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HER Number:MDV21268
Name:Multiple-ditched Enclosure, Higher Coombe Farm, Bishopsteignton


A complex enclosure on a gentle south-east slope on the side of a combe near Higher Coombe Farm, recorded as cropmarks on aerial photographs taen from 1950 onwards. Appears to be a settlement of Iron Age /Romano-British type, possibly showing more than one phase of development.


Grid Reference:SX 926 743
Map Sheet:SX97SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBishopsteignton
Ecclesiastical ParishBISHOPSTEIGNTON

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Prehistoric irregular, quadrilateral enclosure with two widely spaced ditches and internal subdivisions north east of Higher Coombe Farm

Other References/Statuses

  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 899701
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX97SW/102

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • DITCHED ENCLOSURE (Early Iron Age to Roman - 700 BC to 409 AD (Between))

Full description

Griffith, F. M., 1983, DAP/A, 8a (Aerial Photograph). SDV350621.

Griffith, F. M., 1983, Enclosure (Personal Comment). SDV350622.

The cropmark of a large complex enclosure observed on 21st July 1983. Basically an irregular quadrilateral with two widely spaced ditches and internal subdivisions. All marks dark, apparently representing ditches. Overall dimensions approximately 100 metres in each direction. Possible opening or interruptions of ditches in south-east side. Siting on gentle south-east facing slope.

Griffith, F. M., 1983, The identification of four new enclosure sites north of Teignmouth, 63 (Article in Serial). SDV337264.

Site A: complex enclosure on a gentle south-east slope on the side of a combe near Higher Coombe Farm, Teignmouth at 380 feet OD. It was recorded as dark marks in fields of parched grass, and has overall dimensions of approximately 50 metres east to west, and 40 metres north to south. It would appear to be a settlement of Iron Age /Romano-British type, possibly showing more than one phase of development.

Griffith, F. M., 1985, DAP/FF, 10, 10a (Aerial Photograph). SDV341296.

Dudley, E. R., 1986, Enclosure, Higher Coombe Farm (Worksheet). SDV350619.

Site visit on 10th October 1986. Site fieldwalked when the southern half was being ploughed. Only finds shell, chalk etc, presumably from manuring.

Griffith, F. M., 1987, DAP/JB, 3-6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV339519.

Dudley, E. R., 1987, Higher Coombe Farm (Worksheet). SDV350624.

Site visits on 18th and 29th September 1987. Both fields examined during ploughing. Only modern finds as before.

Robinson, R., 1987 - 2000, Devon Post-Reconnaissance Fieldwork Project (Un-published). SDV342165.

Site visit on 14th February 1989. Site lies on gentle south slope, cut by lynchetted hedge. Possible slight dip in hedge line where it crosses east side of enclosure. South side may show as very low bank. Photos K 4-6.

Devon County Council, 1989, DAP 6037, DAP 6037/3-6 21-JUL-1989 (JB) (Aerial Photograph). SDV361604.

A number of curvilinear and linear dark and pale cropmarks are visible.

Griffith, F. M., 1989, DAP/MI, 7 (Aerial Photograph). SDV167853.

Griffith, F. M., 1989, DAP/MZ, 14-15 (Aerial Photograph). SDV350620.

Devon County Council, 1989, SOM 13167, SOM 13167/14-15 30-JUN-1989 (MZ) (Aerial Photograph). SDV361603.

A number of curvilinear and linear dark cropmarks are visible.

Griffith, F. M., 1994, DAP/WR, 7 (Aerial Photograph). SDV350222.

Griffith, F. M., 1995, DAP/XX, 4-5 (Aerial Photograph). SDV350623.

Haines, C, 2013, Shepherds Lane, Teignmouth, Archaeological Evaluation (Report - Evaluation). SDV351005.

The buried remains of a large scale probable multi phased enclosure were identified in the northern part of the site. Substantial ditches were observed in all trenches in this area, targeted over linear anomolies identified by geophysical survey. The enclosure appears to comprise a large outer ditch and two successivley smaller internal enclosures. This complex geometric organisation is typical of prehistoric and Romano-British homesteads.
A possible entrance in the north-eastern side of the enclosures was indicated by the geophysical survey results, demarcated by a possible ditched causeway. Possible ancillary enclosed areas were also recorded to the north and to the south-west of the main enclosure system. The presence of these appendages and apparent alterations to the enclosure may attest to use of the site for more than a single phase or over an extended period. It is not unusual for successive enclosures of this period to overlap one another resulting in such complex plans. The phasing was not investigated as part of the evaluation but the large quantities of pottery recovered from secure deposits in both the external, internal and possible ancillary enclosure ditches suggest the site was in use from the 2nd to 4th century AD. Although no dating evidence was found to suggest the enclosure pre-dates the Roman period the largely aceramic tradition of Devon in the Iron Age and the fact that the lower fills of many of the enclosure ditches could not be excavated during the course of the evaluation due to health and safety considerations, mean that an Iron Age date of origin could also be possible.
A re-cut of one of the internal enclosure ditches was observed. This silted fill of this re-cut contained a large quantity of 2nd-century pottery suggesting the event occurred when the enclosure was in one of its earliest phases of use and may also indicate the complex pre-dates the Roman period. The re-cut may represent a localised clearance of the ditch possibly due to the collapse of the bank which was observed lying along the north-western edge of the original ditch. It was not apparent whether this bank was located on the internal or the external side of ditch (23010) as it was not possible during the course of the evaluation, to establish whether this ditch was part of the same enclosure as the ditches seen in Trenches 16 and 19 to the north (16007 & 19002) or to ditch 25000 to the south. The survival of bank material in this location, suggests this part of the site has suffered less truncation than the rest of the enclosed area as no other evidence for banks associated with the enclosure ditches were observed elsewhere on site.
Structural remains located within the enclosed area were recorded. Two possible beam slots or drip gullys were observed in the base of what may be a terraced area. It is possible these remains pre-date the enclosures; the finds recovered from the silting of this terrace date to the same period as those found throughout the enclosures ditches. The posthole and possible stone surface observed in may also indicate the presence of structures internal to the enclosure.
It is possible that more substantial structures associated with the enclosure system may have existed but either do not survive or were not exposed by the evaluation. However, a lack of building stone or ceramic building materials recovered from the site suggests an absence of large scale structures constructed in the Roman tradition. Although the six fragmentary pieces of slate recovered from ditch 26003 could represent degraded roof slates, they possessed no features indicative of use for roofing and were too limited in quantity to be suggestive of the presence of a slate roofed structure. It is however noteworthy that small lumps of burnt clay which could represent daub and an iron nail were recovered. All of these trenches are located within the southern part of the enclosed area from where no archaeological features relating to structures were recorded. These finds could attest to the presence of buildings of timber construction in this part of the enclosure evidence of which has been entirely destroyed by ploughing. However the aforementioned survival of the bank in Trench 23 suggests this area has suffered less truncation than other parts of the complex. No evidence of structures or finds associated with building were recorded in Trenches 24 and 62, which were also located within the enclosed area.
In general the enclosure ditches appeared to have been well maintained and kept clear of debris. Evidence for only one incidence of the dumping of domestic waste in the ditches was found. However, a large probable refuse pit in Trench 49 was identified down slope, approximately 160m from the enclosure. The pit contained dumps containing both domestic and industrial waste including oyster, cockle and limpet shells, slag and residues from ironworking and ceramics dating to the 3rd century, when the enclosure was in use. It seems probable this pit was used not only for the disposal of refuse created at the enclosure but possibly also by other nearby settlement or centres of industry as no evidence for iron working was found in or near the enclosure. Furthermore the re-use of the lower stone of a rotary quern in the rough stone surface in Trench 65 indicates cereal processing may have been occurring nearby.
The complex at Shepherd’s Lane appears to have had a primarily agricultural function and probably represents a moderately sized farmstead. Any structures within the enclosed area are likely to have comprised small timber built buildings and it seems likely some of the auxiliary enclosed areas were used for the corralling and holding of livestock. Though few such sites have been excavated evidence suggests they are numerous in the immediate vicinity of this site and throughout Devon.

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2018-2019, The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 1, Haldon Ridge to Dart Valley (Interpretation). SDV361305.

Cropmarks visible on multiple aerial photographic sorties flown between 1950 and 2010 appear to have formed over the buried ditches of a complex enclosure. The transcription has been created from a number of photographs, and is particularly clear on oblique aerial photographs from Devon sorties flown in 1989 (JB and MZ). It has been interpreted as of later prehistoric or Romano-British date.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV167853Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1989. DAP/MI. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 7.
SDV337264Article in Serial: Griffith, F. M.. 1983. The identification of four new enclosure sites north of Teignmouth. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 41. A5 Paperback. 63.
SDV339519Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1987. DAP/JB. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 3-6. [Mapped feature: #83056 ]
SDV341296Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1985. DAP/FF. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 10, 10a.
SDV342165Un-published: Robinson, R.. 1987 - 2000. Devon Post-Reconnaissance Fieldwork Project. Devon Post-Reconnaissance Fieldwork Project. A4 Unbound.
SDV350222Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1994. DAP/WR. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 7.
SDV350619Worksheet: Dudley, E. R.. 1986. Enclosure, Higher Coombe Farm. Devon County Sites and Monuments Register. Worksheet.
SDV350620Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1989. DAP/MZ. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 14-15.
SDV350621Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1983. DAP/A. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 8a.
SDV350622Personal Comment: Griffith, F. M.. 1983. Enclosure.
SDV350623Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1995. DAP/XX. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 4-5.
SDV350624Worksheet: Dudley, E. R.. 1987. Higher Coombe Farm. Devon County Sites and Monuments Register. Worksheet.
SDV351005Report - Evaluation: Haines, C. 2013. Shepherds Lane, Teignmouth, Archaeological Evaluation. Cotswold Archaeology Report. 12373. A4 stapled + Digital.
SDV361305Interpretation: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2018-2019. The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 1, Haldon Ridge to Dart Valley. Historic England Research Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV361603Aerial Photograph: Devon County Council. 1989. SOM 13167. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). SOM 13167/14-15 30-JUN-1989 (MZ).
SDV361604Aerial Photograph: Devon County Council. 1989. DAP 6037. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). DAP 6037/3-6 21-JUL-1989 (JB).

Associated Monuments

MDV103701Related to: Multi-phase settlement on land adjacent to Shepherd's Lane, Coombe, Teignmouth (Monument)
MDV122494Related to: Possible Boundary north-west of Headway Cross, Bishopsteignton (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6116 - Archaeological Evaluation, Shepherds Lane Teignmouth (Ref: 12373)
  • EDV7515 - The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping (formerly NMP) Survey (Ref: ACD1748)

Date Last Edited:Dec 3 2018 10:55AM