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HER Number:MDV5767
Name:Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent

Summary

Also known as Ryder's Rings, the site comprises two contiguous prehistoric enclosures or pounds containing a number of hut circles and courts or pens. The two pounds together occupy over 6 acres and enclose 36 hut circles and a number of courts built against the inner face of the pound walls. The south-west enclosure pre-dates the north-east one. The site also saw activity in the medieval period and it is suggested that a contrast can be made between thin-walled pens which are likely to have been prehistoric and thick-walled pens which were constructed in the medieval period during the course of which sections of the prehistoric walls were damaged or destroyed. The name Rider's Rings may in fact be a corrupion of Writer's Rings; wreytors or writers were men from off the moor who paid grazing rights to use the pens for their stock, and for which a written record was kept.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 678 643
Map Sheet:SX66SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishSouth Brent
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishSOUTH BRENT

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX 66 SE 2
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX66SE/73
  • Old SAM County Ref: 374
  • Pastscape: 441743

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ENCLOSED HUT CIRCLE SETTLEMENT (Constructed, Bronze Age - 2200 BC to 701 BC (Between))
  • POUND (Extended, Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD (Between))

Full description

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

'The Rings' and 'Hut Circles' shown on 19th century map as two adjoining enclosures with numerous hut circles and courts or pens

Beckerlegge, J. J., 1933, Second Report of the Plymouth and District Branch, 65 (Article in Serial). SDV178244.

The finest example of an early bronze age pound to be found on Dartmoor.

Worth, R. H., 1935, Dartmoor Exploration Committee, Twelfth Report, 115-119 / figs.1-9, plans. (Article in Serial). SDV259660.

Riders rings, two contiguous prehistoric enclosures or pounds containing a number of hut circles and courts. (Further details on related records). The two pounds together occupy over 6 acres and enclose 36 hut circles and a number of courts built against the inner face of the pound walls.
The south-west enclosure pre-dates the north-east one. The walls of the enclosures are of drystone construction, with blocks of red or pink felsite on each face, and a core of small stones.
A detailed survey was made of the northern wall of the north-east pound, and some excavation took place within the pound in 1930.

Worth, R. H., 1943, The Prehistoric Pounds of Dartmoor, 288-290, 291-293, fig.11, 12 (Article in Serial). SDV320337.

Substantially the same as Worth 1935.

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/CPE/UK/1890, 2279-2280 (10/12/1946) (Aerial Photograph). SDV169268.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1950, SX66SE2, SX66SE2, plan included (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV178241.

Site visited on 4th May 1950. The largest and most important pound in the Avon Valley known as Rider's Rings is situated on the eastern slope of Zeal Plains. It is best regarded as being two contiguous pounds, of which it would appear that the south-west member was constructed first, While the north-east member was added as a later extension. The two pounds together cover an area of six acres and enclose some three dozen hut circles. Two hut circles were excavated one yielding charcoal and cooking stones while the other yielded charcoal, cooking stones , flint chips, fragments of Dartmoor type pottery and a broken whetstone. Marked features of the pound are the small courts built against the inner face of the walls. The general conclusions are that the pound and its associated huts are of clearly Bronze Age date, and that the 'courts' were enclosed spaces, probably for cattle or possibly used as gardens for crops, but not habitations.
The enclosure walls are composed of large stones, turf-covered in parts with average width 4.0 metres and height 1.2 metres outside and 5.0 metres inside (due to land slope). At SX67796421 is a well-defined entrance 3.0 metres wide. The other entrance, at SX67926437 has been closed up by fallen stones.

Worth, R. H., 1953, Dartmoor, 115-116,149,156,162,150,157/figs.24,40, 41,42/photos, plans. (Monograph). SDV231148.

The south enclosure occupies about 3.24 acres and the northern one 3.73 acres; each section contains at least 17 huts, and both have courts (see related records) built against the walls. No huts are visible outside the pounds.

St. Joseph, J. K. S., 1967, Unknown title, 60-61 fig (Article in Serial). SDV219152.

Ruined walls of granite blocks form a double enclosure, an elongated (northern) compound being attached to (and later than), a squarish (southern) compound. A number of pens are defined within the main boundary wall, and several isolated hut circles. No traces of field systems in the vicinity. Seven isolated hut circles can be distinguished in the southern enclosure, and eight in the northern one.

Fox, A., 1973, South West England 3,500BC - AD600 (Revised Edition), 100, 101 /plan (Monograph). SDV16216.

Interpreted by Fox as a pastoral settlement with stock pens (i.e: the courts) within the main walls.

Robinson, 1978, Rider's Rings (Worksheet). SDV176574.

Site visited in May 1978. Some of the hut circles against the pound are difficult to distinguish from small courts. Fourteen hut circles recognised in the southern enclosure, and ten in the northern, partly overgrown with bracken and bilberry. Entrances recognised on some. Not all hut platforms are very clear, and not all those marked on plan in Fox could be recognised. Full descriptions and measurements of individual hut circles on worksheet.

Pearce, S. M., 1981, The Archaeology of South West Britain, 94, 95/ fig. 3:2 (Monograph). SDV81689.

Two distinct compounds with at least 12 hut circles distributed between them.

National Monuments Record, 1982, NMR SF2112, 1245-1246, 1250-1252 (19/4/1982) (Aerial Photograph). SDV345548.

Robinson, R., 1984, List of Field Monument Warden Visits 1984 (Un-published). SDV343082.

Visited 19/03/1984.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 36 (Monograph). SDV64198.

The complex prehistoric enclosure known as Riders Rings is situated on the brow of the western side of the steep valley of the River Avon. It is a large and striking settlement. The southern enclosure covering some 1.32 hectares and containing at least fifteen round houses, appears to be the primary one to which the northern enclosure was subsequently added. Around the inside edge of the northern enclosure, and in some places in the southern one, a series of small enclosed 'courts' can be seen; it has been suggested that these are garden plots or animal pounds. If the latter, they would reinforce the interpretation of this settlement as that of a pastoral community, which its position certainly suggests. Riders Rings is one of the most handsome and well-constructed of the prehistoric Dartmoor 'pounds'. In some places the stone facing on the outer and inner walls can still be seen.

Butler, J., 1993, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Four - The South-East, 144-5, Map 57, Figure 57.14 (Monograph). SDV337765.

'Rider's Rings' is a double enclosure. The narrower northern portion seems to be a later addition to the rectangular enclosure, doubling its size to 2.6 hectares. A series of animal pens entered from the north side then took the place of the dividing wall leaving a small gap for communication. There is ample evidence of re-orgnisation during its occupation. The two enclosures seem to have served different functions, the southern enclosure being reserved mainly for the sixteen huts '1' to '16'. The southern enclosure contains five pens or courts 'X' to 'Z'. A considerable part of the northern enclosure is sub-divided into pens or courts 'A' to 'U' which are almost continuous along the western wall and the ten or eleven huts '17' to '26' are mainly relegated to the centre. Five of the pens 'Q' to 'U' are located along the north side of the dividing wall between the two enclosures with three pens 'X' to 'W' on the south side of the dividing wall.

Ordnance Survey, 2013, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV350786.

'Settlement' shown on modern mapping

Fleming, A., 2013, Writers in Residence. The Secondary Occupation of Ryder's Rings (Article in Serial). SDV357767.

Article re-evaluating Ryder's Rings. It is argued that the site saw a major epidisode of medieval occupation during which thick-walled pens, previously throught to be prehistoric, were built and during the course of which the wall of the prehistoric enclosure was damaged or destroyed in places. Two hut circles (18 and O) are also likely to have been reused. These thick-walled medieval pens, which are mostly in groups of two or three, can be compared with surviving thin-walled pens which are probably prehistoric. These thin-walled pens may once have been more widespread and damaged or destroyed by the builders of the later pens. The name Ryder's Rings is thought to be a corruption of Writer's Rings. Hansford Worth noted the use of the phrase 'foreigners and wreytors' in a document of 1702. These were men from off the moor whose business it was to ensure that their animals grazing in the commons or Forest were written in the 'agistment roll'. The pens, therefore, were for writers who had paid their grazing fees.

Fleming, A., 2014, Writer's Rings? (Article in Serial). SDV357232.

Fleming focusses on the reuse of this site during the medieval period and theorises that there is a difference in the structures set within the enclosures. There are both thin-walled and thick-walled structures present; Fleming believes the former are the remains of Bronze Age hut circles, while the latter are medieval animal pens made by reusing stone from the earlier structures. The 'entrance' gaps are also thought to date to this later period; to allow better access for livestock. The name 'Rings' is thought to refer to animal pens, rather than the hut circles. Fleming suggests the name 'Ryder' may originate from 'wreytor', meaning 'writer' or 'foreigners' who lived off the moor, but penned their animals here.

Historic England, 2020, National Heritage List for England, 1002502 (National Heritage List for England). SDV363414.

This monument includes an agglomerated enclosed stone hut circle settlement called Rider’s Rings overlooking the valley of the River Avon. The monument survives as a roughly rectangular enclosure to the south west measuring 130 metres long by 105 metres wide internally, with a slightly curving enclosure abutted to the north east measuring 220 metres long by 70 metres wide defined by double faced banks measuring up to 6 metres wide and 1.5 metres high. Within the southern enclosure there are at least 16 stone hut circles. Of these, nine are attached to the enclosure wall and seven are free standing. One has a conjoined annexe, another is subdivided by an internal wall and in one instance a freestanding hut is connected to an attached hut by a short length of walling. There are also seven courtyards, of varying shape, five are attached to the enclosure wall and two are freestanding. The northern enclosure is of a different character. There are up to 18 courts or pens attached to the enclosure wall with one free standing in the interior. In this enclosure there are up to 9 stone hut circles and of these only one is connected to the enclosure wall the others are spread throughout the interior. During the medieval period a rectangular tinner’s shelter measuring 5.5 metres long by 2.3 metres wide was constructed in the northern enclosure amongst the already existing court walls attached to the northern enclosure wall. There was a partial excavation of two hut circles by Worth in 1930 which produced charcoal, cooking stones, flint flakes, pottery fragments, a whetstone and revealed one stone slab acting as a firescreen.

National Monuments Record, 2020, Pastscape, 441743, SX66SE2 (Website). SDV363416.

Field Investigation on 18th July 1977. On the eastern slope of Zeal Plains is a settlement known as 'The Rings' or 'Riders Rings', consisting of two contiguous enclosures containing 23 huts and 24 yards. It covers a area of approximately 2.8 hectares, with maximum dimensions of 348 metres by 100 metres. The southern enclosure is primary and contains 15 huts.
The northern enclosure contains 8 huts and most of the yards, all except one, of which are adjacent to the enclosure wall. The huts are generally in poor condition, some of them no more than terraces enclosed by a discontinuous ring of stones; as far as can be determined all are Type I huts. The average internal diameter of the huts is 5.3 metres; the largest is 7.0 metres and the smallest 2.5 metres.
The enclosure wall is very spread but its original thickness average is approximately 2.4 metres; in places it is still 1.0 metre high, with a build-up of soil on the uphill side. The construction seems to have been an inner and outer face with a rubble core. Clearance inside the enclosure was probably not needed as the ground here is reasonably clear of stones.

Unknown, Unknown, Rider's Rings (Photograph). SDV178242.

Slide of plan.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV16216Monograph: Fox, A.. 1973. South West England 3,500BC - AD600 (Revised Edition). South West England. Hardback Volume. 100, 101 /plan.
SDV169268Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/CPE/UK/1890. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 2279-2280 (10/12/1946).
SDV176574Worksheet: Robinson. 1978. Rider's Rings.
SDV178241Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1950. SX66SE2. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index. SX66SE2, plan included.
SDV178242Photograph: Unknown. Unknown. Rider's Rings. Slide.
SDV178244Article in Serial: Beckerlegge, J. J.. 1933. Second Report of the Plymouth and District Branch. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 65. Unknown. 65.
SDV219152Article in Serial: St. Joseph, J. K. S.. 1967. Unknown title. Antiquity. 41. 60-61 fig.
SDV231148Monograph: Worth, R. H.. 1953. Dartmoor. Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 115-116,149,156,162,150,157/figs.24,40, 41,42/photos, plans..
SDV259660Article in Serial: Worth, R. H.. 1935. Dartmoor Exploration Committee, Twelfth Report. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 67. Photocopy. 115-119 / figs.1-9, plans..
SDV320337Article in Serial: Worth, R. H.. 1943. The Prehistoric Pounds of Dartmoor. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 75. A5 Hardback. 288-290, 291-293, fig.11, 12.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV337765Monograph: Butler, J.. 1993. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Four - The South-East. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Four - The South-East. Four. Paperback Volume. 144-5, Map 57, Figure 57.14.
SDV343082Un-published: Robinson, R.. 1984. List of Field Monument Warden Visits 1984. Lists of Field Monument Warden Visits. Printout.
SDV345548Aerial Photograph: National Monuments Record. 1982. NMR SF2112. National Monuments Record Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1245-1246, 1250-1252 (19/4/1982).
SDV350786Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2013. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #95863 ]
SDV357232Article in Serial: Fleming, A.. 2014. Writer's Rings?. Dartmoor Magazine. 115. Digital.
SDV357767Article in Serial: Fleming, A.. 2013. Writers in Residence. The Secondary Occupation of Ryder's Rings. Photocopy.
SDV363414National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2020. National Heritage List for England. Digital. 1002502.
SDV363416Website: National Monuments Record. 2020. Pastscape. https://www.pastscape.org.uk/. Website. 441743, SX66SE2.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 36.
SDV81689Monograph: Pearce, S. M.. 1981. The Archaeology of South West Britain. The Archaeology of South West Britain. Hardback Volume. 94, 95/ fig. 3:2.

Associated Monuments

MDV19117Parent of: Hut circle '1' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129360Parent of: Hut circle '10' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129361Parent of: Hut circle '11' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129362Parent of: Hut circle '12' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129363Parent of: Hut circle '13' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129364Parent of: Hut circle '14' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129365Parent of: Hut circle '15' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129366Parent of: Hut circle '16' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV19118Parent of: Hut circle '17' in northern enclosure at 'Rider's Rings', South Brent (Monument)
MDV19119Parent of: Hut circle '18' in the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129367Parent of: Hut circle '19' in the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129352Parent of: Hut circle '2' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129368Parent of: Hut circle '20' in the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129369Parent of: Hut circle '21' in the central part of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129370Parent of: Hut circle '22' in the central part of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129371Parent of: Hut circle '23' in the northern part of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129372Parent of: Hut circle '24' in the northern part of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129373Parent of: Hut circle '25' in the northern part of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129374Parent of: Hut circle '26' in the northern part of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129353Parent of: Hut circle '3' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129354Parent of: Hut circle '4' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129355Parent of: Hut circle '5' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129356Parent of: Hut circle '6' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129357Parent of: Hut circle '7' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129358Parent of: Hut circle '8' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129359Parent of: Hut circle '9' in the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129375Parent of: Pen 'A' in the south-west corner of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129376Parent of: Pen 'B' in the south-west of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129377Parent of: Pen 'C' on the west side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129399Parent of: Pen 'D' on the western boundary of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129378Parent of: Pen 'E' in the west side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129379Parent of: Pen 'F' on the west side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129380Parent of: Pen 'G' on the southern side of the entrance to the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129381Parent of: Pen 'H' on the northern side of the entrance to the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129382Parent of: Pen 'I' on the northern side of the entrance to the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129383Parent of: Pen 'J' on the north-west side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129384Parent of: Pen 'K' isolated on the north side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV19120Parent of: Pen 'L' within the northern enclosure at 'Rider's Rings', South Brent (Monument)
MDV129385Parent of: Pen 'M' isolated on the east side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129386Parent of: Pen 'N' the northern of three pens on the east side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129387Parent of: Pen 'O' the central of three pens on the east side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129388Parent of: Pen 'P' the southern of three pens on the east side of the northern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129389Parent of: Pen 'Q' on the north side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129390Parent of: Pen 'R' on the north side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129391Parent of: Pen 'S' on the north side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129392Parent of: Pen 'T' on the north side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129393Parent of: Pen 'U' on the north side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129394Parent of: Pen 'V' on the south side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129395Parent of: Pen 'W' on the south side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129396Parent of: Pen 'X' on the south side of the dividing wall at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129397Parent of: Pen 'Y' on the south-east side of the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV129398Parent of: Pen 'Z' on the eastern boundary of the southern enclosure at Rider's Rings settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV19116Parent of: Wall at 'Rider's Rings' prehistoric settlement, South Brent (Monument)
MDV19121Related to: Structure at 'Rider's Rings' settlement, South Brent (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8475 - Excavation at Riders Rings

Date Last Edited:Feb 1 2021 8:36AM