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HER Number:MDV6646
Name:Extensive Medieval or later tinworking on Challacombe Down


Remains of extensive Medieval or later tinwork features including openworks, tinner's pits, adits, leats and an associated small building, possibly a tinner's hut, on Challacombe Down. An archaeological field survey in 1990 recorded a number of openworks including Scudley Beam, a large openwork orientated east-west, up to 75 metres wide and 15 metres deep. The top section has vertical sides, the lower area comprises a fan of channels and spoilheaps. Another openwork measured between 7metres and 15 metres wide, 3.3 metres and 3.9 metres deep, and had a V-shaped profile. A continuous spoilheap was along its southern side. One of the adits survives as a linear trench 14 metres long, 1.5 metres wide and 1.8 metres deep. it was in use in 1852. A lode work survived as a straight V-shaped trench 138 metres long, 3.8 metres wide and 1.4 metres deep with a 4.4 metre wide and 1.4 metre high spoil heap along the south side. Small scale extraction pits and leats are situated to the south of the lodework. The pits include a cluster of 96 pits and a line of 107 pits comprising a series of extraction pits and trail pits oval in plan, measuring 2.5 metres by 1.5 metres and 0.4 metres deep with spoil collars on the downslope side. Also present is a small rectangular building measuring 3 metres by 1.9 metres with walls surviving to a height of 0.3 metres.


Grid Reference:SX 689 802
Map Sheet:SX68SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishManaton
Ecclesiastical ParishMANATON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX68SE146
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 917666
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX68SE/74

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ADIT (Constructed, Early Medieval to Early 20th Century - 1066 AD (Between) to 1901 AD (Between))
  • EXTRACTIVE PIT (Constructed, Early Medieval to Early 20th Century - 1066 AD (Between) to 1901 AD (Between))
  • LEAT (Constructed, Early Medieval to Early 20th Century - 1066 AD (Between) to 1901 AD (Between))
  • PROSPECTING PIT (Constructed, Early Medieval to Early 20th Century - 1066 AD (Between) to 1901 AD (Between))
  • TIN WORKS (Constructed, Early Medieval to Early 20th Century - 1066 AD (Between) to 1901 AD (Between))
  • TINNERS HUT (Constructed, Early Medieval to Early 20th Century - 1066 AD (Between) to 1901 AD (Between))

Full description

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV306879.

Des=long, g. /a suryey of lands etc belonging to the re william hoid viscount courtnay/(1789)/in private possession.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV306880.

French, h. + linehan, c. D. /tda/95(1963)178/abandoned medieval sites in widecombe in the moor. Appendix a. Methods of tin mining.
Challacombe down. Crescent-shaped pond at head of huge excavation of tinwork (french + linehan).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV306881.

Osa=sx67ne4/q/plan. Tin streaming gullies and debris (os).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV306882.

Des=greeves, t. A. P. /the archaeolgical potential of the devon tin rep 40/(1981)85-95.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV306883.

Broughton, d. G. /trans cornish inst engrs/24(1968-9)25-49; fig 4/the birch tor and vitifer tin mining complex.
Broughton D.G. (1968-9) The Birch Tor and Vitifer tin mining comlex. Trans. Cornish. Inst. Engrs. VOL. 24 PP25-49, FIG 4

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV306885.

Aph=nmr sx6980/1/33-5/(14/4/1977).

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV306886.

Aph=nmr sx6980/5/399/(18/5/1977).

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV306887.

Aph=nmr/fxg 54/79/9/11.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV306890.

Des=craddock, p. T. + craddock, b. R. /the beginnings of metallurgy in south west britain: hypotheses & evidence/in newman, p.(ed)/the archaeology of mining & metallurgy in south west britain/(1996)52-63/(mining history: bulletins pdmhs, vol 13 no 2).
Possible bronze age tin working on challacombe down may have been associated with the bronze age enclosure of grimspound (sx68se/69). Some tin workings, notably scudley beam, pre-date the surrounding c13 lynchets. Many of the small tin workings on dartmoor are in the immediate vicinity of hut circles (craddock).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV306891.

Des=greeves, t. /tinworking at heathercombe, manaton/(1991)/in pf. Scudley beam lode workings likely to have medieval origins, 1450-1600 (greeves).

Long, G., 1787, A survey of lands etc. belonging to the RE William Hoid Viscount Courtnay by George Long of Leyland 1787 (Report - Survey). SDV306888.


Royal Air Force, 1947, RAF/CPE/UK/1995, 4357-4358 (Aerial Photograph). SDV224714.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP (Cartographic). SDV319854.

Visible and recorded.

Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England, 1987-1993, Duchy Farms Project Survey Visit, P. Pattison (Report - Survey). SDV350839.

(14/07/1990) SX 691 802 [centred]: Extensive remains of tin extraction in the form of openworks, leats, tin pits, adits and shafts forming a complex industrial landscape on Challacombe Down. In reality the features are part of multi-period tin extraction extending N into Headland Warren and W into the N end of Challacombe Farm, an area which constituted the South Lodes of East Birch Tor mine in the 19th century.
Many of the features investigated cut into boundaries of a field system SX 67 NE 111.
A] SX 6916 8020 "Scudley Beam." A massive openwork aligned E-W cut into the E slope of Challacombe Down from base to crest, a very impressive trench up to 75m wide and 15m deep. It reaches maximum dimensions above SX 6920 8019, with steep, smooth turf-covered sides falling to a narrow base. The top section is visible rock-cut, its vertical sides 6m deep, with large chunks of fallen rock in the base. A stream issues at SX 6927 8019, below which the trench narrows and fades. The bottom section centred SX 6938 8018 consists of a fan of streamed linear channels and spoil mounds, evidence for exploitation of tin ground which had probably accumulated as a product of erosion of the lode higher up. The track from Challacombe to Headland Warren is built across this streaming and below it what must have been further rich alluvial deposits have been removed by an open excavation some 75m across cutting right down into the valley floor, probably in the later 19th century.
A smaller trench, possibly following a branch off the main lode, or a channel bringing water into the openwork, leaves the N side from a point halfway up, cutting diagonally across the contours and lynchets of field system [SX 67 NE 111], eventually turning directly uphill, ending at SX 6910 8026 adjacent to G. It is of blunted V-shaped profile, up to 9m wide and between 0.9 and 1.8m deep.
At SX 6909 8019 is a flat-bottomed sub rectangular depression measuring 7.1m E to W by 5.1m and 0.8 to 1.6m deep, formed at the junction of four ditched banks of field system SX 67 NE 111. The north-easternmost field ditch is widened northwards forming a linear hollow 13m long, 1.5m wide at base and 1m deep, a clear extension of the depression. This is the feature French and Linehan may be referring to as a "crescent-shaped pond" (French and Linehan, 1963) and this interpretation is probably correct: surface water draining into three field ditches probably collected here and was stored until needed in Scudley Beam.
The openwork is called "Scudley Beam" and labelled "tinworks" on an estate map of 1787 (1787 survey). It is clearly a feature of some antiquity given that lynchets of field system [SX 67 NE 111] curve into it on both sides: a furlong boundary runs along the N edge. Openworks are generally regarded as pre-1700 (Greeves, 1981).
B] SX 6936 8038: An openwork; a large trench cut from close to the valley floor WSW upslope with a marked dog-leg. It is 7-15m wide with a V-shaped profile 3.3-3.9m deep; the sides are steep, smooth and turf-covered sides. Along the S side is a continuous mound of spoil averaging 7m wide and up to 2.5m high, composed mostly of small, broken rock fragments. The lower end is traversed by the Challacombe-Headland Warren track and a flat-rod gulley [SX 68 SE 150], below which it bifurcates into shallow U-shaped tranches with spoil between, fading just before the valley floor and a leat [SX 68 SE 149]. At the top end rock outcrop is visible. Two features join the upper end: a leat [SX 68 SE 167] comes in from the S and a straight linear trench 3.3m long and 0.8m deep extends W uphill for 67m. The latter may have been chasing the lode further but it also leads to another leat [SX 68 SE 166] and could itself have been a watercourse. Water may have been required for the extraction and washing processes. The whole work cuts across lynchets of field system [SX 67 NE 111].
C] SX 6931 8023: An adit, a linear trench 14m long, 1.5m wide at base and 1.8m deep cut horizontally into the hillside. The E end leads onto a large mound, 15m across up to 3m high, composed of spoil and other material deposited by water which still issues from the adit. It is shown by Broughton as functional c.1852 (5). Water from this adit was utilised by a leat [SX 68 SE 167] which leads from its N edge to openwork B.
D] SX 6910 8027: A surface lodework in the form of a straight, sharply V-shaped trench 138m long, averaging 3.8m wide and 1.4m deep. There is a continuous mound of spoil deposited along the S edge, averaging 4.4m wide and 1.4m high, consisting of piles of small-medium broken rock. A small amount of spoil is deposited along the N Edge. Towards its centre, from the base of the 1.7m deep trench a 16m length of vertical-sided gallery 1.3m wide is cut into rock for at least another 2m depth. This gallery is probably the excavated tin lode.
To the S of feature D are several trenches both parallel to and at right angles to it. Some of these are for small scale extraction while others are channels distributing water among the various workings.
E] SX 6914 8024: A V-shaped trench 8m wide and 1.2m deep, cutting diagonally across the contours from Scudley Beam to D which appears to overlie its end. It cuts across the diagonal trench branching off Scudley Beam. Small amounts of spoil lie on the E side. It is possibly a water channel or small working.
F] A line of at least 107 tin pits leading from the summit at SX 6902 8037 down the heather-covered W slope of Challacombe Down to SX 6852 8025 and connecting to an openwork [SX 67 NE 112]. They are probably a combination of trial pits to locate lodes and deeper pits/shafts for extraction. Most are small and oval along the contours, averaging 2.5m by 1.5m across and 0.4m deep with spoil collar mounds on the downslope side. The most notable larger features are at:
G] SX 6891 8029: A large subcircular pit 7.5 by 6.2m and 1.8m deep with steep sides falling to a narrow base and a large upcast collar mound 1.9m high around the downslope side.
H] SX 6894 8030: Two large and one small pits in series, the larger ones 6 by 4.5m and 2.2m deep and 8.6 by 8.1m and 2.5m deep. Their spoil mounds overlap and are up to 1.75m high.
J] SX 6886 8025: An adit 14m long and 1-2.8m wide and 0.7-3m deep cut horizontally into the hillside, with spoil banks on both N and S sides averaging 1m high. The W end leads onto a spoil mound c.10 by 8.5m and 2m high.
K] SX 6890 8020: A line of 16 tin pots, including five interconnected, mostly small as in F and probably exploiting the same lode as D. It runs into the line of pits F at its lower end.
L] SX 6901 8024: A large pit 6.2m by 4.9m in the base of which is a rock-cut gallery 1.3m wide and extending down to 3.6m depth at least. It appears to continue SW underground and may in fact connect several smaller pits which have a continuous spoil mound along their S edges.
M] SX 6905 8022: A series of interconnected pits forming a curved line and ending in a large pit on the N, measuring 14 by 6m and 2.9m deep. a continuous spoil mound on the E side is 1-1.5m high.
At least another 96 small tin pits lie scattered across the Down. Two, at SX 6902 8014 are narrow slots 11.2 and 7.2m long, 2m wide and 0.6m deep, with spoil spread to the W.
N] SX 6910 8012: Two curving, linear, U-shaped ditches averaging 1.5m wide and 0.4m deep with very slight banks on the downhill sides. They run from a field boundary to Scudley Beam. They appear to lie across ridge and furrow and one is disturbed by a tin pit. They are probably small leats taking drainage water from the fields into the openwork for use in the extraction and washing processes.
P] SX 6912 8030: a low stony foundation 0.8m wide and 0.3m high defines what seems to be a small rectangular building with internal dimensions of 3 by 1.9m.
surveyed at 1:2500. See plan with SX 67 NE 111.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV224714Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1947. RAF/CPE/UK/1995. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 4357-4358.
SDV306879Migrated Record:
SDV306880Migrated Record:
SDV306881Migrated Record:
SDV306882Migrated Record:
SDV306883Migrated Record:
SDV306885Aerial Photograph:
SDV306886Aerial Photograph:
SDV306887Aerial Photograph:
SDV306888Report - Survey: Long, G.. 1787. A survey of lands etc. belonging to the RE William Hoid Viscount Courtnay by George Long of Leyland 1787. Unknown. Unknown.
SDV306890Migrated Record:
SDV306891Migrated Record:
SDV319854Cartographic: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV350839Report - Survey: Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England. 1987-1993. Duchy Farms Project Survey Visit. Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England Archaeological Survey. Unknown. P. Pattison.

Associated Monuments

MDV6700Related to: Agglomerated perhistoric enclosure on Challacombe Down, Manaton (Monument)
MDV8778Related to: Grimspound enclosed settlement, Manaton (Monument)
MDV132389Related to: Hut circle within agglomerated settlement on Challacombe Down, Manaton (Monument)
MDV132390Related to: Hut circle within agglomerated settlement on Challacombe Down, Manaton (Monument)
MDV132391Related to: Hut circle within agglomerated settlement on Challacombe Down, Manaton (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8658 - Challacombe, Duchy Farms Survey
  • EDV8423 - Duchy Farms Project

Date Last Edited:Mar 5 2022 10:19AM