Moor Medieval

A parish based project to develop understanding about medieval life and to explore the effect that early farming had on the landscape of Dartmoor over more than a thousand years.

Moor Medieval

Test Pitting April 16

Test pitting at Bovey Tracey April 2016

MOOR MEDIEVAL is a parish based project which aims to develop understanding about medieval life and to explore the effect that early farming, and other influences had upon the landscape of Dartmoor over a period of more than a thousand years.

Dartmoor is a place of unique landscape heritage interest where generations have left an impression of their time and place, each layer being more or less visible, all with at least high cultural significance.  Medieval Dartmoor is no exception, and yet an informed understanding about the life of these generations, and the breadth and depth of their legacy over a thousand years, is both fragmentary and often unseen.  Many connections wait to be made to help us create the picture of medieval life on Dartmoor.

The focus for the start of the Moor Medieval project is around an area of particular medieval significance where Ancient Tenements group near to the East and West Dart on the east side of Dartmoor Forest, close to the adjoining manor of Spitchwick in the parish of Widecombe in the Moor.  This co-existence of land, settlement and other features, cheek by jowl, tells us about land use, farming, economy, buildings, transhumance, people etc.  It has left behind a pattern of life which is elusive, but where undiscovered evidence still survives.  Likewise, documentary evidence can provide understanding of medieval life and also shed light on material survivals.

MM Field Trip Headland Warren

Moor Medieval Study Group field trip to Headland Warren

In February 2015, the Moor Medieval project was launched with a symposium held at Parke entitled ‘Longhouses and hard lives: Daily life on Dartmoor in the Middle Ages’.  It was introduced by Ian Mortimer with papers from him and other eminent speakers.  The day proved to be a well attended event and very successful project launch - see opposite for details of speakers and a résumé of their talks.  Following the launch a study group was established to carry forward project aims.

MM Symposium

The project was launched in February 2015 with a Medieval Symposium

MOOR MEDIEVAL STUDY GROUP (MMSG) was formed in April 2015 and meets regularly on Saturday mornings in the Meeting Room at Parke. Details of plans for future meetings, guest speakers, dates, events etc. can be found under the meetings tab or in the events listing.

NORTH HALL MANOR is a keynote project funded by Moor Medieval and based in the village of Widecombe in the Moor where an archaeological investigation is now well underway.  Our most recent archaeological dig proved to be a very successful community event and has taken us right to the heart of medieval Dartmoor thanks to Andy Crabb (DNPA) and to the determination of Peter Rennells to uncover the real story behind the Manor of Widecombe Town.

MM Open day July 15

Moor Medieval Open Day July 2015

The Study group is indebted to Dr. David Stone for his unceasing commitment to the MMSG since the inception of the group in April 2015, and for his encouragement to engage with a variety of study projects over the next three and a half years. This will bring our project to a new understanding and view of the place we call Dartmoor and its medieval heritage.


The Moor Medieval Study Group was fortunate that during a very wet week for June we chose a dry morning to set out for Dunnabridge. Dr David Stone led fifteen group members, two children and three dogs on a short(ish) 5 km walk from the famous pound towards 'Blakefurses'  that took in several millennia of archaeological sites, but concentrated on those thought to be from the medieval period. Guided by David’s expertise and aided by historic manuscripts, surveys, LIDAR and a variety of field interpretation techniques, the group explored field systems, ruined farmsteads, boundaries and rabbit warrens, some of which might not have been recorded before. Group members agreed that it was an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable day that highlighted the great potential for future fieldwork in this part of the Moor.

MMSG Field Trip Dunnabridge

Related Articles

Trowels, toothbrushes and tiles - an archaeological test pit training day in Bovey Tracey

On a beautiful, sunny day in April, members of the Moor Medieval Study Group gathered in Bovey Tracey for an archaeological test pit training event. The day, part of the Moor than meets the eye Moor Medieval project, led by Historic Buildings Officer Keith McKay, took place in a garden in Bovey Tracey, thought to contain the remains of a Medieval building.A test pit is a small-scale archaeological excavation, usually consisting of a 1m by 1m square trench. Groups of test pits are used to sample the range of artefacts present in the topsoil across an area. Each pit is dug methodically in ‘spits’ or layers around 10 cm deep with the finds from each layer being kept separate and carefully recorded. Comparing the results of multiple test pits can indicate the type of archaeology which may lie buried beneath the soil. Programmes of test pits can be combined with historical research or different types of field survey to provide a powerful tool for the investigation of the past enabling archaeologists and historians to understand the development of sites, hone research questions and target future work more effectively. Dr Lee Bray, National Park archaeologist started the day’s training by explaining how to set up a test pit, remove and store turf, and excavate in spits. Due to the large group size, four test pits were opened in various locations around the garden and orchard and digging began in earnest.

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Study group visit Headland Warren

Fourteen members of the study group met at Headland Warren on a spectacularly clear and sunny day for a guided walk around Headland Warren and it’s surrounds. The group was led by Lee Bray, Archaeologist, Dartmoor National Park Authority and the although the main focus of the walk was to look for evidence of medieval tin mining, the group viewed a wide variety of archaeological features such as pillow mounds, ancient vermin traps, mining remains from across history and even a stone row! The Whortleberries were in full flavour and delayed progress slightly but a good walk and an interesting time was had by all. If you would like to find out about forthcoming fieldtrips as part of the Moor Medieval Study Group, please contact Community Heritage Officer, Emma Stockley and ask to be put on the mailing list.

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Moor Medieval Lending Library open for business!

Community Heritage Officer, Emma Stockley has set up a Moor Medieval Lending Library, largely due to generous donations of books from study group members. There are a number of books relating to all aspects of medieval Dartmoor as well as some general texts on archaeology, landscape and historic buildings. There is also a small reserve collection including;The Place Names of Devon, Vol VIII Part 1 – English Place Name Society, The Place Names of Devon, Part 2 – English Place Name Society, Domesday Book Devon Part One – General Editor: John Morris, Domesday Book Devon Part Two – General Editor: John Morris, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume 1 – The East – Jeremy Butler , Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume 2 – The North – Jeremy Butler, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume 3 – The South West – Jeremy Butler, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume 4 – The South East – Jeremy Butler, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume 5 – The Second Millennium BC – Jeremy Butler. The books are housed at our Princetown office but arrangements can be made to deliver them to Parke. If anyone would like to borrow a book or make an enquiry, please contact Emma directly or call 01822 890 904.

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Last update: 04 Apr 2018 10:18am