Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

Leather Tor Sett Makers’ Bankers

In late 19th century, towns like Tavistock and Plymouth demanded a more hard wearing road surface as the size and weight of vehicles were getting ever larger. And so was borne, the granite sett making industry on Dartmoor, which was centred around the quarries such as Foggintor, Dewerstone, Ingra Tor, Lowery Tor, King’s Tor, Great Staple Tor, Swell Tor and Leather Tor. Helen Harris (a prolific writer on Dartmoor Archaeology in 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s) described a “Sett Makers’ Banker” in the 1981 edition of The Transactions of the Devonshire Association very eloquently, thus: ‘….a low primitive bench formed against the hillside by placing two upright pieces of granite about 1 foot 6 inches apart, and another slab across the top, approximately a foot above ground level. Men knelt or crouched at the bankers cutting small setts from larger blocks”. In 2008, a lovely book called “Dartmoor’s Sett Makers’ Bankers” by Simon Dell (MBE) and John Bright was published, which not only describes the history surrounding this Dartmoor industry but also provides a 10 digit National Grid Reference (NGR) for the main sites of Sett Makers’ Bankers in the aforementioned quarries. This post covers an exploration of the lesser known quarrying exploits around Leather Tor, based around five NGR’s for sett makers’ bankers found in the Dell / Bright publication.

In the book “Dartmoor’s Sett Makers’ Bankers” by Simon Dell (MBE) and John Bright, five sett makers’ bankers around Leather Tor are mentioned. On the map, these are 1-5. The book stated that the list of bankers published were not intended to be exhaustive or definitive and so this was proven with the author finding a 6th banker as shown on the map above.
The above table shows the 10 digit NGR locations of the 6 sett makers’ bankers in the Leather Tor area. The differnce between the two sets of NGRs must be simply put down to the accuracy of the GPS devices used. No two devices will give the exact same reading a a few metres difference is not uncommon.
1. SMB 1-3
On late 19th century maps, a small quarry is shown on the lower southerly slopes of Leather Tor. The quarry itself now is very overgrown with trees and gorse. Within the immediate locale of this small quarry, the first three Sett Makers’ Bankers can be found.
2. SMB 1a
Sett Makers’ Banker #1 is described in the book as being west of the quarry.
3. SMB 1b
Sett Makers’ Banker #1 was recorded at SX56308 69624
4. Quarry View
This picture was taken just above (north) of the small quarry and shows what a delightful and picturesque location of the late 19th century quarrying exploits.
5. SMB 2a
To the south of the small quarry is a small spoil tip and on its eastern edge is Sett Makers’ Banker #2 (as described in the Dell / Bright book).
6. SMB 2b
Close up of Sett Makers’ Banker #2.
7. SMB 2c
Sett Makers’ Banker #2 was recorded at SX56328 69594
8. Spoil and worked stone
Also on the eastern edge of the spoil (where Sett Makers’ Banker #2 is located) a semi-worked piece of granite can be found. Sheepstor can be seen rising majestically in the background.
9. Worked stone
Close up of the piece of semi-worked granite located at SX56328 69590.
10. Building 1
To the east of the spoil tip and south east of the small quarry, the foundations of a possible building can be seen. A building is shown on late 19th century maps in this locale but is not mentioned on the Dartmoor HER. The foundations can be found at SX56330 69596.
11. SMB 3a
Sett Makers’ Banker #3 is located inside the small quarry and is difficult to photograph as it is partially hidden behind a large tree.
12. SMB 3b
Sett Makers’ Banker #3 was recorded at SX56324 69610
13. Building 2a
To the east of the small quarry a possible second building foundations can be found. Certainly the platform is man-made
14. Building 2b
This possible 2nd building was recorded at SX56352 69587
15. SMB 4a
Approaching the plantation to the south west of Leather Tor, the next two Sett Makers’ Bankers can be found.
16. SMB 4b
This Sett Makers’ Banker doesn’t follow the description in the Dell / Bright book, which states it should be facing ENE. In fact the one in the picture is facing west. The tell tale signs of “chippings” surround the site so the author is confident this is a Sett Maker’s Banker.
17. SMB 4c
Sett Makers’ Banker #4 was recorded at SX56442 69762. Is this the same banker as recorded by Dell / Bright ?
18. SMB 5a
At SX56461 69780, within 2 metres of the Dell / Bright 10 digit NGR lies a large piece of granite across two uprights which appear to be a Sett Makers’ Banker. However, there are no tell tale signs of “chippings” which is normal around a typical banker.
19. SMB 5b
The author speculates whether this is a banker (Sett Makers’ Banker #5) as it was recorded (in 2008) as not having a cross slab.
20. SMB 5c
On this platform there were some possibilities of a banker, due to the location of “chippings”. The author is doubtful is the obvious two upright and cross slab construction on this platform is the banker.
21. SMB 6a
Not recorded in the Dell / Bright publication, this Sett Makers’ Banker can be found between bankers 1-3 and bankers 4-5.
22. SMB 6b
Sett Maker’s’ Banker #4 is quite an impressive example.
23. SMB 6c
Sett Makers’ Banker #6 was recorded at SX56430 69691.
24. Cuckoo 1
The author was lucky enough to hear then see a cuckoo not far from Sett Makers’ Bankers (#4 and #5).
25. Cuckoo 2
Close up of the cuckoo. Not pin sharp due to light conditions and the distance the bird was from the camera.

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