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HER Number:MDV7022
Name:Burgage plots, South Zeal


In 1299 a market and two fairs were granted to to Robert de Tony of South Tawton. South Zeal was built on the main Okehampton to Exeter road. Burgage plots are still clearly visible, beginning at the foot of the hill down which the main road comes and ending where the road begins to rise on the western side.


Grid Reference:SX 265 093
Map Sheet:SX20NE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishSouth Tawton
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSOUTH TAWTON

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Well preserved medieval burgage plots around South Zeal

Other References/Statuses

  • Dartmoor Non-designated Heritage Asset (Evidential): 21/03/2018
  • National Monuments Record: SX69SE31
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 444114
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX69SE/68

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BURGAGE PLOT (Constructed, XI to XIII - 1066 AD? (Between) to 1299 AD (Between))
  • TOWN (Constructed, XI to XIII - 1066 AD? (Between) to 1299 AD (Between))

Full description

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/3G/TUD/138, 5343 (Aerial Photograph). SDV229649.

Beresford, M. W., 1967, New Towns of the Middle Ages, 426 (Monograph). SDV51862.

South Zeal SX 650935. In 1299 a market and two fairs at South Zele were granted to Robert de Tony the lord of South Tawton. South Zeal was created on the main Exeter to Okehampton road. The shape and size of the town were perfect for its purpose, the burgage plots beginning at the foot of the hill down which the main road comes and ending where the road begins to rise on the western side. The chapel is in the centre of what must once have been the market place. Fossilisation of the burgage plots is almost complete.

Beresford, M. W. + Finberg, H. P. R., 1973, English Medieval Boroughs. A Handlist, 98 (Monograph). SDV6626.

In 1315 there were twenty burgesses paying 35s 4d.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1978, SX69SE31 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV240659.

(31/01/1978) The burgage plots at South Zeal cover an area of approximately 20.0 ha running north east/south west on both sides of the main street. The individual plots average 200.0m in length by 20.0m in width.
These burgage plots are well-preserved and are clearly defined on OS 6" and 25" plans

South Tawton Parish Council, 1984, South Tawton Heritage Trail (Pamphlet). SDV240657.

The domesday book shows that south zeal had 30 "bordarili" (burghers) each having a strip of land at the back of his residence of about 1/4 acre by modern, measurement. Each paid a rent of shilling an acre which is in close agreement with a much later rent roll which shows a total of 31s received. These 'borough acres' are of considerable interest and can be clearly seen from ramsley hill.(south tawton parish council).

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

Visible and recorded.

Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/GI, 12, 14 (Aerial Photograph). SDV233142.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 83 (Monograph). SDV64198.

South Zeal burgage plots visible on aerial.

Bray, L., 2018, South Zeal burgage plots (Un-published). SDV363908.

(21/03/2018) The 13th century was a period of agricultural prosperity and population growth. In order to take advantage of such a beneficial economic climate, many local lords established planned settlements within their holdings, granting the inhabitants rights in return for the payment of taxes. South Zeal is one such settlement, a surviving charter indicating its foundation in 1264 in a location intended to take advantage of a location astride the main route to the south-west. The new settlement was granted a market in 1299 but further prosperity eluded it and it remained essentially an agricultural community albeit with inhabitants who were somewhat more prosperous than the average farmer.
This lack of change and concomitant growth over centuries has resulted in the survival of much of its original plan. This takes the form of a system of burgage plots, long strips of land at right angles to the main street which were granted to its inhabitants when the settlement was first established.
South Zeal presents a classic example of a medieval planned settlement layout and thus has illustrative historical significance which is on a regional scale. Also, given its medieval origins, it also possesses evidential value and fortuitous aesthetic value. In combination, these factors indicate that the South Zeal burgage plots should be considered an undesignated heritage asset.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV229649Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/3G/TUD/138. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Unknown. 5343.
SDV233142Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/GI. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 12, 14.
SDV240657Pamphlet: South Tawton Parish Council. 1984. South Tawton Heritage Trail. Unknown.
SDV240659Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1978. SX69SE31. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
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.
SDV51862Monograph: Beresford, M. W.. 1967. New Towns of the Middle Ages. New Towns of the Middle Ages. Unknown. 426.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 83.
SDV6626Monograph: Beresford, M. W. + Finberg, H. P. R.. 1973. English Medieval Boroughs. A Handlist. English Medieval Boroughs. A Handlist. A5 Hardback. 98.

Associated Monuments

MDV33061Related to: Beacon Lodge (the former Cawsand Beacon Inn), South Zeal (Building)
MDV129139Related to: Cawsand View Cottages, South Zeal (Building)
MDV129142Related to: Cosden Cottage and Curzons House, South Zeal (Building)
MDV129154Related to: Former London Inn, South Zeal (Building)
MDV129140Related to: Former Methodist Chapel, South Zeal (Building)
MDV129153Related to: Houses in South Zeal (Building)
MDV80481Related to: Leat to South Zeal, South Tawton (Monument)
MDV134802Related to: Mill at Prospect, South Zeal (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7291 - Archaeological Monitoring and Recording at Little Hound (formerly Devonia), South Zeal
  • EDV8540 - Watching brief at South Tawton Primary School, Tawton Lane

Date Last Edited:Mar 18 2024 2:15PM