Dartmoor Explorations

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

Wacka Tor and Brent Fore Hill Millstones

In (George) Thurlow’s Dartmoor Companion 1993 (page 219), he mentions “circular stones” and states that it is convenient to dismiss them all as millstones. He adds that although this might be a safe diagnosis as mills on Dartmoor needed millstones and they have been used over the centuries for a variety of purposes such as production of tin and cider plus the processing of grain, it is possible that there was a local interest in fashioning millstones or circular stones for sale elsewhere for other purposes. The areas of Wacka Tor and Brent Fore Hill (and Red Brook) has a plethora of these “circular stones”, which have been labelled as “Millstones” by the history recorders in such repositories as the Heritage Gateway (Dartmoor Historic Environment Record). This post covers six positively identified millstones and four ‘possibles’ from this area which is barely 1km sq.

Wacka Tor map
This sketch map shows the area of exploration for the “circular” stones (Millstones). Also in the area is a possible unfinished newtake wall, a cist and a cross socket. It is probable that the area contains a lot more millstones than those identified in this post.
This table contains the National Grid References for the millstones (actual and possible) and the cross socket. The source(s) of information have been added and where applicable are further quoted alongside the appropriate pictures in this post.
Millstone (M1) is an easy find being on the footpath between Wacka Tor and Three Barrows. SX66069 62230. The Dartmoor HER describe it as being “a cylinder of granite, 1m 20cm in diameter, 40cm deep with its sides smoothly dressed for on average half their depth and the lower parts still rough. On the north west side only about 10cm depth is smoothed, the remainder a rough protuberance. There is a central hole 19cm in diameter”.
Millstone (M2) is unfinished. SX66178 62213.
Another view of millstone (M2). It is likely that this is the millstone mentioned in the Dartmoor HER and described as “unfinished granite millstone 20m s of the most northerly rock outcrop on brent forehill. Diam 1.3m thickness 0.45m. Central hole 0.19m diam”. The description from the HER fits even if the 6 fig grid reference from that source is a little out (as the author has found with other artefacts from this source).
Millstone (M3) is located close to the main outcrop of Wacka Tor. SX66232 62144.
Millstone (M3) is located between the main outcrop and another outcrop of Wacka Tor (to the north). It is likely that this is the millstone mentioned in the Dartmoor HER and described as “unfinished millstone lies about 30m north west of the most conspicuous summit rocks of brent forehill, close to a smaller subsidary granite outcrop. It is roughly circular of coarse granite, and the sides are not completely shaped. Diameter 1m 30cm, thickness 43cm, central hole 18cm in diameter”.
The cross socket lies close to the main outcrop of Wacka Tor. It is described in the Dartmoor HER record, very well, viz: “Octagonal in shape, it measures approximately 90 centimetres (36 inches) across, by 90 centimetres (36 inches) and 40 centimetres (16 inches) deep. At the top is a shallow square hole measuring 30 by 30 centimetres (12 inches square). There is a flaw in the fashioning of a corner cushion at the base which probably explains why it was abandonment”. SX66287 62089.
Possible cist (recorded on Dartefacts but not mentioned by Jeremy Butler in his Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities). SX66793 62131. This artefact is recorded on the Dartmoor HER, however: “This kistvaen lies on the east side of Brent forehill and is not previously recorded. It has been examined by Mr. L. V. Grinsell who considers it a probable kistvaen. It is on the line of a crude wall, or unfinished wall, which sweeps on a large curve on this flank of the hill, and is at the NW end of it, 30m or so beyond the last stone”.
Millstone (M4) or more accurately half millstone is incorporated in a rough curving incomplete wall which appears to be an unfinished newtake wall. The wall appear to be an alignment of boulders dragged into place. SX66902 62049
Millstone (M4) is located a few metres north of millstone (M5). Dartmoor HER describes, millstone (M4) as “a crudely shaped half millstone, presumably cut in half after abandonment as a finished millstone. Diameter 130cm, hole (bored right through) diam 16cm, thickness 35cm”.
Millstone (M5) is not immediately obvious until the bore hole is seen. The hole is not drilled completely through and is 18cm deep and 19cm diam. SX66904 62049.
Millstone (M5) looking north to millstone (M4).
Millstone (M5) is 125cm in diameter, 33cm thick, and broken across its axle hole.
Millstone (M6) is located approx. 40m below Millstones (M4 and M5) as described in the Dartmoor HER. SX66913 62090
Millstone (M6) is described in the Dartmoor HER, thus: “It is a circular stone 130cm diameter, 25cm thick crudely shaped in granite with no apparent flaws to cause its abandonment. A small indentation (2cm x 2cm) in the centre may be the beginning of working the central bearing hole or may be the point from which the circle was scribed”.
Possible millstones (M7 and M8) are located very close together. The author first thought these were M4 and M5 (due to the 6 fig NGR on the Dartmoor HER being quite inaccurate). Both stone look “worked” but do not have any tell tale central bore holes.
Of the two possible millstones, M8 looks only partly worked as indicated in the picture. M7 is at SX66786 62008 and M8 is at SX66791 62006
Another possible millstone (M9). SX66797 62040.
Possible millstone (M9) is located a short distance down hill from M7 / M8. Great views of Brent Hill can be had as can be seen from the photograph.
Close to the outcrop on Brent Fore Hill is the final possible millstone (M10) found by the author. SX66723 61801.
Looking south on the slopes of Brent Fore Hill. According to the Dartmoor HER there is another millstone which can be found here. The author couldn’t locate this stone. The Dartmoor HER describe it as “a complete but unfinished millstone of granite lying about 300m below the summit of brent forehill on the south side, on a bearing slightly west of south from the summit rocks. Diameter 140cm, thickness 30cm roughly circular with no central bearing hole but a small round depression 4cm across in the centre, possibly the point from which the circle was scribed”. The 6 fig NGR provided is SX 668 615.

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