Dartmoor Explorations

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

Ringmoor Down Medieval Farmsteads

When walking across Ringmoor Down, you could be forgiven for observing there might be little of interest. However, in this area there are three settlements, four granite uprights, a warren with distinct walling, several stone circles, a stone row and to the south a lovely tor (Legis) with a well preserved vermin trap.

As well as these features there is also a large medieval field system (96 ha) which surrounds the upper reaches of Legis Lake. Associated with the field system are the three ‘contemporary’ settlements (labelled as Medieval farmsteads in this post). The field system links these farmsteads together and contains areas of ridge and furrow.

To the south of Ringmoor Down is Legis Tor Warren, which was established by early 18th century and which helps to date the farmsteads. A warreners wall (or possible corn ditch) defines the northern boundary and is located adjacent to the Medieval farmstead (2). The wall is ‘contemporary’ with the commencement of warrening, and appears to butt up to the farmstead, suggesting it (the farmstead) had already been long since abandoned by then. It is possible that the farmsteads date from the 15th or 16th centuries.

Some excellent research work by S.Probert (2005) and Dr P.Newman (2022) has been used for the generation of this post.

Bibliography

  1. P. Newman, (2022), Ringmoor Down Premier Archaeological Landscape Dartmoor National Park, Devon.
  2. S. Probert, (2005), Ringmoor Training Area: Monument Baseline Condition Survey
  3. R.H. Worth, (1941), Retaining Circles Associated with Stone Rows
0. Map
Sketch map of the main features covered in this post. The post also records a few other artefacts near Gutter Tor, which was the direction the author came from to visit the area.
1a. Farmstead 1 Map
Sketch map of a deserted medieval farmstead on Ringmoor Down (labelled Medieval farmstead (1) for this post). The farmstead is located at the head of Legis Lake, comprises four ruined buildings and two enclosures
1b. Farmstead 1 Lane
North end of the farmstead where there is a ‘funnel’ of medieval walls leading to the farmstead.
1c. Farmstead 1 Enclosure A a
Enclosure (A) can be found at the north end of the farmstead. The centre of the Enclosure was recorded at SX56999 66439
1c. Farmstead 1 Enclosure A b
Enclosure (A) lies next to the main building (Longhouse) at the farmstead. 13m by 10m with wall banks now spread up to 3m
1d. Farmstead 1 Longhouse a
The largest building at the Medieval farmstead (1) is a longhouse which is set obliquely into the slope, with a dividing wall approx 1/4 way down the slope from the north (highest) end. It has two opposing entrances on the long walls
1d. Farmstead 1 Longhouse b
The Longhouse turf-covered foundation walls survive up to 2.6m wide. The overall interior measurements are approx. 14.6m by 4m.
1d. Farmstead 1 Longhouse c
The walls which remain are around 1m high. There is an internal division at the northern end creating an inner room of around 2.8m by 4m.
1d. Farmstead 1 Longhouse d
The centre of the Longhouse is located at SX57006 66426
1e. Farmstead 1 Annex a
A few metres to the south west of the Longhouse and butted up against Enclosure (B) is a small structure (labelled Annex on the sketch map)
1e. Farmstead 1 Annex b
The Annex walls are very turf-covered with some reeds by an obvious entrance. The structure is approximately 1.9m by 1.2m.
1e. Farmstead 1 Annex c
The Annex is located at SX57000 66422
1f. Farmstead 1 Building 1 a
The second largest building at the farmstead (labelled Building (1) on the sketch map) is constructed in a similar style to the Longhouse, thus it is assumed they were built during the same period.
1f. Farmstead 1 Building 1 b
Building (1) has opposing entrances on the east and west sides and measures around 9.4m by 4.3m (interior dimensions)
1f. Farmstead 1 Building 1 c Bullets
Sadly, this cache of blank bullets were left on the west wall of Building (1). The author isn’t anti-military but pro-Dartmoor and this litter ought to and could easily be avoided
1f. Farmstead 1 Building 1 d
Building (1) is located at SX56989 66413
1g. Farmstead 1 Enclosure B a
Enclosure (B) is attached to the east side of Building (1)
1g. Farmstead 1 Enclosure B b
Enclosure (B) measures around 17m by 10m
1g. Farmstead 1 Enclosure B c
Enclosure (B) is located at SX57001 66414
1h. Farmstead 1 Building 2 a
The final building of the farmstead (labelled Building (2) on the sketch map) is located near the head of Legis Lake, where there is evidence of tinner’s workings
1h. Farmstead 1 Building 2 b
Building (2) structure, like the other buildings (except the Annex) has two entrances in both long walls.
1h. Farmstead 1 Building 2 c
The interior dimensions have been recorded as being approximately 5.5m by 4.3m.
1h. Farmstead 1 Building 2 d
Building (2) is located at SX56966 66376
2. Ringmoor Down Standing Stones
There are four boundary stones of unknown origin and purpose on Ringmoor Down. More information can be found here: https://dartmoorexplorations.co.uk/ringmoor-down-standing-stones/
2a. Farmstead 2 Map
Sketch map of a deserted medieval farmstead on Ringmoor Down (labelled Medieval farmstead (2) for this post). The farmstead is located adjacent to a corn ditch wall a short distance just to the north of Legis Tor. The farmstead comprises at least four (possibly five) ruined buildings, two pounds (enclosures) and a large yard. All the buildings have been demolished, which is suggested as most probably as a result of robbing the stone to build the warren enclosure wall (corn ditch). The wall transects buildings 2, 3 and 4 as shown on the sketch map.
2b. Farmstead 2 Longhouse Building 1a
A longhouse-type structure, shown as Building (1) on the sketch map was measured by Probert (2005) as 9.0m north-west to south-east by 2.6m internally. Much of the structure is heavily overgrown with reeds.
2b. Farmstead 2 Longhouse Building 1b
The Longhouse is located at SX56993 65813
2b. Farmstead 2 Longhouse Building 1c
An alignment of stones form part of the south wall of the Longhouse.
2b. Farmstead 2 Longhouse Building 1d
The walls of the Longhouse (also measure by Probert (2005)) are as wide as 1.8m with a maximum 0.4m in height.
2c. Farmstead 2 Pound a
To the north of the Longhouse, separating it from another possible building (number 5) is a small pound / enclosure, defined by a flat area.
2c. Farmstead 2 Pound b
To the south of the probable Longhouse is a second pound / enclosure beyond which is building (2).
2d. Farmstead 2 Building 2a
Building (2) is one of three ruins which are transected by a warreners wall. The level interior measures 4.5m long north-south by 3m wide. That said, the original length of the building extends to the wall making it 6.3m long internally. The original length of the building is unknown because of the more recent wall.
2d. Farmstead 2 Building 2b
The walls of building (2) are 1.5m wide and around 0.5m high. They show evidence of internal facing.
2d. Farmstead 2 Building 2c
The wall is later boundary (Legis Tor Warren) and occupies the site of the original southern edge of this farmstead (as no additional earthworks lie on the south side of the wall). Parts of the walls are likely to have been constructed from robbed stone from the farmstead.
2d. Farmstead 2 Building 2d
Building (2) is located at SX56999 65795
2e. Farmstead 2 Building 3a
The remains of Building (3) are very disturbed. Probert measured the building as being approximately 13.8m north-south by around 3.5m wide. Of special interest is the western wall, which is 3m thick by 0.8m high, with stone surviving on both sides of the wall.
2e. Farmstead 2 Building 3b
The east and north wall foundations of Building (3) both survive as earthworks.
2e. Farmstead 2 Building 3c
As Building (3) and Building (4) are much larger structures than Building (2) and the Longhouse (Building (1)), it is suggested (Newman) that they may have been constructed at a later period.
2e. Farmstead 2 Building 3d
Building (3) is located at SX57019 65802
2f. Farmstead 2 Building 4a
Building (4) is another rectangular earthwork, like Building (3) and is of similar proportions. The banks are around 3m wide.
2f. Farmstead 2 Building 4b
Interestingly, Probert (2005) suggests that this ‘Building’ appears to be a yard adjacent to the previous structure (Building (3)), and Newman (2022) “casts some doubt over the exact status of this feature but if it was a building, its proportions were similar to those of its neighbour”.
2f. Farmstead 2 Building 4c
Building (4) or Yard is located at SX57032 65804
2f. Farmstead 2 Building 4d
Building (4) or yard like Building (3) is terminated at its southern end by the warreners wall (corn ditch) beyond which a few hundred metres away is Legis Tor.
2g. Farmstead 2 Building 5a
Recorded by Probert is the site of a possible Building (5). It lies at the north end of the farmstead.
2g. Farmstead 2 Building 5a
Building (5) is a rectangular hollow 4.6m north-west to south-east by 2.5m and is located next to a path
2g. Farmstead 2 Building 5b
Building (5) is located at SX57005 65835
2g. Farmstead 2 Building 5c
Building (5) like others on the site has reeds within its interior.
3. Corn Ditch a
Legis Tor Warren surrounds the tor and is bounded on the south and east by the River Plym and the west and north by a high stone wall, banked on the north side. The photograph shows the warreners wall (corn ditch) looking west.
3. Corn Ditch b
Warreners wall (corn ditch) looking east.
3. Corn Ditch c
The wall next to Medieval farmstead number 2 is a classic Corn ditch. There type of walls were synonymous from the medieval onwards where farmsteads separated areas of ‘common grazing’ from enclosed lands. They (corn ditches) comprised and a vertical stone-faced bank which discouraged stock from entering fields from the moor. That said, as recorded in this post some Dartmoor observers have recorded this as a warreners wall. Did the warreners deliberately built a this wall as a corn ditch?
4. Vermin Trap a
Any trip to the Legis Tor area would be incomplete without visiting one of the best preserved Vermin Traps on Dartmoor
4. Vermin Trap b
The Vermin Trap includes two v-shaped lengths of walling, which together forming an X-shaped trap
4. Vermin Trap c
The Vermin Trap cover has 3 holes which is laid onto two flat-sided stone slabs laid parallel to each other.
5. Stone Circle
Brisworthy Stone Circle is located a short distance to the west of Legis Lake and can be visited en-route to Medieval farmstead 3. The circle was re-erected in 1909 and according to R H Worth is badly restored. It is estimated that, when complete, the circle would have had 42 stones, though only 24 stones were re-erected in 1909.
6. Legis Tor and Hen Tor
View of Legis Tor and Hen Tor from a short distance north of Brisworthy Circle
7a. Farmstead 3 Map
Sketch map of a deserted medieval farmstead on Ringmoor Down (labelled Medieval farmstead (3) for this post). It lies on the western slope of Legis Lake and comprises three ruined buildings and an annex plus an enclosed yard.
7b. Farmstead 3 Building 1 Longhouse a
The largest building at this Medieval farmstead is a probable longhouse (labelled Building (1) on the sketch map), which is oriented North West to South East
7b. Farmstead 3 Building 1 Longhouse b
The Longhouse measured in 2022 (Newman) was recorded as having internal dimensions of 13.7m by 3.9m. An entrance opening is present on the SW side and another possible one on the opposing wall. Between all the buildings are small pens (only faint outlines). There is a walled yard attached to the North East side of the Longhouse.
7b. Farmstead 3 Building 1 Longhouse c
The Longhouse has walls which stand up to 0.7m high and are around 0.8m thick.
7b. Farmstead 3 Building 1 Longhouse d
The Longhouse is located at SX56666 65824
7c. Farmstead 3 Annex to Longhouse a
Attached to the North West end of the Longhouse is a small annex.
7c. Farmstead 3 Annex to Longhouse b
The Annex measures 2.9m by 3.8m. It is located at SX56659 65828
7c. Farmstead 3 Annex to Longhouse c
The Annex has a probable entrance opening on its north side
7d. Farmstead 3 Building 2a
A few metres South West of the Longhouse is a second Building (number 2 on the sketch map).
7d. Farmstead 3 Building 2b
Building (2) is built against an enclosure wall
7d. Farmstead 3 Building 2c
Building (2) is located at SX56656 65820
7d. Farmstead 3 Building 2d
Building (2) is recorded (Newman) as having internal dimensions of around 6.5m by 2.7m. Dr Phil Newman records it has a probable entrance opening on the north side.
7e. Farmstead 3 Building 3a
Building (3) is located 14m North West of the Longhouse
7e. Farmstead 3 Building 3b
Building (3) is located at SX56642 65840
7e. Farmstead 3 Building 3c
Building (3) is built against an enclosure wall. Part of the building uses small rock outcrop to form its western corner
7e. Farmstead 3 Building 3d
Building (3) has (internal) dimensions of around 6.9m by 4.8m. Walls are 0.9m high and 0.8m thick. There is a entrance on the North East side.
8. Military
Zoomed in picture from near Medieval farmstead 3 – Military (dry training). The unusual angle suggesting they were close to Hen Tor. In actual fact the Plym stood between them and the aforementioned tor.
9. Stone Circle at end of Stone Row
Cairn with retaining circle at the southern end of Ringmoor Down stone row. The site was restored in 1909 (by Baring-Gould), somewhat inaccurately according to R.H. Worth, viz: “Plan of original circle was one standing stone, four fallen stones and six pits in the surface soil which may have had stones. There are ten standing stones now in circle”.
9. Stone Row
Southern end of the (mostly) single line 300 metres long stone row (measurement by Jeremy Butler). The row is double at places and possibly may have once been double throughout (ref: R.H. Worth)
10. Gutter Tor Kistvaen
A pleasant walk to Ringmoor Down can be made via Gutter Tor, where there are several artefacts worth checking out. Three are covered here to complete this post. The first artefact, close to Gutter Tor is this cist, which has only three sides left standing. It measures: length 0.83 metres, width 0.5 metres, depth 0.55 metres.
10. Gutter Tor Trig a
The second artefact of interest on a trip to Ringmoor Down is this trig pillar.
10. Gutter Tor Trig b
The Trig Pillar was built in June 1948 and re-levelled in May 1974
10. Gutter Tor Trig c
The OS Trig Pillar number is BSM 3409. There are two plaques here commemorating members of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team.
10. Gutter Tor Vermin Trap
The third and final artefact visited during the trip to Ringmoor Down was this Vermin Trap which can be found near the summit of Gutter Tor. There are at least another three traps on the tor.
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