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HER Number:MDV66207
Name:Horsey Ridge Fish Weir, Heanton Punchardon


Remains of an undated fish weir uncovered at Horsey Ridge in 1999, one of a number recorded as shipping hazards on 19th century charts. Survey of northern side in 2003 produced evidence of 'reverse' weir. It is visible as two v-shaped structures, possibly from more than one phase, on aerial photographs between 1945 and 2010 and the western and eastern parts are visible at low tide. The relationship of the northern part to the reclaimed land at Horsey Island is not known. The southern part and the higher section of the northern arms appear to have been covered by sand accretion at an irregular rate since at least the mid twentieth century.


Grid Reference:SS 481 332
Map Sheet:SS43SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishHeanton Punchardon
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishHEANTON PUNCHARDON

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS43SE/295

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • FISH WEIR (Early Medieval to XX - 1066 AD to 1946 AD (Between))

Full description

English Heritage, 10/11/2014, Horsey Ridge Fish Trap, Heanton Punchardon, North Devon (Correspondence). SDV357401.

English Heritage is currently undertaking a strategic designation project in the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, following on from an aerial photographic interpretive survey of the area undertaken on behalf of English Heritage and Devon County Council. As well as assessing some sites which have been highlighted as having potential national importance, the project will also re-assess some sites where revisions to the existing statutory designation have been identified.

English Heritage, 17/03/2015, Horsey Ridge Fish Weir, Heanton Punchardon, North Devon, Devon (Correspondence). SDV357983.

A full inspection was carried out on February 3rd 2015.
Principal elements
The buried and standing remains of a post-medieval fish weir located on the north bank of the
River Taw estuary. It was probably constructed in the late C18/early C19 and comprises two
abutting V-shaped structures which form the two fish weirs; that to the east is the reverse weir.
The V-shaped fish weir comprises two, abutting V-shaped structures. The larger structure,
which is approximately 500m in length and 200m in width,
is to the west, with its ‘eye’ orientated in roughly this direction. Its northern arm extends to the
C19 sea wall around Horsey Island and its southern arm, which is longer, abuts the smaller
weir to the east, before continuing in an easterly direction where it widens to 13m at its
terminus. The smaller fish weir has its ‘eye’ pointing roughly east and is approximately 150m
in length and 150m in width. It appears to be a reverse weir and is possibly a later addition.
The exposed parts of the upright posts to the western and eastern points are visible (2015) as
runs of five to six wooden posts along the waterline. It is likely that the remains of the fish weir
survive beneath the sand. Parallel to the shoreline at approximately 100 metres to the south,
are linear runs of up to approximately 200m of C-profile metal posts. These posts, which
appear to be C20, have largely collapsed and it is unclear if they form a later phase of the
Perpendicular to the sea wall are rows of rubble stone blocks set into the sand, and a run of
six, upright wooden posts. These appear to be the remains of breakwaters or groynes.

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

'Horsey Weir' shown.

Royal Air Force, 1945, RAF/106G/LA/221, NMR RAF/106G/LA221 5065-5066 15-APR-1945 (Aerial Photograph). SDV349986.

Two v-shaped structures are clearly visible.

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/106G/UK/1420, NMR RAF/106G/1420 3404-3405 15-APR-1946 (Aerial Photograph). SDV349553.

A section of the southern arms of both v-shaped structures are not visible.

Royal Air Force, 1960, RAF/543/1017, NMR RAF/543/1017 PSFO-0130-0131 SS4731/1-SS4831/2 10-AUG-1960 (Aerial Photograph). SDV349659.

The southern part of the structure is mostly covered with sand, but some posts are visible.

Geonex UK, 1992, 158/92, DCC Geonix/158/92 205-206 15-OCT-1992 (Aerial Photograph). SDV349989.

The eastern and western parts of the structure are visible.

Humphreys, C. + Mandry, A., 2001, Fish Traps Project, 5 (Article in Serial). SDV342249.

List of fish traps recorded as hazards to shipping on 19th century charts. Horsey Island 7, extant.

Preece, C., 2002, Fish Weirs: As Irritating As Traffic Cones, 10-11 (Article in Serial). SDV342210.

Survey at Horsey Ridge was problematic, due to the substantial remains being largely sanded over. Plans to recommence at a future date as the size and construction phases offer interesting possiblilites of interpretation. Extract from Denham map of 1832 shows fishweirs as chevron-like features. Other details: Map - number 7.

Preece, C., 2003, Fishweirs Update 2, 14-15 (Article in Serial). SDV342258.

Horsey Weir (Horsey Ridge) is very large but variably visible due to movements of the sand ridge. Surveyed in part on 27th and 28th September, when 3 large posts were found to run off obliquely from the main line of posts. May represent a gate or sluice, or possibly a basket/funnel structure. On the north side a central line of stakes with evidence of wattle was apparent, presumably the earlier phase of build. Two external lines of posts, with a rubble in-fill, suggest a more substantial later structure. Plans to complete the recording of the weir when the south side is more fully exposed.

Preece, C., 2005, A Conflict of Interests: the Fish Traps of the Taw and Torridge Estuaries, 139, 148-151 (Article in Serial). SDV342251.

The remains of a fish weir were uncovered on a sandbank at Horsey Ridge in 1999. Initial investigation suggested this was a considerable structure of multiple build. A preliminary survey noted 'upright posts or stakes, in various states of completeness, and at some places interwoven wattles.' The wattles were thought to be hazel or willow. The southern wing was circa 91 metres long, but since 1999 has been completely reburied. A survey planned for summer 2005 had to be cancelled, however a survey of the northern wing was completed in 2003, and produced evidence for a 'reverse' weir circa 400 metres upstream. This consisted of about 40 posts across the narrow channel or 'gut'. The function of this appears to be to prevent the fish from flowing back into the main river channel. Other details: Figures 1-3, 10-11.

Wessex Archaeology, 2007, RMB Chivenor Flood Defence Scheme Barnstaple, Devon: Archaeological Desk-based Assessment, 10 (Report - Assessment). SDV342125.

Other details: WA 135.

Next Perspectives, 2010, Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref:, Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref: SS4833 08-APR-2010 (Aerial Photograph). SDV349899.

Parts of the eastern and western ends of the structure are visible in the channel.

Hegarty, C. + Knight, S., 2011 - 2012, North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV349018.

A substantial fish trap is clearly visible across a channel on Horsey Ridge as two conjoined v-shaped structures on aerial photographs taken in 1945. Parts of the structures are visible on aerial photographs between 1946 and 2010. The date of construction is not known, but v-shaped fishweirs can be medieval in date. The larger structure has its point, or ‘eye’, at the east and is approximately 500 metres in length and a visible maximum of 240 metres in width, its northern arm abutting the embankment around Horsey Island. The southern arm is longer than the northern and much wider at up to 13 metres at the eastern terminal. It is possible that the northern arm was impacted by the construction of the seawall around Horsey Island when it was reclaimed in the mid nineteenth century. However the fish weir was in use at the time of the late nineteenth century mapping when it is named as 'Horsey Weir'. The smaller v-shaped structure at 150 metres long has its eye to the west and abuts the southern arm of the larger structure. It may be a later phase of construction either to adapt the main fish trap, or a contemporary structure to ensure that fish could not escape when the tide changed. The southern arm of the larger structure is not generally visible on available aerial photographs after the 1940s suggesting postwar abandonment. However it does not seem to have been removed or eroded away as it is partly visible, including the tops of upright posts, in aerial photographs from 1960; the accretion of sand partly covering the structure may have contributed to its disuse. The eastern and western points are visible in the lower parts of the channel on aerial photographs dating to 2010 and on the ground in 2013, and parts were surveyed between 1999 and 2003. It is likely that the rest of the structure survives below the sand.

Hegarty, C. & Knight, S., 2012-2013, North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project site visit, 19-FEB-2013 (Site Visit). SDV349357.

Linear banks of stone with posts are visible at the western and eastern ends of the structure.

Historic England, 29/07/2015, Fish Weir at Horsey Ridge, Heanton Punchardon, North Devon, Devon (Correspondence). SDV358849.

Having considered our recommendation, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has decided not to add Fish Weir at Horsey Ridge to the Schedule of Monuments.

After examining all the records and other relevant information, and having carefully considered the national importance of this site, the criteria for scheduling are not fulfilled.

The fish weir at Horsey Ridge at Heanton Punchardon, Devon is not recommended for addition to the
Schedule for the following principal reasons:
* Period: as an early-C19 fish weir it is a relatively late example of its type;
* Survival: the introduction of later metal posts has impacted on the integrity of the original structure;
* Documentation: the limited opportunity for archaeological investigation has meant that we do not have a clear understanding of the weir’s historical development nor its relationship with other potential fish weirs along the estuary.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV342125Report - Assessment: Wessex Archaeology. 2007. RMB Chivenor Flood Defence Scheme Barnstaple, Devon: Archaeological Desk-based Assessment. Wessex Archaeology Report. 67300.01. A4 Stapled + Digital. 10.
SDV342210Article in Serial: Preece, C.. 2002. Fish Weirs: As Irritating As Traffic Cones. North Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 4. A5 Unbound. 10-11.
SDV342249Article in Serial: Humphreys, C. + Mandry, A.. 2001. Fish Traps Project. North Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. A5 Unbound. 5.
SDV342251Article in Serial: Preece, C.. 2005. A Conflict of Interests: the Fish Traps of the Taw and Torridge Estuaries. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 63. Paperback Volume. 139, 148-151.
SDV342258Article in Serial: Preece, C.. 2003. Fishweirs Update 2. North Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 6. A5 Unbound. 14-15.
SDV349018Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S.. 2011 - 2012. North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. ACD383/2/1. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV349357Site Visit: Hegarty, C. & Knight, S.. 2012-2013. North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project site visit. ND AONB NMP. Digital. 19-FEB-2013.
Linked images:24
SDV349553Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/106G/UK/1420. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). NMR RAF/106G/1420 3404-3405 15-APR-1946.
SDV349659Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1960. RAF/543/1017. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). NMR RAF/543/1017 PSFO-0130-0131 SS4731/1-SS4831/2 10-AUG-1960.
SDV349899Aerial Photograph: Next Perspectives. 2010. Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref:. Pan Government Agreement Aerial Photographs. Digital. Next Perspectives PGA Tile Ref: SS4833 08-APR-2010.
SDV349986Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1945. RAF/106G/LA/221. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). NMR RAF/106G/LA221 5065-5066 15-APR-1945. [Mapped feature: #98050 ]
SDV349989Aerial Photograph: Geonex UK. 1992. 158/92. Geonex Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). DCC Geonix/158/92 205-206 15-OCT-1992.
SDV357401Correspondence: English Heritage. 10/11/2014. Horsey Ridge Fish Trap, Heanton Punchardon, North Devon. Assess Site for Scheduling. Digital.
SDV357983Correspondence: English Heritage. 17/03/2015. Horsey Ridge Fish Weir, Heanton Punchardon, North Devon, Devon. Invitation to comment on application for listing. Digital.
SDV358849Correspondence: Historic England. 29/07/2015. Fish Weir at Horsey Ridge, Heanton Punchardon, North Devon, Devon. Notification of Designation Decision. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV66205Related to: Fish Weir at Horsey Island, Heanton Punchardon (Monument)
MDV66206Related to: Fish Weir at Horsey Island, Heaton Punchardon (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4490 - RMB Chivenor Flood Defence Scheme Barnstaple, Devon: Archaeological Desk-based Assessment
  • EDV4719 - Research and Survey of Fish Weirs on the Rivers Taw and Torridge
  • EDV6132 - North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty NMP Project

Date Last Edited:Jul 29 2015 2:19PM