymouth Museum. (4)

Damage was caused by visitors to the entrance of the pound and some of the huts. Restoration was carried out in 1964 under the direction of Aileen Fox. (5)

Grimspound was surveyed by staff of the Exeter Office of RCHME in 1991. The following is a summary of the detailed archive report:
Grimspound is situated on high unenclosed moorland between 445m and 465m above OD. It lies on a gentle to moderate west-facing slope, below the crest of a saddle between Hameldown Tor and Hookney Tor. Some 350m to the E lies the source of Grims Lake, a seasonal stream which flows westwards into the enclosure at its NE corner, leaving under the wall at the NW corner. The inclusion of the stream within the enclosure has been viewed as deliberate (6) and is a feature of many prehistoric enclosures on Dartmoor.

Grimspound was the subject of antiquarian discussion in the later 18th and 19th centuries. The first known record was by Polwhele (7) in 1797, who regarded it as a religious site, probably of the druids. JP Jones (8,9) described the site, and a fine survey was made about 6 years later by Shillibeer (10); the most detailed until the 1991 RCHME survey. Shillibeer was apparently commissioned by Thomas Northmore, who had been studying the site and its environs along with the Reverend James Holman Mason in the 1820s. According to Fleming (11), they seem to have carried out some restoration works, but the references given by Fleming are spurious and no other record has been found. Discussion continued with Rowe (13,14), Wilkinson (15,16), and Ormerod (17); all essentially of a descriptive nature. Subsequently, Ormerod (18) wrote a more analytical essay in which he explored the purpose of Grimspound, deciding on a pastoral enclosure for the shelter of cattle and their herdsman. Spence-Bate (19) gives a good description in an otherwise fanciful paper.

The most significant investigation at Grimspound was carried out by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee of the Devonshire Association in the last decade of the 19th century (6,20). In the 1960s, following a spate of vandalism, restoration work was undertaken on the SE entrance, parts of the enclosure wall and a number of the hut circles, under the direction of Lady Fox (4,5).
A barbed and tanged arrowhead, with Breton parallels, was found near the SE entrance in 1957 (3) and a petit-tranchet derivative flint arrowhead was found 12 years later, just outside the SE entrance on the path to Hameldown Tor (21).

The enclosure originally comprised a stone wall surrounding an ovoid area of c1.45 hectares (3.59 acres). The wall is faced internally and externally with large granite slabs and blocks, set usually in rough horizontal courses but occasionally orthostatically. The faces survive intermittently among a massive, jumbled bank of stone which is a product of collapse and erosion of the original structure. Where both faces are extant, the wall varies in width between 2.5m and 3.5m. The original height is unknown but it survives in places up to 1.25m, in 5 courses.
At the NE corner large stones set on edge, transversely to the wall line, are just discernible in the general tumble. They define a probable culvert, 1.4 to 1.8m wide, which channelled Grims Lake under the wall. Today, however, most water runs under the wall some 3.5m to the E.

Collapse and erosion of the wall has produced a stony bank, spread between 5m and 8.5m at base. During the RCHME survey two small shelters were identified which post-date the enclosure wall. The original entrance to Grimspound lies on the SE. It was not mentioned by Jones (8,9) but was noted as the "supposed entrance" on Shillibeer's survey of 1829 (10). The entrance was exposed in 1894, when it was "much encumbered with fallen stones, which the Committee proceeded to clear out, when the entire entrance was revealed in its original condition, paved throughout, and with steps in the floor" (6). Large areas of the interior, particularly the NW and NE parts, are devoid of visible features. However, the excavation of an entire enclosure of similar form on Shaugh Moor (22) has shown that buried ephemeral structures may be present. The 24 hut-circles occupying the central and southern area are positioned without any detectable overall pattern. A number are close together, some paired, and there is one group of three. Only one is visibly connected to the perimeter wall. In 1894 16 were excavated. The remaining 8 were partially investigated but not necessarily dug. The 1894 report (6) reveals that only the interiors were explored. The method and speed of the excavations probably precluded the discovery of slighter features such as post and stake holes, drains etc which are often revealed in modern excavations. Those features uncovered pointed to domestic occupation in several hut circles, eg raised stone `benches', hearths, `cooking hollows', frequent charcoal and ash deposits, and flat stones in some hut circles which may have been `anvil stones' for working on, or padstones for supporting a vertical timber roof. Several hut circles were thought to be cattle pens or store houses because the interiors appeared devoid of features. Modern excavation might reveal more subtle features which could amend this interpretation. Recent excavations at other sites have demonstrated that hut circles often have a complex, multi-phase history. Evidence for this probably still survives inside some of the excavated hut circles whose retrieval might refine the 19th century interpretations.
Parts of 5 walled pens are built against the interior face of the enclosure on the W. When complete they may have formed a series of irregular, semi-circular enclosures. All are defined by low banks, averaging 1.8m in width and 0.5m in height, composed of small or medium size stones and earth. The function of these pens is not known but it has been suggested that they were animal pens (20). It is possible that they are of post-prehistoric date.

There is some serious erosion on the approaches to, and within, the site. It is caused by visitors, walkers and horses wearing away the vegetation cover, allowing rainwater to was away both topsoil and subsoil layers. (23)

SX 70078087. Grimspound, a partially enclosed prehistoric hut circle settlement with field system and two post medieval caches. Scheduled. (24)

Addtional source including plans of some of the huts from Grimspound. (25)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : Ordnance Survey 6" map sheet 1963
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : Plan (A Fox)
Page(s) : 158
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 114, 1957
Source Number : 11
Source : The Dartmoor reaves : investigating prehistoric land divisions
Source details : The Dartmoor Reaves, 1988, 12 (A Fleming)
Page(s) : 12
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Dartmoor
Source details : Dartmoor, 1953 (RH Worth)
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Transactions of the Plymouth Institute
Source details : Transactions of the Plymouth Institution, 1830, (S Rowe)
Page(s) : 194-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : A perambulation of the antient and royal Forest of Dartmoor and the Venville precincts, or, A topographical survey of their antiquities and scenery
Source details : A Perambulation of Dartmoor, 1848, (S Rowe)
Page(s) : 59-60
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 15
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : (JG Wilkinson)
Page(s) : 5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 17, 1861
Source Number : 16
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : (JG Wilkinson)
Page(s) : 117-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 18, 1862
Source Number : 17
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : (GW Ormerod)
Page(s) : 299-308
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 20, 1864
Source Number : 18
Source : Devonshire Association reports and transactions
Source details : (G W Ormerod)
Page(s) : 41-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 5, 1872
Source Number : 19
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Journal of the Plymouth Institution (C Spence-Bate)
Page(s) : 36-53
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 20
Source : Devonshire Association reports and transactions
Source details : (S Baring-Gould et al)
Page(s) : 82-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 27, 1895
Source Number : 3
Source : Devonshire Association reports and transactions
Source details : Illust (A Fox)
Page(s) : 219
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 90, 1958
Source Number : 21
Source : Devonshire Association reports and transactions
Source details : (J Barber)
Page(s) : 236
Figs. : 3
Plates :
Vol(s) : 104, 1972
Source Number : 22
Source : Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Source details : (GJ Wainwright, K Smith)
Page(s) : 65-122
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 46, 1980
Source Number : 23
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 P Pattison, S Probert, R Wilson-North - March 1991
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 24
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 07-Aug-96
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 25
Source : English Heritage book of Dartmoor landscapes through time
Source details :
Page(s) : 14, 38,40, 49, 51 122
Figs. :
Plates : 01-Feb
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 26
Source : Heritage Unlocked: Guide to free sites in Devon, Dorset and Somerset
Source details :
Page(s) : 14-15
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Devon Archaeological Exploration Society newsletter
Source details :
Page(s) : 4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 6, December 1963
Source Number : 5
Source : Devon Archaeological Exploration Society newsletter
Source details :
Page(s) : 5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 7, March 1964
Source Number : 6
Source : Devonshire Association reports and transactions
Source details : (S Baring-Gould et al)
Page(s) : 101-2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 26, 1894
Source Number : 7
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : The History of Devonshire, 1797, (R Polwhele)
Page(s) : 151
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1
Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Observations on the Scenery and Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Moretonhampstead and on the forest of Dartmoor, 1823, (JP Jones)
Page(s) : 41-2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : The Historical and Monumental Antiquities of Devonshire, c.1830 (Bodleian Library Ms top Devon 1, folio 104) (JP Jones)
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 10
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Mss Plan of Grimspound (in West Country Studies Library, Exeter) 1829 (AC Shillibeer)
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Bronze Age
Display Date : Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -700
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Enclosed Settlement, Hut Circle, Wall, Field System, Lynchet, Stock Enclosure, Garden, Paddock, Hearth, Bench, Floor, Cooking Pit
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit, Find, Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Post medieval
Monument End Date : 1901
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Tinners Cache, Storehouse
Evidence : Structure

Components and Objects:
Period : Bronze Age
Component Monument Type : Enclosed Settlement, Hut Circle, Wall, Field System, Lynchet, Stock Enclosure, Garden, Paddock, Hearth, Bench, Floor, Cooking Pit
Object Type : VESSEL, COOKING STONE, LITHIC IMPLEMENT
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Devonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 142
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Devonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 49
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DV 142
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 22212
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA008409
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 264
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA008414
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA008420
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : HAW 9393/6
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : HAW 9393/7
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 15445/09
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SX 78 SW 11
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : GRIMSPOUND
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1894-01-01
End Date : 1895-12-31