Promoting awareness of the archaeology and history of North Devon

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REPORTS COVERING NORTH DEVON DISTRICT 2016 Table 1 sets out the reports filed with ADS relating to 2016  The reports are then discussed in a little more detail, in alphabetical order of parish.   A brief synthesis of the findings of 2016 completes the document.

Table 1: Summary of reports for 2016



Grid Ref

Report Producer

Type of Report

Nature of Development


121 Boutport Street

2591 2449



Conversion of shop and stores to dwellings


Museum, The Square

5587 3297


Arch. Evaluation

Extension to Museum


St Mary’s, Pilton

5562 3414


Monitoring and recording

Replacement of electricity pylons


St Peter’s

5451 4144


Monitoring and evaluation

Laying of new drains


27 North Street

485 368


Monitoring and recording

Housing development


Chapman Barrows

703 433

Historic England

Survey and research

NMP Survey

Combe Martin

Little Hangman

5851 4806

Historic England

Survey and research

NMP Survey

Combe Martin

Glen Lyn car park &

5775 4717

AC Archaeology

Watching brief

Installation of waste water tanks

Coach park adj Pack o’ Cards

5837 4668

East Anstey

Highaton, West Anstey

8441 2528


Monitoring & recording

Construction of manege


Glenwood, Old Bideford Road

2532 1321

Wessex Archaeology

Watching brief

Construction of sewer pipeline


Land adj Mead Park

5250 3260


Gradiometer survey

Residential development


East Bredwick Farm

6402 4306

AC Archaeology

Watching brief

Excavation of cable trenches


Birch Road

5997 3141


DBA and geophysical survey

Residential development

North Molton

Lower Poole Barns

2736 1296


Evaluation trenching

Residential development

South Molton

80 South Street

7133 2580


Monitoring & recording

Construction of dwelling


Old Bideford Road

2544 1318

Wessex Archaeology

Evaluation trenching

Request from landowner (DCC)

DBA – desk based assessment, HBS/A – historic building survey/assessment, HVIA – historic visual impact assessment, NMP – National Mapping Programme

A total of 16 sites were examined in 11 parishes. 4 commercial firms produced the reports; 9 of these reports were prepared by SWARCH, 2 by AC Archaeology, 2 by Wessex Archaeology and 1 by Substrata. The remaining two were carried out by Historic England. 6 of the reports were prompted by residential development and 5 by the provision of services such as drainage and cabling.

1. Barnstaple: 121 Boutport Street

Although at face value the building is a 19th century shop with 20th century storage buildings to the rear, on closer examination a 16th century roof truss was found in the first floor roof. This suggests that the building was originally part of a cross passage house that was subdivided and remodelled in the 19th century. All other internal features of both 16th and 19th century origin have been removed, however.

2. Barnstaple: Museum, The Square

To support a planning application for the extension of the Museum on land between it and the Long Bridge, an archaeological evaluation, comprising three test pits, was carried out on the site of the proposed extension. This followed a desk based assessment carried out by SWARCH (also 2016, but not yet on the ADS website).

The site of the Museum extension was known to have previously been occupied by the nineteenth century Bridge End House. It had been demolished in the 1960s when the Long Bridge was widened. A total of fourteen archaeological features were revealed, including: one bridge foundation cut, one posthole, one path, six surfaces, three walls, and two wall robber cuts.

Finds were predominantly in various demolition and dump layers. To the west of the Museum they comprised mainly demolition material, as might be expected from the former site of Bridge End House. These finds consist largely of post mediaeval, nineteenth and twentieth century material. In the test pit to the south of the Museum building, the finds comprised dumped material, predominantly pottery and kiln waste, presumably from nearby or onsite potteries and lime kilns. The waste was locally produced post mediaeval domestic pottery with some industrial pottery from further afield. This was considered to be consistent with the domestic nature of the previous occupation of the site and, before that the industrial use of a riverside site.

In overall terms these features and finds demonstrate the urban development of this riverside site, from industrial use, lime and pottery kilns, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to later nineteenth century domestic use, including the construction of Bridge End House and the Museum building, which was also originally built as a house.

3. Barnstaple: St Mary’s, Pilton

The work, to replace electricity poles, involved the removal of a small section of the churchyard wall and the auguring of two post holes for replacement the poles. The removal of the wall revealed the stratification of graveyard layers. The finds were mainly post-mediaeval pottery fragments, with some North Devon gravel tempered sherds dating from the 15th-16th centuries, later North Devon gravel free sherds and a 17th century clay pipe stem.

4. Bittadon: St Peter’s Church

St Peter’s Church was rebuilt in the 19th century. The trench for the new drains was dug from the west tower to the boundary wall of the graveyard. No archaeological features or finds were discovered.

5. Braunton: 27 North Street

This site lies just outside the historic core of Braunton. Features identified as a result of topsoil stripping include ditches, postholes and wall footings to the west and remains of the farmyard and buildings to the east. Finds include mediaeval and postmediaeval pottery sherd. Two flint flakes were found in one of the early ditches in the south west part of the site.

Overall the findings indicate the development of the mediaeval and post-mediaeval farmstead, including the division of the site into an orchard and walled garden in the 19th century. The alignment of the earliest ditches and the flint flakes found in them suggest features that pre-date the mediaeval burgage plots on this side of North Street; they may even be prehistoric.

6. Challacombe: Chapman Barrows

A rectangular earthwork enclosure on the south west end of the Chapman Barrows group of monuments was surveyed by Hazel Riley in 2009 and reported in the Historic England report on an enclosure at Little Hangman, Combe Martin.

Details of the enclosure bank and ditch are described, within its setting on Chapman Barrows. Possible origins for the structure are considered, including post mediaeval peat cutting and a possible stock enclosure associated with Radworthy, which lies to the east. However, after comparing the enclosure with similar ones at Tennyson Down on the Isle of Wight and at Wilsford Down, south of Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the conclusion is drawn that the feature is possibly a mortuary enclosure associated with the ceremonial landscape of Chapman Barrows.

The report notes that further work has been carried out at the site since the survey, notably through the HLF-funded Longstone Landscape Community Archaeological Project.

7. Combe Martin: Little Hangman

As a result of the identification of a possible enclosure at Little Hangman in the National Mapping Programme (NMP) for Exmoor, survey work was carried out in 2009 by the Archaeological Survey and Investigation team from English Heritage, at the request of the National Trust and Exmoor National Park. It has now been reported in a Historic England Research Report, published in 2016, together with a site at Challacombe Common (see above).

The site lies at the western edge of Exmoor and sits on and around the summit of Little Hangman, a prominent landmark that rises 220m high above and to the east of Combe Martin and overlooks the cliffs of the Bristol Channel coast. It consists of an enclosure bank and platforms. The survey enabled these features to be described in detail and their origin and purpose to be considered.

The documentary research considers Little Hangman in the context of the (now National Trust owned) West Challacombe estate. It includes a 1531 inquiry into rights of grazing on the area. It also considers the site in the context of mining activity at Combe Martin.

The research then places the feature in the context of comparable enclosures in the south west. In particular it is considered in relation to early Neolithic tor enclosures in Devon and Cornwall and to Later Bronze Age to Iron Age Cornish “cliff castles”. Tor enclosures are characterised by their location and altitude, by the incorporation of natural landforms and by the presence of platforms and terraces forming level areas for occupation or other activities. The report acknowledges that the site has perhaps more in common with Cornish cliff castles, where a headland or promontory is defined by earthworks.

The report concludes that the site is a possible tor enclosure and that, if so, it is the only known early Neolithic enclosure on Exmoor and is therefore of regional and national significance. In overall terms the report concludes that the evidence suggests that the western part of Exmoor was important in the landscape of the early Neolithic period in the South West. In this context it considers that the coastal location of Little Hangman is significant.

8. Combe Martin: Glen Lyn car park and coach park adjoining Pack o’ Cards

A watching brief was carried out while SWW installed two waste water tanks in different locations in the village. Despite the known presence of buildings and other works historically, no features or finds were observed. This is believed to be due to previous ground disturbance.

9. East Anstey: Highaton, West Anstey

Monitoring and recording were carried out during the construction of a manege. It was required in view of the known archaeological features, such as barrows, in the near vicinity. The area was excavated using a toothless grading bucket. No features were found and the finds were limited to two sherds of 19th century tin-glazed stoneware.

10. Fremington: Glenwood, Old Bideford Road

Wessex Archaeology kept a watching brief along the route of a sewer pipe being laid between Old Bideford Road and a termination point just south of Bickington Road. The first part of the route northwards ran alongside Tews Lane and was constructed by directional drilling, with occasional access pits; the second part travelled in a north-westerly direction across open fields and topsoil stripping and trenching were the method of construction used in this section.

In one of the areas of topsoil stripping five ditch features were observed; these were consistent with the alignment of former field boundaries that delineated post-mediaeval strip fields. There were some finds of pottery sherds. Of the 62 sherds 6 were mediaeval and the remainder post-mediaeval.

11. Fremington: land adjacent Mead Park

The gradiometer survey was commissioned by AC Archaeology in order to establish the probability of archaeological features existing on site that needed to be investigated in pursuit of the residential development of the site. The site location lies between Fremington and Bickington, close to Muddlebridge on the north side of the main road.

Eleven magnetic anomaly groups were mapped as representing possible archaeological deposits. Of these four are likely to represent former field boundaries shown on the Fremington Tithe Map. The remainder are typical of former field and enclosure boundaries.

12. Kentisbury: East Bredwick Farm

A watching brief was carried out during the excavation of cable trenches, in view of the presence of a Scheduled Ancient Monument comprising three Bronze Age round barrows and an Iron Age univallate enclosure 300m north of the farm. No archaeological features or finds were exposed during the work, however.

13. Landkey: Birch Road

Birch Road lies to the north of Landkey Newland. A substantial area between the road and the existing village is to be developed. The Desk Based Assessment rehearsed the history of the village and of land ownership in the vicinity. Reference was made to Tithe and subsequent OS maps showing the site to be in agricultural use and subdivided by post mediaeval field boundaries. The geophysics survey indicated the presence of other field boundaries, some of which had been removed since the Tithe Map was published in 1847, and others which had been relicts of mediaeval field systems which had been removed earlier. One possible enclosure on a different alignment that might precede the field system was identified.

14. North Molton: Lower Poole Barns

The site lies immediately to the south of Lower Poole Barns on the south west side of the village. It consists of three fields. Four evaluation trenches were opened and five archaeological features were found. These were one linear gully, one linear ditch, two post holes and a pit. Finds included post mediaeval pottery, 18th, 19th and 20th century glass bottles and fragments of slag.

The large amount of slag is considered to represent evidence of metal working activity on or in the vicinity of the site. It was found in association with 16th-17th century pottery sherds, indicating that the activity probably dated from this period.

15. South Molton: 80 South Street

The site lies on the west side of South Street, close to the town centre, in an area known to contain burgage plots. A rectangular area was excavated to formation level and a test pit excavated within that area. Features discovered included two areas of cobbled surface and footings and drains associated with a recently demolished modern building. Finds included a substantial quantity of mainly 18th and 19th century domestic ware, including North Devon gravel-free and grave3l tempered coarseware. Other finds included clay pipe stems and bowls, ceramic building materials and bottle glass.

16. Tawstock: Land adjoining Old Bideford Road, Roundswell

The site is an irregularly shaped field in the ownership of Devon County Council, lying between Old Bideford and Old Torrington Roads. It is surrounded by modern development, with housing to the north, Sainsbury’s to the west and the Roundswell Business Park to the south. Seven evaluation trenches were dug in the accessible part of the site; their location was restricted by the presence of and overhead power line and dense vegetation.

Despite the known presence of archaeological features in the vicinity, little was found on the site. Most features were modern drainage, with some post mediaeval former field boundaries and ditches. Finds included modern building materials and pottery sherds. One of the sherds was considered to be mediaeval, of North Devon coarseware dated to the 13th to 15th centuries. The remaining sherds were post mediaeval or modern.


This was the first year for some time that reports weren’t mainly prompted by renewable energy developments, but instead by residential development or servicing. There are few stand out reports this year, the most notable being the surveys of Little Hangman and Chapman Barrows by Historic England and the investigation of the site of the proposed North Devon Museum extension in Barnstaple.

3rd May 2018