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HER Number:MDV117301
Name:Dartmoor Prison Farm


The farm at the prison was established shortly after the convict prison opened in 1851. Much of the work was back-breaking labour undertaken by convicts to clear and drain the land to render it productive. Fairly large numbers of livestock were kept and extensive areas of peat were cut for use in the gasworks.


Grid Reference:SX 585 741
Map Sheet:SX57SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • FARMSTEAD (Constructed, XIX - 1850 AD to 1899 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

The stables is the only building depicted on the early 20th century historic mapping.

Joy, R., 2002, Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure, 18-20, 24, 34-5, 38-41, 44, 53, 59, 67, 72, 79, 81, 85-8 (Monograph). SDV359843.

The first agricultural work began at the prison farm on 20th February 1851 (three months after opening), with 500 convicts working out on the hills. Much of the early work involved improving the land by digging trenches in order to drain waterlogged areas. Early crops recorded were flax, hemp, turnips, mangel wurzels and oats. Between 1851-52, 67 acres were drained and trenched. Detailed records were kept of stock, which in 1852 included 6 horses, 10 cows, 6 calves and 100 pigs. Milk was supplied to the prison daily and butter made and sold to officers. The horses were used for carting goods, not ploughing; this was undertaken by convict teams. During the mid-19th century the animal population at the farm expanded quickly and a large amount of land was cleared for growing crops.
By 1869, the livestock at the farm comprised 160 head of cattle, 31 calves and 14 horses and in 1875-6, there were 158 cows, 30 horses, 85 sheep and 18 pigs. In 1877, 22 acres of land was trenched and drained and 300 tons of peat were cut and dried for use in the gasworks. 35 tons of swedes were produced, despite the poor quality of the land. The prison piggery was built this year, which required a huge amount of stone to be quarried.
In January 1881 a blinding blizzard swept across the moor and cut off Princetown for a long time. The governor ordered the farm animals to be killed, as required to feed prisoners and staff, as well as some village residents.

Ordnance Survey, 2016, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359352.

The modern mapping shows one or two other small buildings have been added around the stables.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #76600 ]
SDV359843Monograph: Joy, R.. 2002. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History Volume 2 The Convict Prison 1850-Present Day At Her Majesty's Pleasure. Dartmoor Prison A Complete Illustrated History. 2. Hardback Volume. 18-20, 24, 34-5, 38-41, 44, 53, 59, 67, 72, 79, 81, 85-8.

Associated Monuments

MDV51414Parent of: Stables near prison, Princetown (Building)
MDV15309Related to: Dartmoor Prison, Princetown (Building)
MDV117300Related to: Prison farm estate, Princetown (Monument)
MDV51413Related to: Site of gas works, Princetown (Monument)
MDV104777Related to: The Old Dairy, Princetown (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Nov 8 2016 3:47PM