This walk: 2019-4-25. Warren House Inn, WB stone - Headland Warren Bound stone, green track, gerts of Water Hill (aka King's Oven) tin mine, shaft, V stones, old building, King's Oven pound, abandoned millstone, Pixie Path, Hurston Ridge stone rows, burial cairn, paired stones, blocking stone, Water Hill cairn, Arthur's Seat, gert behind Warren House Inn, site of Bawden's Bungalow, telegraph marker.
Walk details below - Information about the route etc.
Warren House Inn, built 1845, across the road from the old New House Inn that was demolished in 1845. It was originally called the Moreton Inn but the name was changed in connection with the rabbit warrening nearby. The road is the B3212.
Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV18822 - Warren House Inn, Postbridge
Copyright: Devon County Council
Lydford (Forest of Dartmoor) Tithe Map, 1840, showing the New House or Warren New House Inn. The Tithe Apportionments show this is in the Forest of Dartmoor (Lydford) Parish and that the landowner was John Wills and the occupier was Jonas Coaker. This is on the opposite side of the road to the arrangement today. The plots are .....
431 New House and
Warren New House Inn and Garden
432 New House and Warren - Plot Arable
433 New House and Warren - Plot Pasture
434 New House and Warren - Plot Arable
King's Oven is shown on tithe map (see below).
One in a row of WB stones marking the boundary of Headland Warren, at SX 67654 81164. The letters "WB" are difficult to see now, occupying the upper six inches on the face of the stone. This is one of a series of 15 mainly similar stones that mark the bounds of Headland Warren, where rabbits were bred to feed the miners. Warren House Inn is named after the warren. The "15" bound stones includes Bennet's Cross, also marked "WB". The stones date from around 1780 (Dave Brewer, 2002, Dartmoor Boundary Markers, Halsgrove, Tiverton, pp. 265-268).
"Benets Cross stands at the roadside, a tall
roughly hewn cross with a distinctive bend in the shaft,
inscribed on its north face the letters WB. The original
purpose of the cross is uncertain it may have been a route
guide post, or a bond mark of lands owned by Buckfast Abbey, or
perhaps both. The name should be spelt with a single n and a
single t though few people seem to do so for it is derived
from the Benedictine order of monks, indicating its former
association with the original monastery at Buckfast this was
at first a Benedictine abbey, as also is the present one, but
was a Cistercian monastery from the thirteenth century until the
Dissolution. The cross also acted not only as a boundary marker
for Headland Warren, to which the letters refer (WB = Warren
Bounds), but also for the Vitifer and Birch Tor mining setts, as
well as being a bond mark on the Chagford/North Bovey parish
line, a purpose which it still serves today. A curious
coincidence is the fact that a William Bennett was a
representative of Chagford Stannary in the time of King Henry
VIII, and he would have undoubtedly had some indirect
connections with the earliest tin-streaming activities in the
Source: Mike Brown (2001) Guide to Dartmoor, CD-ROM, Dartmoor Press, Grid Square 6800 8170.
The real start of the walk is almost a green lane, actually an old track to the open workings of the Water Hill Mine that has extensive diggings on this hillside. There is a large gert right behind the Warren House Inn that approaches from the west - this being the direction of the Caroline Mine. The Water Hill MIne workings extend rightwards in this photograph, towards Moretonhampstead, towards the workings of Bushdown Mine.
Just over 300 metres from the road the track crosses a gert, where tinners changed the look of the landscape ..... this is looking east:
Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV27841 - Open works on the south side of Water Hill - very detailed, with seven reservoirs etc.
Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV54593 - Vast open cut on Water Hill - another detailed record
Within sight of the track (and present in the previous photograph) is an apparent shaft is seen in the bottom of the gert. The water was only 1½-feet deep (on my walking staff) but I would not try walking across it!
Looking west, note the "bumps" on the skyline .....
Zoomed view to one of the "bumps", or waste tip from the gert. At the end of this walk, we pass just this side of these dumps.
From the gert, we can see King's Oven. This is a roughly circular pound about 70 yards across, associated with ancient tin smelting - more below.
One of Dartmoor's mysteries, the V stones - no-one knows what these are, It has been suggested they might be for the base of machinery.
The top ends of the Vees terminate in a round hole drilled into the stone. I think they point the way to the Warren House Inn.
Note added 28 June 2020: The DTRG (Dartmoor Tinworking Research Group) Newsletter May 2020 No. 58 has a note on the "Kings Oven Stones by Nick Walter on pages 9-10 that proposes a possible function for these stones. They could have been supports for a hand windlass that could have been used for raising loads from a small shaft in the nearby mine.
Note added 10 Nov 2020: The DTRG (Dartmoor Tinworking Research Group) Newsletter November 2020 No. 59 has a note on the "Kings Oven Stones by Tom Greaves on page 19. The stones may have derive from a single stone that is now broken. The cut recesses could have house the base (wood or metal) of a flagpole. They are situated near the foundations of the larger of two ruined buildings which might have been the mine office. It is recorded that at least one mine in this area flew such a flag when they were actively working.
This open green area is not King's Oven - it is the site of an old building, at SX 67531 81367. King's Oven is a little further west from the track.
King's Oven or Furnum Regis (in Latin). This derives from the fact that this is thought to be the site of an early smelting house, hence "oven", the produce of which would be taxed by the King via the stannary towns, such as Chagford. Furnum Regis appears in the 1240 Perambulation of Dartmoor - actually it was used for the landmark cairn at the summit of Water Hill.
Devon & Dartmoor HER - MDV121913 - King's Oven Prehistoric Pound on eastern slopes of Water Hill, Chagford - incorporating a cairn, cist and millstone
Image © J Butler 1994. Reproduced by kind permission (ref. 29 Sept. 2012)
Jeremy Butler (1991), Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Vol. 2 - The North, 1: King's Oven (figs.26.1), pages 34-35
The "stones" label above marks the two V stones.
From Mrs Bray, 1836, Vol.1; pp.294-299 ..... with edits and omissions ..... .....
July, 1831. Accompanied by my wife, I set out in search
of the King s Oven, the name of which certainly excited
more than ordinary expectations. On reaching New House, formerly an inn,
I inquired of a female who was standing at the door, if there were any
room in the stable for my horses. Her reply was that the stable was full
of turf, by which she meant peat.
(which Hannaford, when he mentioned to me that the King's Oven was at no
great distance from it, seemed to consider a misnomer, for he said he
believed it was one of the oldest houses on the moor) is surrounded by a
warren, but contented myself with inquiring of the landlady, which was
the way to the King's Oven.
When I arrived
there, however, I was as wise as before, for I knew not whether I was to
see a mound or a cavity, and of each of these there were many, as we
were evidently surrounded by the ' old workings ' (as they are called in
Devonshire) of a tin mine, which had subsequently been converted into a
warren. The day was extremely hot, and, as my companion was tired and
almost fainting with the heat, I resolved (though to think of then
looking for an oven seemed somewhat a work of supererogation) to go in
search of it alone.
thinking of the burning fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, and sometimes
of King Arthur's Oven, which I believe is a kind of cromlech in
Scotland, I rambled about with an umbrella over my head in search of I
knew not what. I thought also more than once of a wild-goose-chase, and
was almost induced again and again to give it up; but tempted by the
pleasure of exploring unknown regions, I persevered.
As I ascended
the hill, I perceived some ridges of stone, which, whether they were the
remains of inclosures or tracklines, I could not tell. I found on an
elevated point of view what seemed like the King's broad arrow, which
appeared to have been but recently made in the turf. And had it not been
so long ago, I could have fancied it one of those marks made during the
trigonometrical survey by direction of the Ordnance under Colonel Mudge.
Soon after, I came to something like a small rude circle, with what
might have been an erect stone or pillar, but now fallen, and, whether
by lightning or otherwise, split, longitudinally and laterally, into
four parts, in pretty nearly equal proportions. Advancing farther, I
observed the outline of the summit of the hill somewhat rough with
stones and rushes, and, hastening towards it, found, as I conclude, the
object of my search.
It is a
circular barrow composed of small stones seventy-six paces in
circumference. Its form approaches but little to conical, being, I
should think, but three feet high. I saw on it no lichen or moss which
is generally found on structures of this description that have remained
in their original form, and I therefore should conclude that many of the
stones have, at a comparatively late date, been carried away. It can
boast of almost a panoramic view of considerable extent, particularly
towards the north-east and south. Near it is a kind of trench, about six
feet long, with a shorter, meeting it at right angles in the centre, the
sides of which are lined with stone. And in the same direction are
several pits, and one in particular of some extent in the shape of an
On our way
homeward, a little before we came to Merripit, I observed a circle on my
right hand intersected by the road ; and a little farther on to the
left, on the other side of the road, a stone cross, nine feet and three
quarters long, now fallen, and laying near a circular pit. Its arms are
very short, but the whole is of a more regular shape and better wrought
than such crosses as are generally found on the moor.
** It is not
improbable this was really the King's Oven, or used for the purpose of
baking by some British chief - since it was a custom with the people of
Britain as well as of Gaul, to dig a deep pit, line it with stones, and
make the stones hot by burning heath or wood upon them. In similar pits,
says the editor of Ossian, "they laid venison at the bottom, with a
stratum of stones above it, and thus did they alternately till the pit
was full: the whole was covered with heath to confine the steam.'' Near
these holes or pits there was generally also found a heap of smooth flat
stones of the flint kind, used perhaps for baking bread.
Description: "The enclosure at King's Oven is probably the site of medieval tin mining activities. Burnard comments that 'the enclosure is circular and an acre in extent'. Burnard notes that the stone 'looks something like the nether stone of a crazing mill'. A nether stone is the lower stone of a rotary crazing mill that was used for grinding tin ore. Crazing mills could only grind the alluvial gravels and they were replaced by stamping mills when coarser ores started being mined. In Newman's //Dartmoor Tin Industry Field Guide// he states that only three crazing mills are known on Dartmoor at Sheepstor, Outcombe and Gobbet. Perhaps the stone photographed by Burnard in 1888 is evidence for a fourth crazing mill but the stone is no longer in situ today. King's Oven was previously known as Furnum Regis and was mentioned by this name in a Perambulation of Henry III in 1240. However by 1609 in the Dartmoor Forestry Survey the location was known as King's Oven."
The fact that Furnum Regis, the King's Oven (taken to imply a smelting place for tin), is a landmark in the 1240 Perambulation shows that tin was important as far back as the 1200s. The diggings in the area must date from that period - 800 years ago!
The millstone near the centre of the King's Oven pound, at SX 67472 81297 .....
Showing the millstone and the ground of this area. It can be quite bumpy as though dug over long ago.
The track ahead, having left the tin workings, becomes smaller ..... this is the D32127 Pixie Path, sometimes called a Peat Path, Hobbit Trail, Pony Plod (from the packhorse days) or Sheepway.
This is a turn in the track at SX 67354 81790, labelled "kink" on the map, looking back towards the road.
Early view of the Hurston Ridge double stone row at almost the first sight (at SX 67307 82296).
The "Menhir" at the south-western, uphill end of the rows .....
Looking at the ruinous cairn at the south-west end of the double stone row on Hurston Ridge. Apparently there was a cist visible in the past but now only one stone is visible and that is probably a kerb stone of the retaining circle.
Hurston Ridge double stone row, SX 6729 8250, one of the best examples of its kind, mostly in its original state. There are 99 stones arranged in 49 pairs. There is a cairn at this upper (south-west) end, visible from the blocking stone at the lower end. Orientated NE-SW.
Another view along the rows, looking to the north-east ..... there are 49 pairs of stones, with a larger blocking stone at the far end
The terminal blocking stone at the downhill (north-east) end.
Somewhere in this area is a "lost" cairn described by J. Butler (1991), Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities II, 25.10 Hurston Ridge cairn, pages 31-32. The cairn was discovered and excavated by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1900 and then it was "lost" again, shortly afterwards. It is labelled as "Cairn A" in a map linked from Legendary Dartmoor's Hurston Stone Row web page. During investigations on the cairn by Baring Gould, a stone axe and a cinerary urn (the latter upturned and covering a small heap of cremated bones on a flat stone, covered by a slab) were found in 1900 by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee. A photo of the restored Middle Bronze Age urn (1500-1000 BC) can be seen here (the larger of the vessels). The pattern around the rim is believed made by impressing the clay with a twisted cord. It was restored 1960-1962 and was put on display in the Plymouth Museum. According to Jeremy Butler, in the Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Vol. 2, Page 31, Section 10: Hurston Ridge Cairn, the urn was found in a cairn on the west side of Assycombe Hill which is no longer marked on the latest 1:25000 map. Possibly that shown on older OS maps at SX 67028 81927?
Addendum: On 4th Dec 2010, photographs of the urn found on Hurston Ridge stone row cairn were taken in Plymouth City Museum: The urn is about two feet in height, maybe more. The museum description says it is early Bronze Age, 2010-1500 BC.
View north to Kes Tor at SX 665 863, elevation 445 metres (1460 feet), 3.8 km (2.4 miles) away.
A later Bronze Age wall cuts through the rows at SX 67295 82514, about two-thirds of the distance down the rows, indicating that the significance of the monument was not held in the highest regard by that time.
Image © J Butler 1991. Reproduced by kind permission (ref. 29 Sept. 2012)
An archaeological description of the double row is given by Jeremy Butler (1991), Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Vol. 2 - The North, 9: Hurston Ridge stone rows (figs.25.2,3), pages 30-31.
The blocking stone at the bottom end (north-eat) of the rows.
Looking up the slope from behind the blocking stone, the two rows can be seen to be noticeably bent.
Nearby burning, hopefully it was controlled swaling to refresh an area of older heather or gorse for grazing purposes. Photograph taken during a reconnaissance walk on 27 March 2019.
Approaching the cairn on Water Hill, SX 6716 8130, elevation 489 metres (1604 feet) .....
It is assumed that this landmark cairn, which is visible for some distance, is the "Furnum Regis" mentioned in the 1240 Perambulation of Dartmoor. This was occasioned by order of King Henry III when he granted the lands of the Forest of Dartmoor to his brother Richard. It was decreed that the Sheriff of Devon should do this accompanied by twelve knights and their attendants. Richard became an Earl in 1225 and was known as Richard of Cornwall (died 1272, aged 63).
The passage-way cut into the grass-covered burial cairn was dug to rob the cairn; also it was covered with an iron roof and used as a lookout in WWII. It has been known as Natty's or Nancy's Castle.
Zoomed view to Princetown, showing the clump of trees near the brewery with the church to the right and part of the prison further right. This is 11.6 km (7.2 miles) distant - so the picture quality is not the best!
There is a good view from Water Hill (and also outside the door of the Warren House Inn) of enclosures on the lower slopes of Birch Tor, known as the Ace Fields. These are an important part of the history of Jan Reynolds, a young wastrel tin miner. One Sunday he and fellow church dodgers were drinking at the Tavistock Inn in Tavistock when a tall dark stranger entered the inn. Things changed and Jan Reynolds decided to get to Widecombe church, something to do with a milkmaid. While playing with his pack of cards in the church nasty stuff happened and the Devil came down to visit. There are different accounts as to what really happened but the crux of it was that Old Nick carried Jan off into the sky on his horse. As they passed over the New Inn and Birch Tor Mine, four aces fell from Jan's pocket and ended up as the Ace Fields across the tor. A good account of the story can be found on the Legendary Dartmoor - Jay Reynolds web page.
The fields are in fact enclosures for growing vegetables for the miners at the Birch Tor & Vitifer Mine.
North Bovey Tithe Map, 1841 (1/5th way in from left edge, 1/4 way up)
Plot 1213 - Heath Close, Headland Estate
Plot 1214 - Sandy Park, Headland Estate
Plot 1219 - Brake, Headland Estate
4th Ace Field not on the tithe map; therefore established after 1841?
The best way to see the four aces is from the front of the Warren House Inn after a dusting of snow.
An overview of the Ace Fields - click the image to see a much larger version. You need to drive around this image using the four arrow keys on a keyboard.
Borrowed from 23 August 2012.
Arthur's Seat on Water Hill cairn - this is the flat stone where King Arthur used to sit, looking west, contemplating the lands of Richard of Cornwall, bestowed on him by his brother, King Henry III, that Arthur, King of Cornwall, had claimed as his own. He used to sit here in reverie, on the occasional away-day from Cornwall.
A new occupier of King Arthur's Seat.
Twenty-two of us at Water Hill cairn on the day - the weather was not so kind!
These are the "bumps" seen in the distance at the beginning of the walk, just to the right of the "leg" from the cairn down to the road.
The footpath from the cairn passes close to a deep gert that comes from the direction of the Caroline Mine, to the west, half-surrounding the Warren House Inn.
Warren House Inn .....
The sign of the tinners' three rabbits (sometimes called three hares), this seen carved in churches and even in China, although usually the rabbits appears to have two ears but share only three ears between them. This sign is slightly different.
The site of Cap'n Moses Bawden's Bungalow, he was captain of the Birch Tor & Vitifer Mine across the road ..... the bungalow was also known as King's Bungalow (after King's Oven) .....the artefact below is located in front of the end of the wall at top left in this photograph. The building was demolished in 1976.
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 following the B3212 road from Two Bridges ro Moretonhampstead. There is roadside parking at the Warren House Inn as well as a small car park towards Moretonhampstead and another further away, over the hill, at Bennett's Cross, marked by yellow crosses and the P symbol on the map.
Distance - 4.8 km / 2.98 miles