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HER Number:MDV7943
Name:Remains of mansion at Moors Head, Dean Prior


The remains of a substantial manor house at Moors Head, Dean Prior. Also recorded as Moorshead, Morshead, Moreshead and Mores Head. Several sources record the history of the families who lived there, including a 1593 manuscript by Robert Furse. The house was occupied until 1878, after which it fell into decline and only ruins now remain. These were uncovered and cleared in 1982 by Exeter University.


Grid Reference:SX 712 634
Map Sheet:SX76SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDean Prior
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishDEAN PRIOR

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 444934
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX76SW/16

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • FARMHOUSE (XIV to XIX - 1400 AD to 1878 AD (Between))

Full description

Worthy, C., 1875, Ashburton and its Neighbourhood (Monograph). SDV347162.

Other details: Availlable to read online.

Carpenter, H. J, 1894, Furse of Moreshead, 181 (Article in Serial). SDV15620.

Moorshead, mansion of Robert Furse. Late in the 16th century he altered the house by adding a porch, ceiling the hall and glassing all the windows.

Falcon, T. A., 1904-1905, Some Dartmoor Farmhouses, 251 (Article in Serial). SDV337006.

For photograph of Moorshead see page 254 of Falcon's "Some Dartmoor Farmhouses".

Thorpe, J., 1920, A deserted manor house (Article in Serial). SDV347159.

A plea via letter to the magazine for someone to undertake repairs / restoration to the old manor house.

Perry Keene, C. J., 1927, Herrick's Parish - Dean Prior (Unknown). SDV347158.

Moreshead is by far the oldest house in the Parish. Though its former grandeur has long since departed, there is much of the original building left, although this is rapidly falling into ruins. In 1878 the fine old linen-pattern wainscoting was still in good repair, and was removed to Lupton by Lord Chrston, and more recently a stone entrance gate has been taken down. Foretunately the history of the old Mansion is saved from oblivion by “Robert Furse”, whose book of 140 pages gives an account of his own family and that of the Moresheads, of whom his mother was the heiress. It was written to his “heres wishing to them and to there sequele that they may leve ynall thynges dewtyfulle according to there vocasyon” and signed June 23 anno XXXV Elizabeth, the year of his death. Other details: Details on Microfiche at DNPA. 09/16/1120/82..

Copeland, G. W., 1930, Moreshead, Dean Prior (Unknown). SDV162911.

History of Morshead and Furse families briefly noted in around 1930. Photographs REF: 17332 (iii) 1-178, Devon Record Office Other details: 17332.

Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M., 1931, The Place-Names of Devon: Part One, 299 (Monograph). SDV1312.

Moors Head is Morisheaved (1340 Subsidy Rolls), Moryshede (1460 Feet of Fines, Public Record Office).

Worth, R. H., 1934 - 1938, The Dartmoor House, 27 (Article in Serial). SDV162908.

1937, Untitled Source (Article in Serial). SDV347160.

Article and pictures featured in the newspaper on 05/01/1937, 07/01/1937 and 13/04/1937.

Thorpe, J., 1943, Moreshead a farmhouse old in Herrick's time, 1101-1103 (Article in Serial). SDV162903.

The house is being allowed to fall into ruin (estimated 1942). Panelling and screen removed in 1878. Other details: Scan from parish file photocopy - mostly illegible.

1945, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV347201.

Three photographs dated to July 1945 of the manor ruins. They are all taken from the eastern side of the house, showing the porch and large chimney stack remaining to its full height. The roof of the house is still slated, although in a serious state of disrepair and the upper floor windows on this elevation have been boarded up. Those on the ground floor are empty holes. Part of the house to the left of the chimney as you view the photograph has collapsed entirely. Other details: da002001, da002002, da002003.

1945, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV347202.

Two undated photographs of the manor house, showing the eastern elevation with large porch and chimney stack. These images clearly predate those taken in 1945 as the house is in a much better state of repair and the section of the house to the left of the chimney stack remains; windows are in place with frames remaining (it is not possible to see whether glass remains at this point). The roof is also entire and in a better state of preservation. All the windows on the upper floor (and some of the ground floor) retain their frames (and possibly glass), but some of the ground floor openings do not. A fair amount of weed undergrowth can be seen around the entrance to the porch. Other details: da100692 and da100693.

Hoskins, W. G., 1947 - 1949, Devonshire Gentry in Carolean Times, 4-8 (Article in Serial). SDV337843.

The Furse family came from Cheriton Fitzpaine.

Hoskins, W. G., 1952, Untitled Source, 356-362 (Monograph). SDV162913.

History of Morshead and Furse families discussed. Sources quoted.

Worth, R. H., 1953, Dartmoor, 406,412-3 (Monograph). SDV231148.

Moorshead already in existence when inherited by robert furze in 1573. Before he died in 1593 he added the porch. Originally similar in plan to Shilstone, Throwleigh, but altered long ago. Door formed between inner apartment and a stable, now a cowshed.

Seymour, D. J., 1955 - 1958, The Smaller Manor Houses of Medieval Devon, 13 (Article in Serial). SDV6523.

(Site visited in 1954- estimate) House is l-shaped with late 14th century doorway to porch, fine chimneys and open hearths. Other details: Part 1.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1960, SX76SW7 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV162906.

Moors Head is a complete ruin with granite and ragstone walls from 1.0 meter to 4.0 meters high and the interior is filled with rubble. Chimney stacks remain with chamfered lintels over the fireplaces. Evidence of 16th century date is provided by moulded ceiling beams, one wood-framed Tudor doorway, and the porch. This has tumbled, but the moulded granite jambs and fallen pieces of round-headed door lintel are visible.
There are no architectural features to support the 14th century date given by Seymour. Other details: Photocopy of ground photograph.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1963, Monuments Threatened or Destroyed. A Select List: 1956-1962, 30 (Monograph). SDV289739.

Farmhouse of stone, two storeys. Of medieval origin, three-room plan, with cross passage and front chimney: remodelled in last quarter of 16th century.

Soloman, R., 1982, 09/16/1120/82 (Planning Application). SDV347164.

Application to convert the remains of the manor house to a number of agricultural stores and tractor shed and granny-flat, all to be constructed on the footprint of the manor house, ‘restoring’ the structure in line with current knowledge of its past design. Application refers to research done by Exeter University (1982) and has compiled information from a number of sources including Furse's manuscript to support application which includes architect's plans and designs of the proposed structure. A number of objections were received and the application was eventually refused on the basis that the extent of the proposal was unjustifiable, setting a precedent for similar proposals on the remains of historic sites, as well as the impact on neighbouring properties and access to the property.

Baker, P., 1982, Letter to DNP planning officer (Correspondence). SDV347163.

Objection to the proposed planning application to construct several agricultural buildings and a granny flat on the site of the manor remains, on the grounds that the barn had already been converted to a dwelling and the proposed development was too extensive with insufficient justification. Also that the access road is too narrow to accommodate the inevitable vehicles. Baker records that the manor remains have been ‘excavated during the past year and the rubble cleared, revealing the ground plan of the old manor’.

Timms, S. C., 1982, Moorshead (Personal Comment). SDV162910.

As part of a proposal to reconstruct this building as a habitable dwelling on the old house plan. The walls and interior floors were uncovered by students from Exeter University working in conjunction with the National Park Authority in the spring of 1982. A planning application is currently being considered by Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Beamish, H. J., 1982, Moorshead (Ground Photograph). SDV352056.

Baker, P., 1982, Moorshead (16th century remains) (Un-published). SDV347092.

The manor house of Moorshead was built in the middle of the fifteenth century and part of it still stands on a narrow lane, connecting two roads which lead up to the moor.. The outer walls, three feet thick, are built of large blocks of granite, the inner walls of cob. The roof of small slates, probably quarried locally, was until recently (1930s?) in excellent condition, but in recent severe winters it has collapsed and the deterioration of the interior will be much accelerated. So recently as 1878 it was occupied as a farmhouse by Thomas Wakeham, but for some reason was then deserted and the land incorporated with the neighbouring farm of Nurston. At that time Robert’s arched “enterye” from the lane was still standing. Since then nothing or very little has been done in the way of maintenance or repairs. Twenty-five years ago it could have been made inhabitable at comparatively little expense and there were those willing to restore it. For some years it was used as a linhay for storing ?hurdels, thatching reed, sheep and farm ?implements. Many ? …have been made to save it , but now, alas, it is ?not ?… The ?... Of the Office of Works, ?... It with ?... In September 1943 had to admit reluctantly that nothing could be done. The massive chimney stack and the noble porch, at least, are even now worthy of preservation as examples of the masonry of the period. The elegant ceiling with chamfered beams, in what was probably the parlour, was dated 1470, but this has now collapsed. Some linenfold panelling in the same room, removed to Lupton House, Churston, in 1878, when the place was deserted, was later destroyed by fire.
There were an entrance hall and three rooms on the long front, with one at each end, probably a kitchen and a dairy, leading out at the back. At a right angle to one end is a noble barn, nearly as large as the house, and, thanks to a good slate roof, this remains in good condition. At the other end is a granary on the first floor, reached by a flight of stairs outside. The little brook, which bears the name, rises in a combe behind the house and runs down in front of it to join the ?Dean Bourn about a mile away. (Pat Baker, citing James Thorpe’s manuscript.)
Baker notes that the Moorshead burn (stream) is erroneously marked on the Ordnance Survey maps. ‘It is in fact a leat taken off the Harbourne at Gidleigh Bridge, and is called the Dodbrook. Water colour paintings of Moorshead by James Thorpe, together with those of many other houses and cottages in Dean Prior parish are in a private collection.’ Other details: Scanned from parish file - illegible in places.

Exeter University, 1982, Moorshead, Dean Prior (Report - Evaluation). SDV347167.

Moorshead, Dean Prior
When the site was first inspected in the spring of 1982, it was overgrown and hidden by collapsed walls and dumped rubbish. This was cleared to reveal the base of the walls and the floors. Photographs were taken in advance of the clearing, and subsequently, as features were revealed. A ground floor plan was drawn to record the building remains. The earlier history of the house is recorded by Robert Furse who moved to Moorshead in 1573 and made improvements and alterations to the property.
Furse mentions a number of buildings which probably ranged around the main courtyard and by the lane to the fields in the south-west corner of the property. The 1842 Tithe map shows an L-shaped building at the lane and other outbuildings on the side of the main courtyard opposite the house. All that remains of these is an area of cobbling to the south of the entry and an area of rubble in the field.
The stream has been diverted from its course to run nearer the house and its bed is now formed of rubble from the buildings.
The level of the soil in the north-west part of the site has been raised considerably and may conceal the foundations of other buildings. The extent of this infilling is seen at the back wall of E3 (see plan) where a window (E3a) is now blocked with soil. Worth (1954) suggests that the original plan of the house was similar to Shilstone, Throwleigh, but had been altered long ago. He notes that a door had been formed between the inner apartment and a stable, later used as a cow shed.
James Thorpe states that the house was built in the middle of the 15th century and notes that “the outer walls, three feet thick, are built of large blocks of granite; the inner walls of cob.” The amount of earth which was removed from area F, would suggest that the walls F2 and F3 were of cob for their upper portions.
Thorpe notes that the roof was of small slates and samples tested at the Exeter University Geology Department showed that Katebrook and Norden slate was used in the last roof; both slates available locally.
Much of the ragstone used in the walls could have come from the site itself, and the granite from the moor, just a mile away.
The house was last occupied in 1878 by Thomas Wakeham, and the 1841 Tithe Apportion shows an estate of 149 acres, occupied by John Wakeham and owned by Sir John Buller Yarde. When the house was deserted, the land went to the neighbouring farm of Nurston and the house was used as a linhay.
The remains of one very decayed ceiling beam with carving on the underside were found in area A.
The only piece of datable evidence from the structure was a button of late 18th century date found in the front wall C2. No attempt was made to look for dating evidence within the building itself which was to remain as complete as possible. The rubble was cleared to expose the latest floors or surfaces in the rooms.
Area A was probably the oldest part of the house. It seems to have consisted of three rooms probably divided by partitions of wood and plaster. These would have been the principle living rooms of the house. A passage led from the inner door of the Porch to area D and the inner courtyard, area H. To the right of this area was a larger room with a well made of floor of flagstones with an area of cobbling in the centre, which may have been a repair. There was a large fireplace in the north wall (feature A9) which seems to have replaced the fireplace opposite, which was in a fragmentary condition; this hearth being retained as part of the floor. All the hearths in Area A are composed of thin slates on edge and closely packed. This technique would have allowed for expansion under the hot fire which might have cracked a slate hearth laid horizontally. The earlier fireplace must have gone out of use at some time before the last phase of the house, as the pictures show a large window in the front wall at this point. There is a drain through the outside wall in the south-east corner of this room (A10). There were some traces of plaster remaining on the walls of the room and the sides of the doorway into Area F.
To the left of the passage and at a slightly higher level was the principal room of the house. This room had the largest fireplace in the house, the massive granite stack of which must have been a major feature of the front elevation of Moorshead. The floor was paved with large flagstones and traces of plaster remained. This was the room from which the moulded ceiling beam came and which Thorpe said was probably the parlour.
There was probably a partition between this and Area A1, as each are served by separate doors from area E and a sharp division of the concrete floor in A1 from A suggests this. There was another fireplace in the south-west wall (A3), the stack of which appears on the pictures and was found amongst the rubble of this room.
Area J linked the house with the barn and is shown on the pictures as having a large door and with an earth floor was probably a store of some kind. The floor was levelled by cutting back into the bedrock and is at a lower level than Area 1.
Area E is the best-preserved part of the house. The ragstone walls are standing to almost their full height, the line of the eaves being preserved on E4. At the junction of E3/E2 there appears to have been a door at upper floor level, leading to another room on the west side of the house.
The large fireplace in Area F would have served the needs of a kitchen and the room is well placed to serve the principal rooms. There is easy access to the inner courtyard with its lean-to outhouses for storage, the water supply enters the courtyard in its north-west corner and the garden to the north of the house. There was another fireplace serving the room above with a separate flue. Also built into wall E4 was a recess possibly used to provide dry storage for salt or tinder. The floor of Area F was partly covered with flagstones, which no doubt covered the whole area originally. The open drain which ran along the courtyard seems to have originated in Area F, running beneath the flagstones to the north-west corner of the room. The room is below ground outside and water may have seeped down from the leat behind the house.
The inner courtyard (Area H) slopes down towards the house. It has a well laid surface of cobbles which does not extend beyond wall H9. A flight of steps leads up to the garden but the granite treads have been removed to block the gate at the top. Two broad steps beside wall H3 lead up to a slate trough which was fed by running water led into the courtyard through a culvert which ran beneath the garden. The overflow then ran under the garden steps, along wall H6 and out through wall H7 into the lane.
Area G consisted of a lean-to shed with three openings. It was lit by a slit window in wall G2/H9 and had an earth floor.
Between the inner courtyard and the house proper, a covered passage (Area D) provided communication from the hall or cross passage and the kitchen. From this passage a stone staircase led up to the upper floor. At the west end of Area D a concrete floor or trough had been laid. A blocked doorway had at some point led from Are A to Area D, or the inner courtyard through wall D2/A5.
Area F appears to have had a service function of some kind. The floor does not seem to have been paved but was of earth. The substantial drain from the courtyard ran through wall F2 and across F to exit through wall F into the lane. James Thorpe suggested that the room might have been a dairy. The only recess seems to have been from Area A.
The feature in Area J, J3A, may have been a shaft from a lavatory on the upper floor.
(Scanned version of report - may not be entire contents) Other details: Sketch plan and 2 photographs included.

1982, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV348142.

1-69 slides from the 1982 excavations at Moorshead (presumably by Exeter University). No detail included on individual slides. Other details: Stored in filing cabinet in Room 1, Parke (DNPA).

Unknown, 1982-1983, Moorshead (Archive - Survey). SDV352057.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

Richards, A. F., 2011, Moreshead, Dean Prior (Personal Comment). SDV347165.

The Robert Furse manuscript, previously thought to have been lost, is confirmed as being in the Devon Record Office, accession number 2507. This 140 page document records the history of the house and the families of Furse and Moreshead who lived there and was written in 1593. Other details: Devon Record Office: 2507.

Steinmetzer, M., 2012, Archaeological evaluation and historical building recording at Moorshead, Deancombe, Devon
(Report - Evaluation). SDV359919.

Trench and building recording of the longhouse (probably mid-15th century in date) prior to commencement of development works. Nothing was recovered and the area was found to be archaeologically sterile.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV1312Monograph: Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M.. 1931. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. VIII. A5 Hardback. 299.
SDV15620Article in Serial: Carpenter, H. J. 1894. Furse of Moreshead. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 26. 181.
SDV162903Article in Serial: Thorpe, J.. 1943. Moreshead a farmhouse old in Herrick's time. Country Life. 93. Digital. 1101-1103.
SDV162906Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1960. SX76SW7. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV162908Article in Serial: Worth, R. H.. 1934 - 1938. The Dartmoor House. Transactions of the Torquay Natural History Society. 7. Unknown. 27.
SDV162910Personal Comment: Timms, S. C.. 1982. Moorshead. Unknown.
SDV162911Unknown: Copeland, G. W.. 1930. Moreshead, Dean Prior. Unknown.
SDV162913Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1952. Devonshire Studies. Unknown. 356-362.
SDV231148Monograph: Worth, R. H.. 1953. Dartmoor. Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 406,412-3.
SDV289739Monograph: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1963. Monuments Threatened or Destroyed. A Select List: 1956-1962. Monuments Threatened or Destroyed. A Select List: 1956-1962. Photocopy. 30.
SDV337006Article in Serial: Falcon, T. A.. 1904-1905. Some Dartmoor Farmhouses. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 3. Unknown. 251.
SDV337843Article in Serial: Hoskins, W. G.. 1947 - 1949. Devonshire Gentry in Carolean Times. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown. 4-8.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #106230 ]
SDV347092Un-published: Baker, P.. 1982. Moorshead (16th century remains). Digital.
SDV347158Unknown: Perry Keene, C. J.. 1927. Herrick's Parish - Dean Prior. Unknown.
SDV347159Article in Serial: Thorpe, J.. 1920. A deserted manor house. Country Life. Microfiche.
SDV347160Article in Serial: 1937. Western Morning News. Unknown.
SDV347162Monograph: Worthy, C.. 1875. Ashburton and its Neighbourhood. Ashburton and its Neighbourhood. Digital.
SDV347163Correspondence: Baker, P.. 1982. Letter to DNP planning officer. Letter. Microfiche.
SDV347164Planning Application: Soloman, R.. 1982. 09/16/1120/82. Dartmoor National Park Planning Authority. Microfiche.
SDV347165Personal Comment: Richards, A. F.. 2011. Moreshead, Dean Prior. Digital.
SDV347167Report - Evaluation: Exeter University. 1982. Moorshead, Dean Prior. Exeter University report. A4 Stapled.
SDV347201Photograph: 1945. Digital.
SDV347202Photograph: 1945. Digital.
SDV348142Photograph: 1982. Slide.
SDV352056Ground Photograph: Beamish, H. J.. 1982. Moorshead. Photograph (Paper).
SDV352057Archive - Survey: Unknown. 1982-1983. Moorshead. Mixed Archive Material.
SDV359919Report - Evaluation: Steinmetzer, M.. 2012. Archaeological evaluation and historical building recording at Moorshead, Deancombe, Devon 􀀰􀁒􀁒􀁕􀁖􀁋􀁈􀁄􀁇􀀏􀀃􀀧􀁈􀁄􀁑􀁆􀁒􀁐􀁅􀁈􀀏􀀃􀀧􀁈􀁙􀁒􀁑. Oakford Archaeology. OA1036. Digital.
SDV6523Article in Serial: Seymour, D. J.. 1955 - 1958. The Smaller Manor Houses of Medieval Devon. Transactions of the Torquay Natural History Society. 12. Unknown. 13.

Associated Monuments

MDV7927Related to: Granite pillar near Moors Head (Monument)
MDV77457Related to: Moorshead farmstead, Dean Prior (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7145 - Evaluation and building recording at Moorshead, Deancombe (Ref: OA1036)

Date Last Edited:Feb 19 2018 9:28AM