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HER Number:MDV132373
Name:Rifle butts at the rifle range near Piles Hill on Harford Moor, Harford


Rifle butts at the range on Harford Moor built in 1861. Extensive remains include eight rifle butts, each paired with an observation post. The rifle butts are rectangular hollows of 12 metres by 5 metres and 1 metre deep, with protective mounds on south side of 16 metres by 5 metres and 1.5 metres high


Grid Reference:SX 655 602
Map Sheet:SX66SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishHarford
Civil ParishUgborough
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishHARFORD
Ecclesiastical ParishUGBOROUGH

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Earthwork remains of the early 20th century China Clay works at Redlake Mine and the associated railway, as well as prehistoric remains on Ugborough Moor

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX66SE/26
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • RIFLE BUTTS (Constructed, XIX - 1861 AD (Between) to 1861 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

The late 19th century historic map depicts the site of the rifle butts. Labelled as 'Old rifle butts'.

Crossing, W., 1912 (1965), Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, 395 (Monograph). SDV320981.

Eight granite rifle butts, four on each side of a shallow hollow can be seen, they were erected when the soldiers were encamped here in 1861.

Hankin, C. F., 1977-80, Rifle Butts on Harford Moor (Worksheet). SDV142314.

Old rifle butts on Harford Moor, near Lower Piles.
On the south-east slope of Lower Piles, at the Harford / Ugborough parish boundary. The ruins of eight rifle butts built in 1861 (Crossing’s ‘Guide’). The butts remain as disorderly heaps of granite blocks, with a safety pit behind each one on the north side. Each butt is approximately 9 metres east-west and with its pit around 8 metres wide north-south; they now stand about 1 metre above the ground.
The butts are arranged in pairs, two pairs are in Ugborough, and two are in Harford (the parish boundary is the prehistoric Butterdon Stone Row). Each pair consists of two butts separated by 80 metres north-south. The distance between each pair east-west is about 75 metres.
Firing was from the south. At appropriate distances measured south from the north butt of each pair, small granite blocks (25 centimetres by 17 centimetres upper surface by 25 centimetres thick) are set in the ground, each block has numerals cut in the upper surface in figures 5 centimetres by 3.8 centimetres. The numerals range from ‘100’ on blocks laid alongside the south butt in each pair, to ‘500’ at intervals of 50, but not complete in all lines of blocks. The numerals apparently denote the ‘range’ from the block to the further of the two butts in the line. One ‘100’ block lies in the line of the Butterdon Stone Row.
All measurements have been made by ‘pacing’. Some blocks have evidently disappeared. They are all rather difficult to find in the long grass, and the incised figures on some have become very indistinct.

Crossing, W., 1992, Crossing's Dartmoor Worker, 98 (Monograph). SDV351364.

Over forty years ago (approximately 1860s), there was an encampment on the common to the northward of Butterdon Hill, near Ivybridge. The ground marked out for rifle practice was situated near the green path leading from Harford Gate to Owley, and here butts were erected, and granite shelters for the markers. Of these the remains of eight, forming two rows, still exist.

Brewer, D., 1996, The Butterdon Rifle Range, 10-11 (Article in Serial). SDV357636.

Brewer records the existence of the range in some detail and identifies 87 marker stones which are included in a plan.

GetMapping, 1999 - 2000, Dartmoor 1999-2000 1:1250 Aerial Photography (digital) (Aerial Photograph). SDV345751.

The rifle butts can be seen faintly on the 1940s Royal Sir Force aerial photographs of this site, but shown up really well on this version of the aerial photography for the site. They are less clear again on later versions (dated 2006 and 2010).

Stainer, N., 2014, An Archaeological Investigation of the Victorian Military Rifle Range at Butter Brook, Dartmoor, 1-18 (Report - Assessment). SDV357635.

Rifle range at Butter Brook was only used for a period of a few months in 1861. The Western Morning News that year documented in July 1861 that the camp at Harford was broken and troops withdrawn under unusual circumstances, implying issues with Harford parish residents and the Duchy of Cornwall. Records at the Duchy Office at Princetown also gives information regarding the creation of the range.
Documentary sources available are summarised and history behind the requirement for rifle ranges included.
Butts surveyed and plan included of one. The northern line of shelter mounds are larger (12 by 10 metres), than the southern (10 by 9 metres), forming mismatched pairs, which may be spotters and target operators shelters. Each shelter consists of an ovate depression and an integral mound. Granite benches can be made out in the mounds, although they have all suffered degradation over time (and due to burrowing by rabbits) and in some places the rubble core of the mounds is visible.

Riley, H., 2021, Archaeological Survey: Ugborough Premier Archaeological Landscape, Harford and Ugborough, 19, 7.7, Figure 42 (Report - Survey). SDV364697.

A rifle range was built at the head of the Butter Brook and used between April and July 1861 by over 500 troops living in 50 tents. The archaeological remains of this short lived venture are extensive. Four rifle butts each paired with an observation post.

Riley, H., 2021, UG21 heritage asset database and gazetteer of sites (Report - Survey). SDV364699.

Visited on 2nd April 2021,surveyed and photographed. Rifle butts range on Harford Moor built in 1861: extensive remains include four rifle butts, each paired with an observation post. Rifle butts are rectangular hollows, 12 metres north-east to south-west, 5 metres north-west to south-east, 1 metre deep, with protective mounds on south side, 16 metres north-east to south-west, 5 metres north-west to south-east, 1.5 metres high. Observation posts are rectangular hollows, 10 metres north-east to south-west, 5 metres north-west to south-east, 1 metre deep, with protective mounds on south side, 13 metres north-east to south-west, 4 metres north-west to south-east, 1.5 metre high.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV142314Worksheet: Hankin, C. F.. 1977-80. Rifle Butts on Harford Moor. Parish Checklist. Digital.
SDV320981Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1912 (1965). Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 395.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV345751Aerial Photograph: GetMapping. 1999 - 2000. Dartmoor 1999-2000 1:1250 Aerial Photography (digital). Digital.
SDV351364Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1992. Crossing's Dartmoor Worker. Crossing's Dartmoor Worker. Paperback Volume. 98.
SDV357635Report - Assessment: Stainer, N.. 2014. An Archaeological Investigation of the Victorian Military Rifle Range at Butter Brook, Dartmoor. A4 + Digital. 1-18.
SDV357636Article in Serial: Brewer, D.. 1996. The Butterdon Rifle Range. Dartmoor Magazine. 45. Unknown. 10-11.

Associated Monuments

MDV5693Part of: Rifle range near Piles Hill, Harford Moor (Monument)
MDV132363Related to: Area of tracks and hollow ways to the west of Glasscombe Ball, Harford (Monument)
MDV2988Related to: Butterdon Hill Stone Row, Harford (Monument)
MDV129007Related to: Cairn at south end of stone row near Glasscombe Ball, Ugborough (Monument)
MDV132372Related to: Mound close to Harford Moor rifle butts, Ugborough (Monument)
MDV2903Related to: Mound south-south-west of summit, Ugborough Moor (Monument)
MDV2904Related to: Mound south-west of summit of Ugborough Moor (Monument)
MDV2890Related to: Stone row near Spurrell's Cross, Ugborough (Monument)
MDV3138Related to: The Redlake China Clay Railway, Harford & Dratmoor Forest Parishes (Monument)
MDV126411Related to: Tinners' reservoir dam on Ugborough Moor, Ugborough (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8770 - Archaeological Survey: Ugborough Premier Archaeological Lanscape, Harford and Ugborough

Date Last Edited:Feb 27 2022 11:28AM