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HER Number:MDV54219
Name:Pebble platforms, Harpford Common


Line of five circular platforms uncovered during management works in 1995 by the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds to restore heathland. An area roughly 50 metres by 20 metres has been cleared of bracken and the topsoil stripped. Previously thought to be prehistoric; now believed to be associated with Napoleonic or First World War military manoeuvres. They may possibly be barrack hut platforms.


Grid Reference:SY 055 902
Map Sheet:SY09SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishAylesbeare
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishAYLESBEARE

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Prehistoric and Military Features on Aylesbeare Common

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SY09SE/3/1
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • HUT PLATFORM (Built, XIX to Early 20th Century - 1803 AD to 1919 AD)
  • MILITARY CAMP? (Built, XIX to Early 20th Century - 1803 AD to 1919 AD)

Full description

BASFORD, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV110891.

Pottery from pebbled areas appears late. Possibly early 20c, pre-first world war. May suggest later military activity than simcoe (basford).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV110893.

Des=horner, b. /(21/7/1995)/as above.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV110894.

Des=slides/(22/5/1995)/in smr.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV110895.

Dro=hutchinson, p. O. /(diaries 14/6/1861).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV110896.

Des=basford, c. /(4/2/2000)/as above.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV110897.

Des=ea/(2003)/east devon heathlands archaeological survey/report no.03.26/in smr.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV2244.

Vis=22/5/1995(horner)a number of pebble platforms with connecting pathways have been exposed during the course of rspb nature reserve management works to restore heathland. An area c.50m by 20m has been cleared of bracken and the topsoil stripped. This is at c. Sy05659008. Three areas of cobbled platform visible composed of water rounded river or beach pebbles. Hard to tell the size of the platforms due to disturbance but would be in region of 3m by 10m. They appear to be terraced slightly into the top of the slope above a large natural amphitheatre around which the track sy09se/120 runs. To the south a possible pathway was observed leading downslope onto one of the platforms. This path was curving and was also made of cobbles/pebbles with an edge of larger cobbles. The view of the recorder is that these are probably associated with simcoe's manoeuvres. They may possibly be barrack hut platforms. Similar cobbling has been noted in association with the "soldiers pits" (sy09se/38/1) and a number of sherds of probably 19th century pottery were retrieved from the surface of the exposed cobbled platforms (horner).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV79.

Site of pebble mounds formerly interpretted as prehistoric cairns. Cobbled platforms (and pathway) exposed during heathland management works in 1995, may represent the former mounds, however, these are likely to be associated with napoleonic wars or first world war. In 1995 at ngr sy05659008 three areas of cobbled platforms visible (water worn beach or river pebbles). Platform size estimated 3m x 10m. Features appear to be terraced into top of slope above large natural ampitheatre around which trackway smr 09se/120 (site 37) runs. A possible curving cobbled pathway also visible leading downslope to one of the platforms. Thought likely to be related to general simcoe's manoeuvres, and may represent barrack block platforms. Sherds of probable c19 pottery recovered from surface of exposed platforms. Sherds of probable c19 pottery recovered from surface of exposed platforms. Area on n facing hill slope under dense gorse/heather/grasses 0.5m high. No features identified during field survey (ea).

HUTCHINSON, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV96023.

Vis=14/6/1861(hutchinson) diaries refer to paved pebble area on aylesbeare common. Probably associated with soldiers' encampment (hutchinson).

Carter, G. E. L., 1938, The Pebbled Mounds of Aylesbeare Common (Article in Serial). SDV358999.

GeoInformation Group Ltd, 2010, 1:625 2010 Colour (12.5cm resolution) (Aerial Photograph). SDV346026.

Four of four circular features clearly visible on the 2010 aerial photograph, in the rectangular area of the 1995 RSPB top soil scraped area. Arranged in a row, aligned north-west by south-east.

Tilley, C., 2017, Landscape in the Longue Durée, 354-57, fig 11.9-11.13 (Monograph). SDV361032.

Five shallow circular ditches (I, II, III, A, B) had been exposed by the machine scraping (see Figure 11.3 and Figure 11.9). The circular ditches were on average 5.6 metres in diameter (measured to the outside side of the ditches) and during excavation parts of them were visible because of the vegetation that grew in them. These features form a group, the average distance between them about 4.6 metres (see Figure 11.10). This structure was simply a levelled feature in the natural surrounded by a cut ditch (see Figure 11.11 and Figure 11.12). There were no finds.
Features I– III and A and B are very similar in size and morphology to the undamaged feature C. All of them have a similar diameter, in average 5.5 metres from the outer edge of the surrounding ditches. All of them have a circular shape and C a slightly (0.2 metre elevated centre. They are all surrounded by ditches. There were no finds with which to date the structures or their use: no artefacts or fire residues. The excavated structures confirm Hutchinson’s 1861 account, cited above, of the soldiers’ pits on Aylesbeare Common, that they were arranged in rows, just above the marshy ground below. The pavements formed the base of circular ‘bell tents’ used by the British Army at the time (citing Haythornwaite 1979: 149), with the surrounding ditches channelling away rain- water from the interior.

Horner, B., 2019, Location of features on Aylesbeare Common (Personal Comment). SDV362841.

The site of the 1995 works thought to be located further north than previously shown on the HER; location has been corrected, based on Tilley's 2017 publication.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV110891Migrated Record: BASFORD.
SDV110893Migrated Record:
SDV110894Migrated Record:
SDV110895Migrated Record:
SDV110896Migrated Record:
SDV110897Migrated Record:
SDV2244Migrated Record:
SDV346026Aerial Photograph: GeoInformation Group Ltd. 2010. 1:625 2010 Colour (12.5cm resolution). 2010 Aerial Photographs. Digital.
SDV358999Article in Serial: Carter, G. E. L.. 1938. The Pebbled Mounds of Aylesbeare Common. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society. III. Part 2. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV361032Monograph: Tilley, C.. 2017. Landscape in the Longue Durée. Landscape in the Longue Durée. Digital. 354-57, fig 11.9-11.13.
SDV362841Personal Comment: Horner, B.. 2019. Location of features on Aylesbeare Common. Not Applicable.
SDV79Migrated Record:
SDV96023Migrated Record: HUTCHINSON.

Associated Monuments

MDV28618Related to: Circular Features on Harpford Common, Aylesbeare (Monument)
MDV125512Related to: Pebble pavement on Aylesbeare Common (Monument)
MDV125513Related to: Pebble pavement on Aylesbeare Common (Monument)
MDV125510Related to: Platforms on Aylesbeare Common (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jul 27 2022 6:39PM