Dartmoor Explorations

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Dinna Clerk Longhouse

The name Dinna Clerk was synonymous with a series of three fields which belonged West Sholleford (Shallowford) detailed in the Widecombe Tithe apportionment. In 1966, a longhouse was discovered in one of these fields when it was being bulldozed in preparation for cultivation. After the discovery, the longhouse was subsequently excavated by Mrs E. Minter (who also excavated the “Hutholes” Medieval Settlement) who revealed a three-roomed longhouse with a single period of occupation, which was dated as late 13th or early 14th century with finds of pottery, wooden bowls and a worn coin of circa 1253-1260. The longhouse overlays the remains of a turf walled house, which is thought to have probably been built towards the end of the 12th century. The longhouse is thought to have collapsed in a fire and the site was abandoned with all possessions being left where they had been used. The centre of the longhouse is at grid reference SX69216 75097

Map 1
An extract and annotation of the Tithe Apportionment. The three Dinna Clerk fields were owned by Henry Cauter of West Sholleford, within the parish of Widecombe. The longhouse is located in the north east corner of the field annotated number 1609.
Map 2
The three Dinna Clerk fields are private land. That said, the longhouse has been separately fenced off in the corner of field 1609 and there is an access stile in place. There are no sign posts or information boards associated with the site and parking on the Bellever – Ponsworthy road is limited. NOTE: There are 40 perches to a rod and 4 rods in an acre.
1a. Longhouse
The Dinna Clerk Longhouse is overlooked by Corndon Down to the west. R.G.Haynes, a well known Dartmoor author and explorer mentions that he visited the site in May 1966 and the longhouse was measured at 14.63 metres by 3.66 metres and had a probable cross passage with a short wall projecting from the upper north corner. Source: Dartmoor HER
Plan of Dinna Clerk Longhouse showing the key features and the locations of the “finds” from 1966. The plan is based on drawings found at : https://www.moorthanmeetstheeye.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/68091/Pottery-and-the-Material-Culture-of-the-Medieval-Peasant-on-Dartmoor.pdf
2b. Longhouse
At the western end of the longhouse (on the upward slope) is a living room and where the hearth was located. Beyond the living room is a separate inner room, which is access via an overgrown step. During the 1966 excavations, the original granite hearth was found. Also found was a large cooking pot, two charred wooden oak platters, a green glazed jug and four smaller cooking pots. These artefacts are depicted on the longhouse plan found on the “moorthatmeetstheeye.org” website
3c. Longhouse
The building is typical of a medieval longhouse with a shippon / byre (where the livestock were normally kept) on the downward slope and the living area on the upward slope. The photograph is a view of the longhouse from west end with the inner room and living area nearest the camera and the shippon / byre at the far (east end). In the byre, during excavations a half penny dating to the time of Henry III (1253 – 1260) was found by Mrs E. Minter.
4d. Longhouse
The drain as shown in the photograph and on the plan ran from the inner room down the slight slope and would have taken the run-off from the wall at the upper end of the house where the floor level lay under the ground surface. On the Legendary Dartmoor website it is stated that: “Mysteriously the sudden disappearance of the drain and the absence of a central drain suggested that at some point the floor level of the byre had been lowered down which may indicate that it was put to some other use rather than housing livestock”. https://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/dinna-clerks-longhouse.htm
5a. Inner Room
The area of the inner room is quite overgrown now and was one of the locations where artefacts were found during the 1966 excavations.
6b. Inner Room
These artefacts found in the inner room included a pottery cistern, two yellow glazed jugs and a cooking pot. Some of these artefacts can now be found at The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. Pictures of some of the artefacts can be found at https://rammcollections.org.uk/?s=dinna&post_type=object
7c. Inner Room
Inner room and dividing wall into the living room.
8. South Entrance
There are two “entrances” or breaks in the walls of the longhouse. The south entrance looks down the field annotated as 1609 on the Widecombe Tithe Apportionment of 1843.
9. North Entrance
The north entrance with view to the access stile under the trees.
10. New Wooden Stile
The access stile looks relatively new (photographed May 2022) and can be found by following the north wall of field 1609 from the road down hill to just before the wall north east corner.
11. View from the stile
View from the stile to the longhouse, showing the close proximity between the two.
12. Old Stile
The remains of what looks like an older stile can be found near the east wall overlooking the West Webburn Valley and Jordan Ball.

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  1. Tinroofrusty June 4, 2022


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