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This walk: 2017-8-25. Middleworthy Gate, step stile, Middleworthy Lane, Leather Tor, Middleworthy, barn, ML 1885 date stone, Snappers Tor, Deancombe Lane, Down Tor, West Deancombe, East Deancombe, bearded lichen, staddle stones, Cuckoo Rock, Deancombe Brook and Ford, Outholme Bronze Age cist, ridge and furrow field, Outcombe Corner, Roughtor Plantation, East Rough Tor, Rough Tor, Middle Rough Tor.

Walk details below - Information about the route etc.

Previous walks in this area: 4th October 2007 7th July 2011 25th January 2012 24th May 2016 (includes references to several visits of discovery in the plantation)

Google Satellite map + GPS track of the walk 

Old maps
Ordnance Survey, 25-inch to the mile, 1st edition - 1890s-1920s - centred on the original Roughtor Plantation 
htOrdnance Survey 6-inch to the mile 1888-1913 - centred on Norsworthy bridge and Middleworth(y)



On the east side of Norsworthy Bridge car park is Middleworth Gate, into Middleworth Lane which leads to Middleworth. Beyond Middleworth the lane is known as Deancombe Lane, leading to Deancombe.  Beyond Deancombe, the lane becomes a track out to Combshead Farm, passing Cuckoo Rock. Note the rather fine step stile in the hedge to the right of the gate


Closer view of the step stile: the other side of the hedge has no "drop", just a slope down to a wire fence.


The reason for going through the fields, besides softer walking underfoot, is to see this view of Leather Tor ....


Leather Tor,  SX 563 700, elevation 380 metres (1246 feet) .....


Leather Tor. 



MIDDLEWORTH(Y) - first documented in 1281.



Middleworth, the track passes by on the left ..... this view shows ruins of old buildings and the old barn, conserved by the National Park in the 1970s ..... Historic England - Middleworth farmstead record .....





Another view, looking towards the track, with the ruins of another building .....




The barn, showing different ground levels in the courtyard .....



The barn, with three doorways, presumably leading to three rooms internally .....


The whole farm seems to have been rebuilt by the landowner, Sir Massey Lopes, when comparing "recent" and the old tithe maps (see below), the date stone is inscribed 1885 .....  Sir Massey Lopes ("He was greatly interested in scientific farming, and completely rebuilt his Maristow estate) .....


Presumed part of the door closing / retention arrangement .....


Corbells to support the beams that supported the upper floor .....


A view ofo the stonework, particularly the corner and doorways .....


The rear of the barn .....


View from the corner of the barn to Snappers Tor .....


Snappers Tor, SX 57340 69303, see Ken Ringwood (2013). Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks, University of Plymouth Press, page 180. Walls are built onto the tor. There is a gap on the on the current OS 1:25k map at the junction where three walls meet, where the tor has been omitted!

Middleworth (=Middleworthy) - the middle settlement in the Deancombe valley between Norsworthy and Narrator, elsewhere - a lower settlement, Lowery (=Lower Worthy) — formerly spelt Lowerthy (q.v. grid square 5569) — is also nearby, and the now-drowned Essworthy (=East Worthy) q.v. grid square 5568), the eastern settlement, was situated further down the Mewy Valley. The other main settlement in the group was Norsworthy (=North Worthy);' "worthig" being Saxon for settlement. Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 56833 6945. 

To get a flavour of the time when the two farms below were first occupied, it is worth looking at this Timeline of British History - Medieval - Normans to the Tudors. It is for children, but it is very interesting!


Tithe map (1840) image by permission of Devon County Council


Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The orientation of this map dated 1840 is slightly different to the modern maps where north is by convention at the top of the map. Middleworth, from the 25-inch Ordnance Survey sheet, surveyed 1886, published 1887,  - the upper numbers are field numbers from the surveyor's notebook; the numbers to three decimal places are acreages.

Middleworthy, the name used on the 1840 Tithe Map - this shows that all the farm buildings were replaced sometime between 1840 and 1886, the date on the stone in the wall of the surviving barn is 1885. Some of the buildings in the tithe map were medieval longhouses, running down the slope towards Narrator Brook.


Tithe map (1840) image by permission of Devon County Council Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Comparing the layout of the Middleworthy / Middleworth farm settlements between 1840 and 1886 after rebuilding by the landowner, Sir Massey Lopes, with date stone 1885.

Horse engine house
The Heritage Gateway information below indicates the appearance of a horse engine house on the side of the central building in the tithe map above: this is indicated by the circular outline to the left of the building. The building was probably a barn where a draft horse was used to drive a small threshing machine or a horse-mill in a gin gang for grinding corn for making flour.  This provides a fascinating insight into life at Middleworthy in the past.  I am told horse engine houses appeared around 1750, peaking around 1800, and fell into abeyance around 1850 (source: an archaeologist at Dartmoor Folk Festival, 13 Aug. 2017). 




Image attribution: Les Hull [CC BY-SA 2.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons
Horse-engine house or gin-gang


A horse engine in operation, apparently crushing apples for cider-making. Perhaps this was the arrangement also used for grind corn for bread-making in times past? Photo used with permission kindly granted by the Shropshire Star newspaper from this web page.


Using a "horse engine" to crush apples? The source of this photograph is unknown. Details would be appreciated.


Cider making, old style, using a stone trough and a horse=powered edge runner for crusing the apples.
Jersey Channel Islands, Cider making with granite cider press (lé tou ŕ cidre).


Here is a link to a treatise on The Distribution of Wheel-houses in the British Isles, "wheel-house" being another name for a horse-engine house .....

"A WHEELHOUSE ("horse-engine house") is here defined as a small building immediately attached to a barn or very close to it, which has at some time contained a horse-wheel to drive a mechanism within the barn, usually for threshing"

This treatise indicates that there are still more than 1,300 horse-engine houses surviving in England, Scotland and Wales, with about 100 remaining in Cornwall. Between 1830 and 1832, 390 threshing machines were destroyed in the Swing Riots, when increasingly impoverished farm workers who were being displaced by machinery took action towards a living wage (pages 32-33). 


HeritageGateway: MDV3433 - Ruined farmstead at Middleworth, Walkhampton

Extracts from Full Description section .....

Devon County Council, 1838-1848, Tithe Mosaic, approximately 1838-1848 (Cartographic). SDV349431.

Middleworth is depicted on the Tithe Map: plot numbers 1048, 1076. Row of at least five buildings aligned roughly north-south, the central of which appears to have a horse-engine house on the western side.


Haynes, R. G., 1966-1969, Ruined Sites on Dartmoor, 83, 84, 25/11/1966 (Un-published). SDV150434.

The farmhouse is knocked down and so damaged that it is difficult to reconstruct but shippen still stands to full height. As part of the process of implementing management policies for sites around Burrator Reservoir, the ruins of a late 19th century granite barn at Middle-worth were consolidated. Barn is only surviving structure of what was once a complex of farm buildings first documented in 1281.(that is 736 years ago, Ed., in 2017).


Ordnance Survey, 1880 - 1899, First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

The late 19th century historic map shows changes to the layout of the farm, primarily that the main buildings are now east-west aligned, and are presumably replacements. Farmstead occupies a smaller area than shown on the Tithe Map


English Heritage, 2015, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV357602.

The monument includes a farmstead situated on a south facing terrace at Middleworth overlooking the Narrator Brook. The farmstead survives as a series of drystone walls denoting the position of the farmhouse and a range of outbuildings and paddocks. At the eastern end of the complex a barn remains standing to its original height, but all the other buildings have lost their upper levels. The farmhouse survives as a rectangular building with drystone walls standing up to 1.7m high in which at least two window openings are visible. The interior of this structure measures 8.6m long by 7.5m wide and a bank protruding south from the building may represent the site of a porch. An outshut attached to the eastern wall stands up to 1.5m high. East of the farmhouse is the barn, which is subdivided into at least five separate rooms. South of the farmhouse is a small structure subdivided into four rooms, one of which represents a lavatory. In the south western part of the farmstead are a further three barns and a paddock. The settlement at Middleworth is first documented in 1281 and it would appear to have remained in constant occupation until it was abandoned in the 1920s.

Information from the Devon & Dartmoor Historic Environment Record


On the walk again .....

Deancombe Lane, from Middleworth(y) to Deancombe ..... the girth of one of the trees was measured, either the second tree from the right in the photograph or one that is to the right that is not in the photograph, and found to be 120-inches. It was a tree with a simple, plain round bole i.e. no convolutions. The measurement indicates an age of 120 years, but these are now mature trees and they add girth very slowly so the age could be 130-140 years. If the age is 130 years, they would date from 1887, when Middleworthy and Deancombe farms were rebuilt by Sir Massey Lopes. 


A sycamore sapling growing out of the rotting stump of an old tree.


A view of Down Tor, north of the track  .....


Down Tor, SX 579 694, elevation 366 metres (1200 feet) .


DEANCOMBE - first documented in 1317.

Spread along the north side of Deancombe Lane — with some additional remains on the south side at the bend — are the substantial ruins of Deancombe Farm. There are no less than twenty one ruined buildings at the site, including — at West Deancombe — a possible pigsty and pen, a probable converted longhouse, the foundations of a barn or cart linhay, an outer courtyard in which stands a large granite trough, and a small high-walled garden enclosure opposite the house with a step up from the yard, and — at East Deancombe, on the other side of the foot of the drift lane — the foundations of two possible longhouses, a ruined barn and other outbuildings, two (incomplete) sets of rick staddles, the ruins of the old house, and, a little detached from the other buildings, two ruined barns, and the ruins of the more recent house on the opposite side of the lane at the bend.  Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 5792 6879. .


Approaching the Deancombe complex, with the ruins of West Deancombe on the left and East Deancombe through the trees, further on, on the left .....


Part of West Deancombe ruins - there are said to be 21 buildings here in the Deancombe "complex" and careful study of the literature can reveal what several of them are. Good luck! 


Around the back (north side) of West Deancombe there is a tree that bears a bearded lichen .....


Bearded lichen .....


Bearded lichen ..... in a hawthorn tree .....


This is an Usnea-type lichen, possibly the "String-of-sausages" (Usnea articulata) species that has been obvious seen here on previous walks - but this time there no striking "sausage" strings to be photographed. Perhaps there is a seasonal aspect to this - if it was Usnea articulata previously then it should be the same species today!.


Looking south down the strole to Deancombe Brook .....


Looking north up the rough lane to the pasture fields below Down Tor ..... East Deancombe is to the right of this photograph .....


Part of the ruins of a barn where the floor was supported off the ground on staddle stones as a measure against vermin .....


Panorama of the East Deancombe ruins at their eastern end. The new farmhouse is on the right of the track, beyond the tree. Click the image to see a larger version.


East Deancombe ruin in the sunlight - much of the farm is now shaded by trees .....


Possibly a ruined cart shed .....


Two upright stones that once supported a sharpening (grinding) stone ..... something like Trelissick Manor except that stone was supported by an iron frame .....


The rebuilt farmhouse (by 1885 - it was on the 1886 OS map).


Tithe map (1840) image by permission of Devon County Council

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The orientation of this map dated 1840 is slightly different to the modern maps where north is by convention at the top of the map. Partly 25-inch sheets, surveyed 1886, published 1887,  and  and two neighbouring sheets (showing no buildings)



Tithe map (1840) image by permission of Devon County Council Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Comparing the layout of the Deancombe farm settlements between 1840 and 1886 after rebuilding by the landowner, Sir Massey Lopes


HeritageGateway: MDV12725 - Deserted farmstead at Deancombe

Extracts .....

Summary. Deancombe deserted farmstead, which dates to at least 1317. The farmstead split into two holdings (east and west)in the 16th century and the western section buildings later became outbuildings for the farmstead in the 19th century. The farm was eventually abandoned in around 1922.
This dates to 700 years ago, Ed. (in 2017) 

From Full Description.
1840, Tithe Map (Cartographic). SDV339770.
Deancombe is depicted on the Tithe Map and it shows ten buildings in total, many of which are no longer standing in the late 19th century when the First Edition Ordnance Survey map was drawn, including the older farm buildings at the eastern end of the farmstead, which were replaced by the later 19th century phase of occupation.

Ordnance Survey, 1880 - 1899, First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.
Deancombe Farm is depicted. The late 19th century map shows the more modern eastern farm buildings constructed in the mid 19th century and the remains of the older western buildings.


Haynes, R. G., 1966-1969, Ruined Sites on Dartmoor, 30, 31 (Un-published). SDV150434.

Deancombe (old) A group of dry stone buildings immediately west of the modern Deancombe’s mowhay. A spring rises and flows past the buildings, which seem grouped round a yard. A fallen chimney stone seems to indicate a fireplace at the west end of one room and some suggestion of a chimmeny (stet) at the east end. A stone trough at SX 57937 68791 and a potato cave at SX 57971  68816 are also visible. The potato cave now gives rise to a spring. 
The buildings were probably used as outhouses to the later Deancombe, abandoned in approximately 1922.
Deancombe new - describes the four structures in the eastern section of the farmstead (see related records). Probably built in the 19th century on this level area to replace older buildings to the westward. Water supply piped, probably from the hill above. Mowhay west of barn and beyond that the ruined buildings of an older farm.


Associated Monuments

MDV103764 Parent of: Barn at Deancombe Farm (Building)
MDV20654 Parent of: New Deancombe Farmhouse (Building)
MDV103765 Parent of: Shippon and carthouse at Deancombe Farm (Building)

Information from the Devon & Dartmoor Historic Environment Record


A view of Cuckoo Rock from among the buildings at East Deancombe .....


Zoomed view.


Deancombe Ford across Deancombe Brook (Narrator Brook is formed from where Combshead and Deancombe Brooks come together, although that appears to be a little upstream from here).  The remains of old stepping stones are said to be in the ford. There is a clapper bridge.on the right. 


The scene just upstream from the ford and clapper bridge: a short distance from the stile is a collection of double mortar stones (and a quadruple) on the bank of the brook. A little way further lie the ruins (on the right) of Outhome or Outcombe blowing house. 


Bronze Age burial cist, at SX 57990 68271, with Sheeps Tor behind, SX 566 682, elevation 369 meters (1210 feet) .....


A view of the cist .....described as Outholme cist by Jeremy Butler (1994) Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities III, 47.10, fig. 47.7 (page 70).


A view to Down Tor, SX 579 694, elevation 366 metres (1200 feet)  .....


Cuckoo Rock, seen from the cist .....


Combshead Tor, SX 587 688, elevation 371 metres / 1217 feet .....


"A field with ridges" - this is the field immediately behind the buildings of East Deancombe, numbered 1050 on the old Ordnance Survey map (this being the number in the surveyor's notebook) ..... these are ridges and furrows that started in Medieval times when ploughs were non-reversible and the effect became more pronounced over time.


 A zoomed view of the ridges.  Here is a discussion thread on a farming forum about the problems of getting rid of ridges and furrows! Ridge and furrow and planning permission link!




Looking back at the cist; it is marked by a solitary hawthorn tree: the hill behind is Eylesbarrow, SX 599 686, elevation 454 metres (1489 feet). 




Coming from the cist, looking down on Outcombe Corner (an old newtake wall corner). There is a small square enclosure in the angle of the corner, labelled "Shaft" on the map. About 100 metres down the stream, Outcombe Brook, is a small adit hidden in the overgrown bank (in summer) draining what mine? Probably part of Great Rowtor (Rough Tor) Mine, it is a long way from Aylesburrow (Eylesbarrow) Mine, or possible another mine altogether because there are two shafts shown on the 1886 25-inch Ordnance Survey map.


The names Outcombe, Outhome and Outholme seem to have been used variously in this area for features, for the cist, wall corner, brook, gate, farm and blowing house.





The first "new" tor encountered when walking into Roughtor Plantation from the east, East Rough Tor, at SX 57485 68512.


There is a page on this web site where the "new" tors are described at 2016-5-24 Roughtor Plantation Tors.





The original Rough Tor, after which Roughtor Plantation is named, until recently hidden under a larch tree,  on the high point of the hill (albeit heavily forested) at SX 57435 68560, elevation 312 metres (1023 feet); there is a rock pan on the top .....



Rough Tor rock pan .....


Burrator forestry plantings - started by Plymouth Corporation in 1921 as part of the forestry plan after WW1, taken over by the Forestry Commission in 1945-1949. Source: Matthew Kelly (2015), Quartz and Feldspar, Jonathan Cape, London, page 250.  Life of conifers about 80 years before felling (hardwoods, 120 years), therefore if conifers felled in 2016, possibly planted in 1936 (Ibid, page 245).

Eric Hemery (1983), High Dartmoor, Robert Hale, London, pages 158, 162 (bottom line) - 163 .....

"On the highest ground within Roughtor Plantation is the rock pile from which the wood takes its name, Rough Tor (approx. 1,000 feet).  This small but rugged tor regained for a while during the 1920s, its aspect as an intrinsic part of the valley scenery.  Mr Watkins, formerly of Narrator Farm,  told me that, shortly before he abandoned the farm in 1924, the original plantation was felled and he was employed to transport the timber by horse and wagon to Dousland station ......... nearly all the now deserted farmsteads, most of them occupied, were visible from the tor and that its prominent position at the head of the rocky slope above the Narrator valley contributed much to the former grandeur of the scene". 

Also, "The summit rock has a well-formed basin, sixteen inches in diameter, five inches in depth, and with a distinct lip; two smaller basins in a lower rock show by their angle that the rock has tilted". 




The recently-named Middle Rough Tor, SX 57388 68642, elevation 300 metres (984 feet), larger than the summit Rough Tor.




Unidentified mushrooms on a tree deep in the Sitka spruce plantation.




Eric Hemery's headstone in the churchyard at Meavy.  He produced a large body of work about Dartmoor and I cite his books regularly on these web pages, particularly High Dartmoor. He is cited again on this page and as we went to the Royal Oak at Meavy for lunch after this walk, it seems fitting to recognise him here. Other useful books are: Eric Hemery (1983), Walking the Dartmoor Railroads, David & Charles, Newton Abbot; Eric Hemery (1986), Walking Dartmoor's Ancient Tracks, Robert Hale, London and Eric Hemery (1986), Walking the Dartmoor Waterways, David & Charles, Newton Abbot. The lines on the headstone are adapted from the penultimate paragraph of his magnum opus: High Dartmoor, page 1054. 


Walk details

MAP: Red = GPS satellite track of the walk.

© Crown copyright 2016  Ordnance Survey Licence number 100047373
Also, Copyright © 2005, Memory-Map Europe, with permission.

This walk was reached by driving from Yelverton to Dousland, turning right beside the Burrator Inn towards Meavy, and then left on passing the last house, over the cattle grid to the far end of the reservoir. Do not go over the dam. Two car parks are indicated by yellow crosses on the map.


Distance - 5.11 km / 3.18 miles






All photographs on this web site are copyright © Keith Ryan.
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