HeritageGateway - Home

Login  |  Register
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV9033
Name:Swallowfield Weir, Totnes


A stone weir on the River Dart at the head of a live leat to Town Mills. The weir was originally built in the late 16th century, replacing an earlier weir. It was subsequently altered and repaired a number of times and the entire structure was almost entirely rebuilt in 20th century.


Grid Reference:SX 800 612
Map Sheet:SX86SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTotnes
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishLITTLEHEMPSTON

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX86SW/4

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WEIR (Early Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1750 AD (Between))

Full description

Passmore, A., 10/11/2004, Totnes Weir (Plan - sketch). SDV357096.

Sketch plan of weir.

Prestidge, O., 11/2015, Totnes Weir, Totnes (Report - Watching Brief). SDV359527.

A programme of archaeological monitoring and recording during groundworks relating to the installation of a micro-hydropower scheme at Totnes Weir, Totnes. The works identified a small number of stone and timber features, including the former fish run for the weir and some timbers within the stone structure of the sluice. The stone and timber elements which were observed and recorded within the sluice were thought to date to rebuilding in the late 19th century, which was followed by further extensive re-building in the late 20th century. No finds were observed or collected during the works.

Vancouver, C., 1808, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Devon, 391 (Monograph). SDV294343.

The weir for Totnes Mill was built on the tidal estuary, now Buckham's Marsh. About a mile above Totnes Bridge, a salmon weir is extended directly across the river. At this dam, or weir, a powerful mill-race is taken up to serve a corn and fulling mill at Totnes.

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

'The Weir' marked. The map shows a stone built structure with a salmon ladder on the south side. Map object based on this source.

Elmhirst, L. K., 1959, Presidential Address: Some Aspects of the History of Dartington Hall, 22 (Article in Serial). SDV177335.

Russell, P., 1964, Untitled Source, 59 (Monograph). SDV342906.

Built about 1581, replacing an "ineffective barrier of furze and timber" by a stone weir.

Turton, S. D., 1991, Archaeological Assessment of Totnes Northern Villages Sewerage Scheme, 3 (Report - Assessment). SDV177638.

Exeter Archaeology, 1997, SWWSL Environmental Review Archaeological Survey Report Littlehempston WTW, 1 (Report - Survey). SDV347333.

Salmon weir on the River Dart, now of concrete construction extending across the river.

Passmore, A., 2004, Totnes Weir, 5005_7-9 (Ground Photograph). SDV357274.

Slides showing view downstream from right bank in dry and wet conditions, and view across weir showing salmon leap and undermined bank wall.

Exeter Archaeology, 2005, An Archaeological Survey of Weirs in the River Dart Catchment. Draft Report, 5, 6, 7, Appendix 1; Ex. Arch. No. 6 (Report - Survey). SDV356906.

Totnes Mill Weir. Ex. Arch. No. 6. Environment Agency No. 1.
Watercource: River Dart. Historic function: Served a corn mill.
The earliest known reference to the weir is in 1560. In 1587 the 'wear' was constructed of 'timber & frith' but was rebuilt in stone. In 1631 it was described as being of 'stakes firth & other wood with a few stones intermixed & also had a gullet or sluce wch [sic] was drawn in times of ffloud' and in 1721 'an open Hutch there for catching of Salmon and other ffish' is mentioned. The 1880s Ordnance Survey map depicts the weir as a large stone structure, typical of 19th century engineering projects, with a separate channel and sluice at its southern end and a salmon ladder downstream, within the head of the leat.
The weir is at right angle to the river with the leat on the right bank. The only historic part of the weir is a channel on its southern side constructed of local stone up to 2 metres high with a base of local stone laid in courses across the channel. The weir itself comprists a two-part concrete spillway with a sheet-piled tow. A raised concrete section divides the two parts of the weir and in normal conditions the water flows over the northern section. This northern section has a concrete salmon leap with seven steps. Against the right bank is a pile of large boulders and by the left bank is a series of wooden posts in the river which may be part of an earlier weir structure or be part of a former revetment for the bank.
The sluice mechanism is steel within a concrete casing that also forms a lining to the leat. In front of the sluice is a cylindrical tube that appears to be associated with covers and manholes on the ground to the east. Downstream of the sluice is a debris grill and an inaccessible enclosed ‘weir’-type feature.
The weir is in very good condition with only limited damage to the concrete ridge and lower part of the spillway. The leat is in working condition.
The 19th century cartographic evidence for the weir appears to depict the spillway as constructed on large blocks of stone, probably granite or limestone, typical of 19th century engineering projects. It is suggested that there is potential for interpretation for the general public at the weir as it is accessible and has a wealth of cartographic and documentary sources that could be utilised. However, its current concrete form is not attractive and may detract from its historical significance. Also identified as a candidate for monitoring for damage following heavy rainfall.

English Heritage, 2010, Advice Report on Swallowfield Weir, River Dart, Totnes, 1-3 (Report - non-specific). SDV347332.

The stone weir, which replaced an earlier timber structure in the late 16th century, has been frequently altered and repaired. When it was partially rebuilt in the early 18th century it included an open hatch for catching fish, and a fish ladder which was originally on the south side, was replaced by one on the north side in the late 19th or early 20th century. Works undertaken during the late 1960s or early 1970s resulted in the main structure being almost entirely rebuilt, whilst the sluice and adjacent wall are thought to be the result of relatively late rebuilding work during the second half of the 19th century. The existing fabric of the weir is therefore thought entirely to post date 1840, and is largely of late 20th century construction. As a result, the structure does not meet the criteria for statutory designation.

Bellchambers, J., 2011, Totnes Weir Listing (Correspondence). SDV347330.

Correspondence concerning refusal of application to English Heritage for listing of weir due to poor level of survival of historic fabric. English Heritage Advice Report attached. Photographs and plan attached.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

Map object based on this source.

Wright, J., 2015, Finding Northford. Dartington's Lost Manor, 266-7 (Article in Serial). SDV359485.

The weir was first built in the 1580s by Geoffrey Babb. A lawsuit of 1607 records that the weir 'did so stop and choake two auncyent corne or greist mills….with back waters as they could hardly grynde'. One of these mills is presumed to be Puddaven Mill.

Bellchambers, J., Unknown, Totnes Town Weir and Flash Lock (Ground Photograph). SDV355677.

Two old photographs of the town weir/flash lock. They are undated but must be before 1893 when the fish ladder was washed away. The shutters of the gate appear to be the ones that are still in place.

Sources / Further Reading

  • Article in Serial: Elmhirst, L. K.. 1959. Presidential Address: Some Aspects of the History of Dartington Hall. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 91. A5 Hardback. 22.
  • Report - Assessment: Turton, S. D.. 1991. Archaeological Assessment of Totnes Northern Villages Sewerage Scheme. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 91.35. A4 Stapled + Digital. 3.
  • Monograph: Vancouver, C.. 1808. General View of the Agriculture of the County of Devon. General View of the Agriculture of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 391.
  • Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
  • Monograph: Russell, P.. 1964. The Good Town of Totnes. Unknown. 59.
  • Correspondence: Bellchambers, J.. 2011. Totnes Weir Listing. Email. A4 Stapled.
  • Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Advice Report on Swallowfield Weir, River Dart, Totnes. English Heritage (Listing) Advice Report. A4 Stapled. 1-3.
  • Report - Survey: Exeter Archaeology. 1997. SWWSL Environmental Review Archaeological Survey Report Littlehempston WTW. Exeter Archaeology Report. 97.59. A4 Stapled + Digital. 1.
  • Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
  • Ground Photograph: Bellchambers, J.. Unknown. Totnes Town Weir and Flash Lock. Digital.
  • Report - Survey: Exeter Archaeology. 2005. An Archaeological Survey of Weirs in the River Dart Catchment. Draft Report. Exeter Archaeology Report. Digital. 5, 6, 7, Appendix 1; Ex. Arch. No. 6.
  • Plan - sketch: Passmore, A.. 10/11/2004. Totnes Weir. Exeter Archaeology River Dart Catchment Weirs Survey. Digital.
  • Ground Photograph: Passmore, A.. 2004. Totnes Weir. Exeter Archaeology River Dart Catchment Weirs Survey. Slide + Digital. 5005_7-9.
  • Article in Serial: Wright, J.. 2015. Finding Northford. Dartington's Lost Manor. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 147. Digital. 266-7.
  • Report - Watching Brief: Prestidge, O.. 11/2015. Totnes Weir, Totnes. Context One Archaeological Services. C1/AMR/13/TWD. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV19591Related to: Totnes Town Mills Leat (Monument)
MDV18438Related to: Town Mills, Totnes (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6538 - Archaeological Survey of Weirs in the River Dart Catchment
  • EDV6935 - Monitorin and Recording, Totnes Weir, Totnes (Ref: C1/AMR/13/TWD)

Date Last Edited:Feb 16 2017 11:33AM