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HER Number:MDV4848
Name:Early Medieval Settlement at Meadowsfoot Beach

Summary

Site of a Post Roman settlement on the north side of Meadowsfoot Beach

Location

Grid Reference:SX 610 473
Map Sheet:SX64NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishHolbeton
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishHOLBETON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX64NW/2
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • SETTLEMENT (Early Iron Age to Late Medieval - 700 BC to 1539 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX64NW1, 1 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV140201.

Mothecombe. Marine erosion has gradually revealed an Iron Age/Dark Age site. Pottery recovered from the site has been identified as of two groups. The finds consisted firstly of Glastonbury ware and secondly of Dark Age A, B, C ware. Erosion has revealed two layers of occupation separated by a layer of sterile sand.


Royal Air Force, 1951, RAF/540/497, NMR RAF/540/497 4072-4073 12-MAY-1951 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351212.

Indistinct dark vegetation and drainage marks are visible.


Fox, A., 1961, Twenty-Fifth Report on the Archaeology and Early History of Devon, 79-80 (Article in Serial). SDV341693.

The main feature, as seen in November 1960, was a hollow, 5-6 feet wide and 2 foot 6 inches deep lined with yellow clay and then filled with dark soil containing charcoal and burnt daub covered with stony debris. This dark layer extended to the east of the hollow over and under another burnt deposit which extended on either side of a stake hole. Pottery found consists of sherds of imported amphorae and native grey ware dated to the 5th or 6th century. The site is interpreted as the remains of a temporary occupation by traders, lighting fires, digging a pit and building wattle and daub shelters. The finds are now exhibited in Totnes museum. Other details: Fig. 8.


Fox, A., 1973, South West England 3,500BC - AD600 (Revised Edition), 196 (Monograph). SDV16216.

Remains of fires, piles of shells and animal bones found with potsherds in black layers under the dunes are all that remain of the encampments of merchants or customers at the safe landing places at the mouths of rivers like Mothecombe on the Erme or Bantham on the Avon. Other details: Fig. 55.


Horner, W., 1992, Archaeological Survey, Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe (Report - Survey). SDV140205.

The probable position of the site, mid-way between the stream and the jetty, was surveyed at circa SX61014735. The site has been eroded away, the current rear of the beach being circa 15 metres to the north.


Dick, A. M., 1993, Untitled Source (Worksheet). SDV140206.

No appreciable erosion apparent since previous visit on 5/12/1992. Jawbone in section B-C photographed. Other details: Photos.


Horner, W., 1993, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV140204.

The ordnance Survey may have mis-interpreted grey nativeware as pre Roman.


Read, M., 1994, Beach Survey of Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe (Report - Survey). SDV140208.

Bone, charcoal and shells seem to have eroded out. At least four layers visible, containing faunal material.


Horner, W., 1994, Untitled Source (Worksheet). SDV140209.

Patch of charcoal visible in erosion face. Also tumble of stones. Other details: Slide in HER.


Griffith, F. + Dick, A. M., 1994, Untitled Source (Site Visit). SDV140207.

Section B-C shows signs of recent damage.


Waterhouse, R. E., 2000, Personal comment to A. M. Dick (Personal Comment). SDV140210.

Now suffering appalling erosion. Martin Read in contact with either York University or York Archaeological Trust, where bone has been taken for analysis.


Carruthers, W. J., 2001, Draft Assessment of Charred Plant Remains from Mothecombe Beach, South Hams, Devon (Report - Assessment). SDV140213.

Emergency recording by Exeter Archaeology of eroding area. Plant macrofossil analysis of six samples suggested cultivation of oats. Barley and wheat were also present, as were seeds from weeds of cultivated ground. One sample, from the fill of a pit containing burnt clay, contained frequent seeds of henbane. Hazelnut shells recovered from two samples.


Read, M., 2001, Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe (Report - Survey). SDV140212.

Unstratified bone assemblage of 322 fragments identified by environmental laboratory of Bradford University between 1994 and 1996. Bone report in paper by M. Read. Various artefacts found at north end of beach, on the east side, near coastal path, including quern fragment, pieces of spindle whorl, worked slate objects and iron slag.


Read, M., 2001, Personal comment to A. M. Dick (Personal Comment). SDV140211.

Serious erosion caused by water running down public footpath has revealed several hearths. These are now being damaged by walkers.


Reed, S. J., 2002, Archaeological Survey and Recording at Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe, South Devon (Report - Survey). SDV140214.

Survey and beach profile undertaken by Exeter Archaeology along with recording of exposed faces. Samples taken for charred plant remains and carbon 14 dating. A single buried soil horizon extends across the width of the beach, along with five cut features.


Turner, S. + Gerrard, J., 2004, Imported and Local Pottery from Mothecombe: Some New Finds Amongst Old Material at Totnes Museum, 171-175 (Article in Serial). SDV322786.

The early post-Roman site at Meadowsfoot Beach was first identified in the 1950s when occupation layers and material including pottery were noted eroding from an exposed soil face at the back of the beach. Since then the archaeological deposits have been subject to ongoing erosion. As part of a new project based at the Universities of York and Newcastle, that aims to assess the extent and nature of the archaeological deposits and put the site in context, the pottery was re-examined and found to include more imported Mediterranean amphorae than previously thought. Two small sherds identified as Late Iron Age Glastonbury Ware have also been found. They are not mentioned in Fox's 1961 report but were apparently derived from hill wash.


Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M., 2006, The Land Named from the Sea? Coastal Archaeology and Place-names of Bigbury Bay, Devon (Article in Serial). SDV339814.

Site at Mothecombe at the mouth of the Erme where late and post Roman structures and artefacts were found. Site suitable as a trading post for local and Continental goods. The place is recorded as 'Muthecumb' in 1244.


Corcos, N., 2011, Land at Fremington Army Camp, Fremington, North Devon: Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment, 10 (Report - Assessment). SDV348712.


Horner, B., 2011, Mothecombe Project Resumes for Final Season, 7 (Article in Serial). SDV358508.

The site at Mothecombe was first identified in the late 1950s when occupation layers and material including pottery of the 5th to 6th centuries AD, imported from the Mediterranean, were recorded eroding from dunes at the back of the beach.
Further exposures were recorded by AC Archaeology in the early 2000s, prompting the current project. This has revealed important evidence for occupation in two zones at the back of the beach, with features including hearths and the remains of a series of structures. These have produced finds including animal bones and Roman and post-Roman ceramics. Geophysical and geoarchaeological survey in the fields behind the site is revealing evidence for the area's use over a longer period.


Agate, A., et al, 2012, Early Medieval Settlement at Mothecombe, Devon, The Interaction of Local, Regional and Long-Distance Dynamics (Article in Serial). SDV351669.

An archaeological site at Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe (Holbeton), Devon (SX 61054730) was first identified in 1959 (K. Greene, pers. comm.) and reported in 1960 (Fox 1961). Erosion at the back of the beach exposed occupation layers and early medieval pottery imported from the Mediterranean. Coastal erosion has continued at the site up to the present and a number of archaeological recording events have taken place since the 1960s. In each case the intention has been to preserve features and finds by record as they have been exposed by the sea. To date, there has been little attempt to set the site at Mothecombe in a wider context, though occasional comparisons have been made to nearby Bantham Ham (Reed et al. 2011). In this article, we note previous work and provide an account of our recent fieldwork at Mothecombe, which has revealed rare evidence of buildings and other archaeological features dating from the fifth to the seventh centuries AD, (see article for full description).

Excavations at Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe, South Devon, between 2004 and 2011 focused
on two main areas. In the first, evidence for occupation in a sand dune included succes sive hearths
and imported early medieval finds. In the second, three phases of early medieval structures were
uncovered, along with more imported finds including amphora sherds. At least one of the structures was very large, and is presently unique in Devon. The landscape context of the site is considered along with the impact of sea-level change and coastal erosion. The paper concludes with a discussion of the site and its relationship to post-Roman networks of trade and communications with late Antique Atlantic Europe and the Mediterranean. We argue that Mothecombe helps us towards a better understanding of these networks by furnishing new insights on their social foundations in Western Britain.


Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R., 2013-2014, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV351146.

No definite features were observed in the area of the settlement. Indistinct linear and irregular darker marks visible on aerial photographs taken in 1951 are likely to have been caused by natural drainage and vegetation.


Duggan, M. C., 2016, Links to Late Antiquity. Understanding Contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th Centuries AD, 167-174, figs 4.7-4.10 (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV359586.

Mothecombe is featured in Duggan's consideration of imported 5th and 6th century Mediterranean pottery in its wider context and the nature of the exchange and contact between Britain, the Atlantic seaboard and the Mediterranean.


Duggan, M. C., 2018, Links to Late Antiquity. Ceramic exchange and contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th centuries AD, 77-81, figs 4.8-4.10 (Article in Serial). SDV363192.

Although the ceramic assemblage at Mothecombe is much smaller than at Bantham, the higher proportion of LRA1 to LRA2 types might suggest a regionally specific supply. Originally identified in 1959 (Fox, 1961), the site was compared with Bantham and identified as a 'beach-market'. Further work between 2004-2011 (Newcastle University and University of York) examined a number of successive hearth-features, again indicating temporary occupation, although evidence was found of two large timber structures, suggesting for the first time possible permanent occupation at the site.
The assemblage at Mothecombe appears to indicate a relatively high number of imported vessels as well as evidence of imported glass and wine, implying the inhabitants of the timber structures might have displayed status or exhibited long-distance connections through drinking practices. Although not clear how shipments arrived at the site, it appears possible they originated from the East Mediterranean and these may have stopped at Iberian ports, or been redistributed from Vigo. Duggan concedes that alternatively, the assemblage may have been the result of local interactions, rather than the result of direct interaction with the Continent.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV140201Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX64NW1. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index. 1.
SDV140204Personal Comment: Horner, W.. 1993.
SDV140205Report - Survey: Horner, W.. 1992. Archaeological Survey, Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe. A4 Bound.
SDV140206Worksheet: Dick, A. M.. 1993. Worksheet.
SDV140207Site Visit: Griffith, F. + Dick, A. M.. 1994.
SDV140208Report - Survey: Read, M.. 1994. Beach Survey of Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe. Unknown.
SDV140209Worksheet: Horner, W.. 1994. Worksheet.
SDV140210Personal Comment: Waterhouse, R. E.. 2000. Personal comment to A. M. Dick.
SDV140211Personal Comment: Read, M.. 2001. Personal comment to A. M. Dick.
SDV140212Report - Survey: Read, M.. 2001. Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe. A4 Stapled.
SDV140213Report - Assessment: Carruthers, W. J.. 2001. Draft Assessment of Charred Plant Remains from Mothecombe Beach, South Hams, Devon. Exeter Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled.
SDV140214Report - Survey: Reed, S. J.. 2002. Archaeological Survey and Recording at Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe, South Devon. Exeter Archaeology Report. 02.29. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV16216Monograph: Fox, A.. 1973. South West England 3,500BC - AD600 (Revised Edition). South West England. Hardback Volume. 196.
SDV322786Article in Serial: Turner, S. + Gerrard, J.. 2004. Imported and Local Pottery from Mothecombe: Some New Finds Amongst Old Material at Totnes Museum. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 62. Paperback Volume. 171-175.
SDV339814Article in Serial: Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M.. 2006. The Land Named from the Sea? Coastal Archaeology and Place-names of Bigbury Bay, Devon. Archaeological Journal. 163. A5 Paperback.
SDV341693Article in Serial: Fox, A.. 1961. Twenty-Fifth Report on the Archaeology and Early History of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 93. A5 Hardback. 79-80.
SDV348712Report - Assessment: Corcos, N.. 2011. Land at Fremington Army Camp, Fremington, North Devon: Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment. Avon Archaeological Unit Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 10.
SDV351146Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R.. 2013-2014. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV351212Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1951. RAF/540/497. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). NMR RAF/540/497 4072-4073 12-MAY-1951.
SDV351669Article in Serial: Agate, A., et al. 2012. Early Medieval Settlement at Mothecombe, Devon, The Interaction of Local, Regional and Long-Distance Dynamics. Archaeological Journal. 169. Digital.
SDV358508Article in Serial: Horner, B.. 2011. Mothecombe Project Resumes for Final Season. Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 110. Extract + Digital. 7.
SDV359586Post-Graduate Thesis: Duggan, M. C.. 2016. Links to Late Antiquity. Understanding Contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th Centuries AD. University of Newcastle. A4 Hardback. 167-174, figs 4.7-4.10.
SDV363192Article in Serial: Duggan, M. C.. 2018. Links to Late Antiquity. Ceramic exchange and contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th centuries AD. British Archaeological Reports. 639. Paperback Volume. 77-81, figs 4.8-4.10.

Associated Monuments

MDV4849Parent of: Amphora at Meadowsfoot Beach (Find Spot)
MDV47773Related to: ARTEFACT SCATTER in the Parish of Holbeton (Monument)
MDV7065Related to: Bronze Age Metalwork off Moor Sand, Devon (Maritime)
MDV64836Related to: DITCH in the Parish of Holbeton (Monument)
MDV64837Related to: Ditches at Meadowsfoot Beach (Monument)
MDV71134Related to: Enclosure Bank at Owen's Point (Monument)
MDV40102Related to: Enclosures near Mount Folly Farm, Bigbury (Monument)
MDV64838Related to: Pit north of Meadowsfoot Beach (Monument)
MDV50170Related to: Rectilinear enclosure at Orchard House, Modbury (Monument)
MDV2807Related to: Settlement at Bantham Ham (Monument)
MDV66175Related to: STONE CIRCLE in the Parish of Holbeton (Monument)
MDV47774Related to: STONE in the Parish of Holbeton (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV466 - SHERD (Roman to Post Medieval - 43 AD to 1750 AD)
  • FDV458 - AMPHORA (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • FDV463 - ANIMAL REMAINS (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • FDV465 - PLANT REMAINS (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • FDV460 - QUERN (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • FDV459 - SHERD (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • FDV462 - SLAG (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • FDV461 - SPINDLE WHORL (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)
  • FDV464 - WORKED OBJECT (Post Roman - 410 AD to 700 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV2202 - Archaeological Survey, Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe
  • EDV2203 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV2204 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV2205 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV2206 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV2207 - Unnamed Event
  • EDV2208 - Archaeological Survey and Recording at Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothecombe, South Devon
  • EDV6127 - Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme (NMP) for South-West England - South Coast Devon (Ref: ACD618)
  • EDV6195 - Excavations at an Early Medieval Settlement at Meadowsfoot Beach, Mothercombe (Ref: N/A)
  • EDV6146 - Survey Work at Erme Estuary Designated Wreck Sites, 1991 to 2006

Date Last Edited:Aug 28 2019 10:22AM