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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 915509

Hob Uid: 915509
Location :
Devon
North Devon
Parracombe, Martinhoe
Grid Ref : SS6622046260
Summary : A rectilinear field system on South Down comprises at least 12 fields marked by low turf-covered stoney banks measuring 0.2-0.3m high. The date of this field system is uncertain, although it must post date the settlement at Beacon Castle, since at least one of the banks overlies it. Given the form and structure of the fields, and the close association with the Martinhoe/Parracombe parish boundary, a medieval date seems likely.
More information : The remains of this rectilinear field system cover an area of some 24 ha of the gently sloping north-west spur of South Down at about 250m OD. (See 1:2500 Plan). Though the name South Down is shown on the 1842 tithe map (1) the area is blank suggesting that it was untithed moorland. It is shown as such on the 1890 Ordnance Survey map (2) and only by 1904 (3) does the eastern part of the Down start to become enclosed, so it was probable that it was not until after the war that the whole Down was finally ploughed (probably in about 1945 when Martinhoe Common was ploughed). (4)

The system consists of about a dozen rectangular and linear fields, generally oriented in a north/south direction, marked by low turf-covered stony banks, 0.2m to 0.3m high and from 2m to 2.5m wide. In some places the banks peter out completely and in others they appear more like lynchets as they cross the slopes.

In the west the banks continue for a short distance over the crest of the steep slopes that run down into the Heddon Valley, this area is now obscured beneath dense bracken and coniferous plantation. The banks are clearly visible on air photos. (5)

Within the system a few banks, which are also discernable on air photos (5), were not visible on the ground at time of survey but may be evident under better light and vegetation conditions.

In the south-east of the area a post 1890/pre 1904 enclosure wall cuts across the system and little remains to the east of this wall. However to the north-east of Beacon Castle a linear feature, an apparent bank, is evident on air photos (5) running eastwards from the north-east angle of Beacon Castle some 30m parallel to the Martinhoe/Parracombe Parish boundary. This feature is less well defined and difficult to trace on the ground due to scrub, gorse and probable soil slip/erosion but it appears to be fragmentary turf-covered stony scarp. There is a similar feature parallel to it some 20m futher down the slope. These may be no more than natural shelving but it is possible, due to their alignment more than their physical appearance, that they are remains of old field banks associated with this system. Further north the field has been more intensively improved and no features are evident on the ground now but the continuation of at least one field bank can be seen on an air photo. (6)

There is little doubt that the parish boundary is built on top of, at least part of, an original field bank of this system: at SS 6640 4604 a low field bank continues westwards form the angle of the boundary a few metres after it crosses the enclosure wall. This is mirrored in a short parallel length of bank some 80m to the south and the boundary it self running parallel some 100m to the north. At SS 6611 4616 another bank joins the boundary on the same alignment from the north, though in this case the actual boundary feature is no longer discernible on the ground.

At SS 6642 4633 and SS 6633 4627 are two short lengths of hollow ways, each about 5m wide and 0.6m deep, which may be contemporary with the field system.

No evidence of settlement was found associated with the field system which appears to be of one period though this period is uncertain. The fact that one of its banks is overlaid by a boundary bank which in turn overlies the Beacon Hill Settlement suggests that the field system must post-date it.

(NB. A stone clearance heap & quarry situated at SS 6616 4603 are modern). (7)

The banks described above are clearly visible on a number of aerial photographs from the 1940s onwards. Situated on the south and west slopes of South Down, the banks form a number of rectangular fields of varying shape and sizes. The irregular, almost piecemeal pattern of enclosure suggests a medieval enclosure attempt, which was perhaps abandoned prior to the publication of the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey. As stated above, two of the banks parallel the route of the Martinhoe/Parracombe parish boundary; since both parishes date to the medieval period, this again suggests a medieval date for the system (8).

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Martinhoe Tithe Map 1842 Decon Rec Off.
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Source Number : 2
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1890 1:2500 Devon Sheet 6:3
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Source Number : 3
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1904 1:2500 Devon Sheet 6:3
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Source Number : 4
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Bridle, H. 1991 Woody Bay 86.
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Source Number : 5
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : NMR SF1459 SS 6646/1/447-456, 01-Mar-79.
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Source Number : 6
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : NMR SS 6646/5 5634/6 (Oblique).
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Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Sainsbury, I.S. 19-Aug-93 RCHME Field Investigation.
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Source Number : 8
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR OS/72065 180-81 15-APR-1972
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Field System
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Uncertain
Display Date :
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Field System
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Devonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 17932
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SS 64 NE 59
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: WEST EXMOOR PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2007-04-01
End Date : 2009-07-01