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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 974474

Hob Uid: 974474
Location :
Somerset
Somerset West and Taunton
Exford
Grid Ref : SS8420038500
Summary : An extensive water-meadow of probable 19th century date, of a type known as a catch-work, ditch-gutter or field-gutter system, is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks to the south of Higher Thorne, with which it is probably associated. Such water-meadows are typical of Exmoor and are usually found on combe or hill slopes. They are designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream along the slope via a series of roughly parallel channels or gutters. 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 to April. Elements of smaller system can be seen to the south at Lower Thorne.
More information : For details see county SMR. (1)

A water-meadow of probable 19th century date, of a type known as a catch-work or field gutter system, is visible on aerial photographs as earthworks associated with Higher Thorne, centred on circa SS 8431 3837.
Such water-meadows are typically found on combe or hill slopes and are designed to irrigate pasture by diverting water from a spring or stream along the slope via a series of roughly parallel channels or gutters. 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 the March and April.
The main body of the system comprises at least 12 roughly parallel gutters, visible over approximately 7.5 hectares of south facing slope, above a tributary to the River Exe. A single head main or carriage gutter cannot be seen, and each gutter probably tapped the spring-fed tributary in sequence. Although not visible as earthworks, the presence of additional gutters has been inferred from slicks of water visible across a number of fields, indicating gutters in use; many are located close to field boundaries which obscure the gutters from view.
Further gutters can be seen to the south at Lower Thorne. Although probably forming a smaller separate system, it is probable they are contemporary, and operated in tandem with the North Thorne water-meadow.
Neither system can be clearly seen on aerial photographs of 1976, which may indicate that the gutters have been levelled. (2-7)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Somerset C C SMR 29 Sep 1986
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Source Number : 2
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3281-2 11-APR-1947
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Source Number : 3
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 4313-4 11-APR-1947
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Source Number : 4
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR RAF 543/2821 (F63) 0159-160 27-APR-1963
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Source Number : 5
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR MAL 76048 195 26-JUN-1976
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Source Number : 6
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Taylor, C. (2007) The Archaeology of Water Meadows, in Water Meadows; History, Ecology and Conservation, eds. Cook. H. & Williamson, T.
Page(s) : 1
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Source Number : 7
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Cook. H. & Williamson, T. (2007) Introducing Water Meadows, in Water Meadows; History, Ecology and Conservation, eds. Cook. H. & Williamson, T.
Page(s) : 28-Sep
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Post Medieval
Monument End Date : 1901
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Water Meadow
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : SOMER 34393
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : HER Number (Exmoor National Park)
External Cross Reference Number : MSO6765
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SS 83 NW 43
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, NAR/SMR DATA EXCHANGE PILOT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1986-01-01
End Date : 1986-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2007-04-01
End Date : 2009-07-01