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HER Number:MDV56592
Name:Prehistoric settlement on Smeardon Down


Prehistoric settlement consisting of huts circles, an enclosure and fields on Smeardon Down, all rather indistinct. This site is included in the local list of Nationally Important Dartmoor sites.


Grid Reference:SX 520 780
Map Sheet:SX57NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishPeter Tavy
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishPETER TAVY

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Earthworks of a prehistoric settlement on Smeardon Down comprising hut circles, enclosure and field system

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 440008
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX57NW/89
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • SETTLEMENT (Bronze Age - 2200 BC to 701 BC (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1975, OS 75 369, 172 (Aerial Photograph). SDV254607.

A series of fields are visible on Smeardon Down (SX520780) on the Ordnance Survey air photographs.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1980, SX57NW103 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV346367.

A field system, centred at SX2107813 extends over about 16.5 hectares on Smeardon Down with a spinal east-west bank linking rock outcrops along the summit.

Butler, J., 1991, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Two - The North, 89 (Monograph). SDV219155.

Prehistoric homestead situated in the southern shelter of a rock ridge forming the backbone of Smeardon Down. A single line of slabs forms the boundary around what appears to be a large oval hut (8.0 by 10.0 meters) with a rubble wall and uneven interior, which is approached by a passageway 2.0 meters wide. An embanked pit on the summit east of the enclosure connected to the nearest stack by a bank and ditch may be the remains of a second hut, or possible a very damaged cairn. Also on the summit further east is a semi-circular enclosure probably associated with the homestead, its rubble bank no more than 0.3 meters high and cut through by a newtake wall on the north side. Other details: Map 31, 11.

Sainsbury, I. S., 1991, Untitled Source (Report - Survey). SDV270787.

An unenclosed settlement and associated field system on Smeardon Down. It extends about 1 kilometre east-west by 500 meters (some 40 hectares in area), and is entirely surrounded by modern intake, predominantly pasture farmland. The vegetation is primarily rough grass, closely cropped by grazing sheep; bracken with occasional scrub and gorse is scattered around the lower southern slopes. Across the spine of the spur there are rocky dolerite outcrops extending to Boulters Tor in the extreme east. Areas of clitter (scree weathered from the tors) occur across the slopes beneath the outcrops.
From the top, fields can be traced for 100 to 150 meters down the south side, though dense bracken precludes a comprehensive assessment, and a similar distance down the north side. Here it is quite evident that it formerly extended much further, for a few denuded banks and lynchets occur within the enclosed agricultural area for at least another 150 meters. The fields are mainly rectilinear so far as surface irregularities allow and vary between 0.35 and 0.7 hectares. With occasional sub divisions down to 0.15 hectares. The walls are invariably of loosely piled stones 1.3 meters wide and 0.2 meters to 0.3 meters high; on the slopes most have developed into lynchets. So far as can be seen settlement associated with the system is a few widely spaced huts.
At SX5225 7790 a small irregular-shaped group of structures (15-17), is levelled into the southern slope some 20.0 meters north-west of huts 8 and 9. Constructed from the clitter that surrounds the area, it is in a very dilapidated overgrown condition making exact measurement and interpretation difficult.
The settlement consists of 14 hut circles (1-14) scattered throughout the field system. There may have been more huts but these are now probably reduced to vague cleared areas. The huts are invariably formed by circular platforms, built up, levelled and cut into the slope and edged by turf-covered rubble walls. They range from 4.8 meters to 8.0 meters in diameter within walls 1.0 meter to 2.0 meters wide and 0.2 meters to 1.0 meter high. Seven of the huts have identifiable entrances, predominantly in the south-west. Huts 7, 8, 9 and 13, are well defined but 3, 4 and 14, have been heavily robbed and are now barely discernible. Hut 1 falls within the enclosed pasture, separated from its neighbour (2) by an enclosure wall. A lynchet runs off from the south-west of the hut and on its eastern side the hut is set up against a field wall. This field wall continues northwards and, together with a similar parallel wall some 60.0 meters to the east, indicates the system continues down the slopes to the north and west into rough scrubland.(this area within the modern fields was not investigated). Huts 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7, are attached to field walls, whilst huts 1, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 13, are set within fields.
These structures are contained within an irregular-shaped angular enclosure crossing the rising slope on its northern side. It is formed by a crude clitter wall which has collapsed in places to a rubble scarp. The north-east angle forms a small court, some 22.0 meters east-west by 10.0 meters internally, which is entered from the south alongside the east of structures 15 and 17. There is a similar sized court on the south-west with entrance gap to the east of structure 16. As stated, interpretation of these structures, and determination of their exact origin and purpose is difficult. Their closeness to huts 8 and 9, the appearance of the features 15 and 16, its connection to field walls on the east and the west, all suggest it may originally have been contemporary with the field system, and reused at a later period. Some 50.0 meters along the slope to the east at SX52317788 is a rectangular platform (18) skirted on the north by a disused leat. It measures 8.7 meters north-south by 5.0 meters between the centres of a predominantly turf wall now collapsed to a scarp 0.7 meters high 1.6 meters wide at best. The interior has a gentle north-south slope, no entrance is evident. Its purpose and origin are unknown but it may well be associated with the possible re-use of the nearby structures (15-17).
Abutting the south side of feature 15 is another structure (17). It is rectangular in shape and 4.2 meters east-west by 2.7 meters internally, with possibly a rounded western end. Its outer south and east sides appear to have been recently cleared giving a ditch-like appearance. This structure appears to be fairly modern and may have been formed out of the debris of feature 15 utilising its south wall.
The main feature seems to have been feature 15 and consists of an oval platform 8.5 meters east-west by 6.0 meters internally. This is edged around the north uphill side by a collapsed rubble wall, now reduced to a scarp 1.8 meters wide 0.9 meters high. At its eastern end it is spread and obscured by an apparent clearance heap, 5.0 meters in diameter. From this north-east corner the wall, now 4.0 meters wide and up to 0.8 meters high, turns south down the slope. An upright stone slab, 0.6 meters high and 0.5 meters by 0.2 meters, is set in its centre. Across the south of the oval platform the wall, now roughly faced on its lower side, is 2.2 meters wide and 0.8 meters high. The west end curves towards a funnelled entrance 2.2 meters wide. The south side of this entrance is well defined by an inner face on its north side, however the north side of the entrance is indistinct. Some 20.0 meters further to the west are the remains of another sub-circular enclosure (16), measuring 6.5 meters north-south by 5.0 meters inside a crude turf-covered boulder wall 1.5 meters wide 0.4 meters high. Its north end is open. The south-west side merges into a field wall running north up the steepening slope. It is difficult to ascertain if these features, (15 + 16), were buildings or small enclosures.

Gerrard, S., 2004, List of Sites Remaining to be Considered for Designation on Dartmoor (Un-published). SDV345444.

This site was considered for designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument during the Monument Protection Programme. The programme ended before the entire list of sites was successfully scheduled so this is included on a local list of Nationally Important Sites.

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

Remains of an enclosure and field boundaries faintly visible on the aerial photography.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV219155Monograph: Butler, J.. 1991. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Two - The North. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Two - The North. Two. Paperback Volume. 89.
SDV254607Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1975. OS 75 369. Ordnance Survey Aerial Photograph. 172.
SDV270787Report - Survey: Sainsbury, I. S.. 1991. Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England Field/Recording In. Unknown.
SDV345444Un-published: Gerrard, S.. 2004. List of Sites Remaining to be Considered for Designation on Dartmoor. Digital.
SDV346026Aerial Photograph: GeoInformation Group Ltd. 2010. 1:625 2010 Colour (12.5cm resolution). 2010 Aerial Photographs. Digital.
SDV346367Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1980. SX57NW103. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.

Associated Monuments

MDV12798Parent of: ENCLOSURE in the Parish of Peter Tavy (Monument)
MDV56593Related to: FIELD SYSTEM in the Parish of Peter Tavy (Monument)
MDV28510Related to: HUT CIRCLE in the Parish of Peter Tavy (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jan 25 2013 3:51PM