A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park
December 8, 2023
Foale’s Arrishes (Torr Town Bronze Age Settlement)
Rev Sabine Baring-Gould (who was a member of the Dartmoor Explorations Committee) provides a great description of Foale’s Arrishes in his book ‘A Book of Dartmoor’ (Page 176-177), which was originally published in 1900. Baring-Gould penned: “By Pill Tor, are the remains of an extensive prehistoric settlement. Many huts and inclosures (sic) remain. The place bears the name of Foale’s Arrishes, from a man of that appellation who spent his energies in converting the prehistoric inclosures into fields for his own use, to the destruction of much that was interesting to his own dubitable advantage. The huts have yielded fine specimens of ornamented pottery”.
Baring-Gould certainly didn’t hold back on his condemnation of Foale, who was at one time the innkeeper of the nearby (now ruined) Newhouse Inn, which was located on the west side of the Ashburton road. Having rebuilt walls of the original prehistoric enclosures, as recorded by Hemery in High Dartmoor (page 662), Foale was thought to have grazed some of his livestock here. Hemery further notes that the name Foale (or a derivation Foall) has been extant in the Widecombe area since the 16th century. Although the word ‘Arrishes’ is a Devonshire term for a field (particularly a corn field) with the word deriving from the Old English word ersc (Legendary Dartmoor), there must have been some arable connotations for the map makers to name it as ‘Foale’s Arrishes’. The Dartmoor Explorations Committee wrote in the 4th Transactions of Devonshire Association (TDA) in 1897 (page 151) suggested about Foale’s Arrishes that: “It probably received its modern name from some squatter who seems to have hazarded its cultivation, for attempts appear to have been made to gather the surface stones in heaps, so that a scanty tillage might be pursued between”. Whether, this cultivation was carried out by Foale is unknown but it is likely. The Dartmoor Explorations Committee also supposed much of the prehistoric site had been dismantled by road makers.
The old name for the area as recorded by Rev’d Croker in 1851 in his guide to the Eastern escarpment of Dartmoor, appears to have been either Torr Hill or Torr Town. Therefore, had Foale not interfered with the prehistoric settlement, which is believed to have been in use from the Bronze Age to the early Iron Age, the area might well have been known today as “Torr Hill or Torr Town Bronze Age Settlement”. It is unfortunate that the name Foale’s Arrishes appears to relate to the whole settlement where in fact only two of the eight hut circles here are located within the ‘Arrishes’. The author rather likes a possible name of “Torr Town Bronze Age Settlement”, which is why this has been added to the title of this post. This post records the huts and some of the pounds / paddocks of this Bronze Age settlement using the Dartmoor Explorations Committee notes from their excavations in 1896, recorded one year later in the 4th TDA.
Baring Gould, S 1900 A Book of Dartmoor – Methuen
Hemery, E. 1983 High Dartmoor – Devon Books
Butler, J. 1991 Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol. 1. Exeter: Devon Books.
Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 1897. Fourth Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee – Vol. 29.
Newman, P., 2015, Rippon Tor Premier Archaeological Landscape, Dartmoor National Park