Bronze Age

Five Barrows (© ENPA 2012)

(Five Barrows; © ENPA 2012)

During the Bronze Age, Exmoor continued to be cleared of trees and woodland, and a pattern of subsistence farming with an emphasis on pastoralism emerged. On what is now moorland and its fringes are the traces of round houses, either alone or organised into small settlements of two or three buildings (examples at Porlock Allotment, Almsworthy Common, Martinhoe Common and Furzehill). There are small field systems, some of which are highly organised (e.g. Great Hill and Codsend), whilst others appear more haphazard (e.g. Holdstone Down). It seems likely that large numbers of settlements were enclosed, but so far only one enclosure on Exmoor has been excavated, at Holworthy, and this has produced a mid Bronze Age date.

The hilltops and ridges were crowned with round barrows like those at Five Barrows and Chapman Barrows. Barrows (or cairns) occur nearly everywhere on Exmoor: they are found on hilltops and hillsides, alone or in large cemeteries. They appear simple in form, and hardly any have been excavated, but where excavation has been undertaken they seem to have complex sequences of development (e.g. Chapman Barrows). The barrows range in size from 3 to 35 metres in diameter; sometimes they have stone kerbs encircling them (e.g. Setta Barrow); they often have encircling, silted up ditches (e.g. Longstone Barrow), although sometimes the material for the barrows was gained from nearby quarries (e.g. Robin How and Joaney How).

Relatively few Bronze Age artefacts have been found on Exmoor. There are a handful of Bronze Age vessels (e.g. Brockenbarrow, Holworthy and Yenworthy Cist), and a number of flint artefacts either from scatter sites (e.g. Implements found near Selworthy Beacon) or as stray finds (e.g. Axe at Ebshill Lodge).

Rob Wilson-North

Further Reading

Visit Historic England's "Heritage Calling" blog to find further information about Bronze Age barrows.