Promoting awareness of the archaeology and history of North Devon

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Table 1 sets out the reports filed with ADS relating to 2011.  The reports are then discussed in a little more detail, in alphabetical order of parish.   A brief synthesis of the findings of 2011 completes the document.

Table 1: Summary of reports for 2011



Grid Reference

Report Producer

Type of Report

Nature of Development


Strand Mews

5577 3312


DBA, HBA & trench



Residential development of

  derelict buildings


The Old Glove Factory




Residential development of

  industrial buildings


The Three Tuns



DBA, HBR and Watching Brief

Conversion from public house

  to Pizza Express restaurant

Bratton Fleming

St Peter’s Church



Watching brief

Demolition of boiler house

  and construction of extension


Hordens Bridge, Memorial





AC Archaeol.

Watching Brief

Flood defence scheme


The Old Smithy



Monitoring of ground works

Erection of bungalow, garage

  and access

East Worlington

Middle Burrow Farm



Monitoring & excavation

Construction of milking


George Nympton

Castle Inn



Evaluation and recording

Construction of dwelling

Heanton Punchardon





Extension to dwelling


St Philip’s and St James’



Exeter Archaeol.

Watching brief

Drainage works


1-2 High Street


AC Archaeol.

HBR and watching brief

Demolition of outbuilding and

  erection of dwelling


Hillsborough Promontory Fort


Universi ty of Leicester

  Archaeol. Services

Walkover survey and LIDAR


Management Plan for ND Coast



Knowstone Mill

812232 (not given in report)


DBA, HBR & monitoring

Restoration of buildings, in

  association with conversion of buildings to two dwellings

North Molton

Higher Ley Farm




Conversion to domestic use


Plaistow Barton



DBA, HBR & monitoring

Conversion of two

  agricultural buildings to dwellings

West Buckland

North Barton


AC Archaeol.


Trench evaluation

Construction of nine


West Down

Little Stowford




Construction of building for

  recycling business

North Devon & Torridge


Bristol Channel


Cornwall County Council

Historic Seascape


Commission by English


*           DBA – Desk-based assessment; HBR – Historic building recording

In 2011 17 site reports were posted in 13 parishes.  In addition a Historic Seascape Characterisation was carried out of the Bristol Channel off the North Devon and Torridge coasts by Cornwall County Council on behalf of English Heritage.

A total of 3 commercial organisations were involved, with South West Archaeology producing 12 reports, AC Archaeology producing 3 reports and Exeter Archaeology 1 report.  In addition, University of Leicester Archaeology Services and Historic Environment Projects of Cornwall County Council produced 1 report each.

 1. Barnstaple: Strand Mews, The Strand

Strand Mews comprises disused buildings formally occupied as offices. They lie within a burgage plot leading from the High Street to the river and may have formed warehouses in previous centuries. The desk-based and historic building assessments were able to set out a sequence of development of the buildings, possibly starting with the 18th century boundary walls and running through the 19th and into the 20th centuries. One of the two trenches cut to investigate the site was located in the cobbled alley that would originally have led down to the river. Little by way of artefacts was discovered, however, although the report suggests that further evidence of the origin and development of the buildings may be obtained by more extensive excavation.

2. Barnstaple: The Old Glove Factory, Pilton

The Old Glove Factory is a rare survival of the manufacturing industries that dominated this part of Pilton in the 19th and 20th centuries. The buildings represent four phases of industrial occupation, from the mid 19th to the late 20th century and are distinctive in their scale and construction. Their location between the Parish Church, Bull House and Lake is both central and therefore dominant in the urban landscape. The proposed conversion to residential units should retain the appearance of the buildings and ensure their conservation. Neither the desk-based assessment nor the historic building recording could cast light on the earlier history of the site, but it is probable that it was originally part of Pilton Priory, being subsequently owned successively by Blackwill, Sanders, Baylis and Dent, Allcroft & Co, before occupation, most recently by the Pilton Cabinet Works. There may well be buried remains of the mediaeval period of occupation beneath the site.

3. Barnstaple: The Three Tuns, High Street

The Three Tuns building stands at the centre of the mediaeval core of Barnstaple. Its plot extends from the High Street, immediately opposite the Pannier Market, to Paiges Lane. The building probably originated as a merchant’s house in the 15th century and substantial elements of the current building originate from the 16th and 17th centuries, with later Georgian and Victorian alterations. Its history as a public house known as The Three Tuns starts in 1704 and continues for three hundred years. In 1946 the building was substantially remodelled and restored by Bruce Oliver on behalf of the owner. This report was carried out on behalf of new owners as part of the preparation for conversion to a Pizza Express restaurant.

The report sets out a desk-based summary of the history of the building and its context in mediaeval Barnstaple, as well as a comprehensive historic building assessment that identifies five phases of development. It is able to identify the history of the front block, on the High Street, the back block at the rear of the mediaeval burgage plot and the gallery that linked the two. Despite the loss of mediaeval features during the 1946 refurbishment and the addition of a “faux” mediaeval frontage to the High Street, the building retains enough of its original structure to provide a fascinating report on the evolution of a building that was, and remains, central to Barnstaple’s historic core.

4. Bratton Fleming: St Peter’s Church

Although St Peter’s Church is probably of 14th century origin most of the present fabric of the building dates from the 19th century. The coal store was built in 1910 and the boiler house added as a lean-to extension in 1919. The work also involved cutting an access through the northern boundary hedgebank of the churchyard. No archaeological features were observed as a result of the demolition works. Finds were very varied, ranging from a sill fragment and sgraffito ware to post-mediaeval pottery sherds and 20th century glassware. The report comments that “The presence of so much domestic waste, predominantly form the 18th century, may correspond with the decline of the church which seems to have occurred at this time with the possibility of the rector perhaps residing in part of the church. This is perhaps particularly likely during the incumbency of William Gimingham (1818-1838) who was apparently not able to keep himself, let alone his church.”

5. Braunton: Hordens Bridge and Memorial Gardens

Six trial pits were dug in two locations by the Environment Agency. No archaeological features or artefacts were observed as a result of the watching brief.

6. Chulmleigh: The Old Smithy, South Molton Street

Monitoring of the ground works at this site followed a desk-top assessment carried out in 2007, which suggested that a 17th century cottage had been demolished on the frontage of the site in the early 20th century. Two areas were monitored. To the rear of the site, three linear features were observed which were considered to represent part of a post-mediaeval field drainage system. On the front part of the site cobbled surfaces and the remnant of a hedgebank were exposed, together with possible cob demolition rubble from the former cottage. A quantity of mediaeval and post-mediaeval ceramic sherds was recovered from the site, ranging in date from 12th to 20th century. Other finds included animal bones and glass fragments.

7. East Worlington: Middle Burrow Farm

As a result of monitoring the stripping of soil prior to the construction of a large agricultural building, an Iron Age roundhouse, two sets of four-poster structures and other Iron Age features were discovered. Subsequent excavation of these features revealed a large roundhouse (12.25m in diameter) dated to between 200 and 50BC, two substantial timber buildings that immediately post-dated the roundhouse and other postholes and features that either pre- or post-dated the roundhouse. The roundhouse itself consisted of a penannular gully, porch and post-ring. The porch faced south-southwest. The size, structure and orientation of the roundhouse make it unique amongst these excavated to date in Devon. The roundhouse was dismantled rather than destroyed or left to decay, with the square timber structure being constructed immediately afterwards on part of its site and a further square building to the north-east. These have been interpreted as either grain stores or, possibly, excarnation platforms.

The association of the site with seven Bronze Age burial mounds immediately to the north and west, and the orientation of the roundhouse with the porch facing south-southwest, suggest its location was chosen for cultural or ritual reasons, particularly given its clear uninterrupted view of northern Dartmoor. The report suggests that it is likely that the excavated area forms only part of a more extensive unenclosed settlement.

8. Georgenympton: Castle Inn

An evaluation trench dug across the site, which lies to the rear of the Castle Inn in the middle of the village revealed only a drainage ditch as a feature. Artefacts recovered from the topsoil included clay pipe fragments, one dated from the early 17th century, and pottery sherds ranging from mediaeval to post-mediaeval and 19th century. There were also rare red brick fragments a vessel glass.

9. Heanton Punchardon: Charlesworth

An evaluation was carried out of an area where topsoil had already been stripped in readiness for construction of an extension to a dwelling. The only feature observed was thought to be a former flowerbed; the area appeared to have been levelled in the past. A few sherds of pottery were recovered from the topsoil, ranging from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

10. Ilfracombe: St Philips and St James Church

A service trench and soakaway trench were dug during the course of enhancement works to this 19th century church near Ilfracombe Harbour. No features of archaeological significance were revealed, but a number of finds of imported post-mediaeval ceramic material were recovered. They included examples from Portugal, Holland and Germany. This is one of the few such assemblages known from Ilfracombe and the presence of high class imported material in the town is considered to be notable.

11. Ilfracombe: 1-2 High Street

This is the report of the recording prior to demolition of a small building to the rear of the High Street. The building had been subject to much alteration, but was identified as originally having been a three stall stable built in the late 18th or early 19th century to serve a large town house. It was reduced to a two stall stable and eventually a single loose box during the 19th century. The ground around the building had been substantially made up, but the watching brief was able to piece together the sequence of alterations to the building.

12. Ilfracombe: Hillsborough Promontory Fort

This report was commissioned by the North Devon Coast AONB Partnership to help with the preparation of a Management Plan for this promontory fort. The walkover survey noted the current condition of the site and of several features, including those of 19th and 20th century provenance. It commented on the severely overgrown nature of the site. The LIDAR survey enabled the true location and dimensions of the ramparts and entrances to be better understood. The recommendations included extensive scrub clearance and ongoing maintenance, limited excavation work to identify the site of the previously identified cist (now lost) and the nature of the entrances, and the revision of the boundary which at present cuts through the ramparts at the eastern end of the site.

13. Knowstone: Knowstone Mill

The 17th century mill adjoining the Crooked Oak River, near Knowstone was destroyed by fire early in the 21st century. Although the clearance of the site following the fire had removed much of the historic fabric, a desk-based assessment, historic building recording and monitoring were able to identify the phases of construction of and alterations to the mill between the 17th and 20th centuries. The building had previously been included in the NDAS survey on North Devon watermills published in 1989 and based on survey work carried out in 1971-5.

14. North Molton: Higher Ley Farm

This report describes three barns of late 18th and 19th century origin which were in course of conversion to domestic use, in association with the adjoining farmyard. There is nothing particularly distinctive about the buildings, but there evolution over the course of the 19th century is described.

15. Shirwell: Plaistow Barton

Plaistow Barton is mentioned in Domesday and appears to have been part of a small hamlet. A prehistoric enclosure is still evident in the landscape a short distance to the east. The present farmstead was previously known as west Plaistow and to have been built in the 17th century. It acquired its present name in the 19th century when additional buildings were constructed around the farmyard. A downturn in farming fortunes followed in the 20th century and it is suggested that some of the farmhouse features that were sold off may have found their way into the 1946 restoration by Bruce Oliver of the Three Tuns in Barnstaple (see 3. above). This report identifies the documentary and building history of the site and of the four barns the subject of the proposed development. Very few artefacts were discovered as a result of monitoring, but the report suggests that further work may provide evidence for the survival of earlier structures.

16. West Buckland: North Barton

This site lies immediately to the east of the village of West Buckland. Despite the clear pre-Norman origin of the village, the site appears to have been pasture and, latterly, a farmyard. Evaluation of three trenches dug prior to the construction of a small residential development revealed only an underlying modern rubbish dump and a few 19th century pottery sherds.

17. West Down: Little Stowford, Hore Down Gate

Soil stripping in advance of the construction of a large industrial building was monitored. Despite Little Stowford being located in an area of known Bronze Age features, few artefacts and finds were located. These comprised the possible line of a former hedge bank and some post-mediaeval pottery sherds, none of which were retained.

18. Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary

Three reports contain the outcome of a Historic Seascape Characterisation study carried out by the Historic Environment projects section of Cornwall County Council and SeaZone Solutions Ltd on behalf of English Heritage (EH). The area of the study was east of a line drawn due north-west from Hartland Point out to the boundary between English and Welsh administrations upstream as far as the Severn Estuary near Gloucester. The study was funded by the Aggregates Sustainability Levy Fund. The reports are:

Section 1: Implementing the Method

Section 2: Applications review and case studies

Section 3: Character Type descriptions

Historic Seascape Characterisation methodology was developed in the context of the Marie and Coastal Access Act 2009 and in anticipation of the preparation for Marine Plans, as required by the Act. The brief was to meet EH requirements in the areas of policy requirements, marine planning, development control, coastal management, designations and climate change. In the Bristol Channel area case studies were prepared for renewable energy (Environmental Impact Assessments for offshore wind farms) and the selection and designation process for Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). The case studies were therefore prepared in the context of “live” applications, for both the Atlantic Array and Round 1 of the designation of MCZs.

Despite the complex and sophisticated methodology used in the study, its practical application in the context of the case studies may be questioned. The methodology seems to have greater value for its descriptive rather than predictive capabilities. As such it is not clear that historic seascape characterisation will have made significant difference to subsequent decision-making.


There is no doubt that the standout report in 2011 was the account of the Iron Age roundhouse at Middle Burrow, East Worlington. This has significant implications for our understanding of Iron Age settlement in North Devon and suggests that there may be much more to be discovered in the area.

Of the remaining reports, the Three Tuns in Barnstaple is possibly the most interesting, as much for what it tells us about mid-20th century restoration as about the mediaeval history of the High Street in Barnstaple.