Dartmoor National Park Authority News Release
12 October 2012
Successful hunt for lost Dartmoor Manor
A recent archaeological excavation to discover the remains of the lost manor of North Hall in Widecombe-in-the-Moor has been heralded a success. The community excavation was led by Andy Crabb, Archaeologist for Dartmoor National Park Authority.
Andy Crabb said: ‘In five days of digging, well over 50 individual volunteers helped out - a fantastic achievement. The volunteers came from Widecombe village, the Widecombe Local History Group and from the wider local community. Despite some wet summer weather at the start of the dig, all seemed to greatly enjoy their experience of archaeological excavation with many returning again and again throughout the week. Groups of local school children from Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Ilsington Primary Schools also enjoyed visits to the site and helped out with the digging.’
The dig was the culmination of many years of research by Peter Rennells of the Widecombe History Group who has been a leading light in investigating the history of the manor and its location.
The excavation revealed that soon after the site was abandoned it was extensively robbed for building stone. Evidence for this came from the spreads of stone rubble, layers of mortar and broken roofing slates discovered. The foundation courses of a substantial wall 1.5m wide and made of clay-bonded granite indicate that a large building was once present on site. It is probable that the stone was collected from the manor site in order to re-build Widecombe Church Tower in the 1640s. The stone was also probably used in the construction of other buildings in the area.
Other interesting discoveries include an earlier boundary that surrounded the site. Underneath the existing moat bank an earlier sequence of ditch, bank and possible palisade was identified. A small piece of high status 15th century pottery from Islamic Spain was also found, suggesting the site was once home to wealthy and well connected people.
Archaeologists from Oakford Archaeology were brought into guide the groups of local volunteers in the hunt for the manor. An open day was held at the end of the week and well over 800 members of the public attended.
The excavation was filmed by National Park Authority staff and you can now see the Hunt for the Lost Manor at www.dartmoor.gov.uk.
The excavation would not have been possible without the help and support of the land owners Margaret Rogers and Michael Lamb and funding from the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund.
For further information
Notes for Editors
The excavation ran from 16 to 20 July 2012.
The location of North Hall Manor has been the cause of much speculation amongst local historians and researchers for many years. Following years of painstaking research led by the Widecombe History Group involving examining old documents, studying estate maps, analysing aerial photographs and conducting geophysical and earthworks surveys. two likely sites for the manor house emerged. One of the sites could not be excavated due to wet weather.
In 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed and the first UK National Parks were designated in 1951. Dartmoor was designated in October that year, the fourth area of land in the UK to receive National Park status.
Dartmoor National Park Authority’s purposes under the Environment Act 1995 are:
- to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park;
- to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area by the public.
In carrying out this work, we are also required to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park.
Agendas for full Dartmoor National Park Authority meetings and Dartmoor National Park Authority planning meetings are available on the Authority's web site.
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There are 15 members of the National Parks family in the UK: Brecon Beacons, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, South Downs, Yorkshire Dales, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, the Cairngorms and the Broads. National Parks are of special value to the whole nation because of their great beauty, their wildlife and cultural interests and the opportunities they offer for quiet enjoyment. However, they are not nationally owned - the land is in the hands of many landowners or occupiers including farmers. Over 33,500 people live in Dartmoor National Park and many millions of visits are made to it each year.