<< Our Photo Pages >> Smallacombe Rocks Settlement - Ancient Village or Settlement in England in Devon

Submitted by AngieLake on Sunday, 05 August 2012  Page Views: 6797

Multi-periodSite Name: Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Country: England County: Devon Type: Ancient Village or Settlement
Nearest Town: Bovey Tracey  Nearest Village: Widecombe in the Moor
Map Ref: SX7558378211
Latitude: 50.590333N  Longitude: 3.759019W
4Almost Perfect
3Reasonable but with some damage
2Ruined but still recognisable as an ancient site
1Pretty much destroyed, possibly visible as crop marks
0No data.
-1Completely destroyed
2 Ambience:
2Not Good
0No data.
4 Access:
5Can be driven to, probably with disabled access
4Short walk on a footpath
3Requiring a bit more of a walk
2A long walk
1In the middle of nowhere, a nightmare to find
0No data.
3 Accuracy:
5co-ordinates taken by GPS or official recorded co-ordinates
4co-ordinates scaled from a detailed map
3co-ordinates scaled from a bad map
2co-ordinates of the nearest village
1co-ordinates of the nearest town
0no data

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Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : Looking over Hut 3 towards Haytor. (Vote or comment on this photo)
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement is situated almost due North of the popular Haytor Rocks on Dartmoor. The gigantic outcrops of granite that form Haytor Rocks lie near the B3387 from Bovey Tracey to Widecombe in the Moor and are visible from the south east coast at Teignmouth. It isn't very peaceful, as holidaymakers, and locals alike, regularly visit this stunning scenic area with its panoramic views.

The easiest car park to use [both are S of the road] is the one at the top of the hill, though there is a Dartmoor National Park information centre and public conveniences in the lower car park.
If you want to get away from the crowds, just climb over the hill top and follow a fairly easy track with wonderful scenic views.

Butler writes about Smallacombe Rocks Settlement in his 'Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Volume One - The East'. My copy is published in 1991.

For ease of reference I've drawn a plan to illustrate the layout of the remaining huts as per Butler's own, on page 26 of the book. He tells us that the four hut circles (which he describes as being "in good condition") were excavated by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee in 1896.

While exploring I found the walls of three huts, and by taking a right-fork in the tracks by an east-west running reave, am sure that the first I came across was his 'Hut 3' ("7.4m"). While sitting in it before leaving I couldn't see an entrance/exit, and none was shown in Butler's plan. He describes "a large block protruding 0.4m above floor level near the east wall and set firmly in the ground." There was a large earthfast stone *outside* this hut to SE. He tells us: "Finds were meagre, only a few pottery shards and some charcoal."

From this hut circle I headed up slope to a prominent wind-blown tree set into the remains of a reave that runs parallel to the lower one. A pointed stone higher up the rise caught my eye. On approach I found there were actually two, but the second was the eastern portal of the entrance to what Butler calls "Hut 2". I felt there was something special about this one. Inside, the occupant would have a beautiful view of the spectacular Haytor Rocks through his/her doorway. Also (as viewed today) the 'Goddess-effect' was captured at exactly due South between the portals. Butlers says: "The interior of hut 2 (6.7m) is well below ground level with an entrance to the south but the only finds were a pebble of red grit and a single piece of flint.

Next I headed westwards slightly over the brow of the hill to the north. All the while a ridge above Widecombe, like a sleeping dragon's back, was a dominant feature to the west. (Honeybag, Chinkwell, and Bell Tors run N to S along its spine.) This must have been Hut 4 ("9.2m"), a "dwelling", which Butler says was not completely excavated. The early archaeologists intended to return but didn't. What had been found there interested Butler greatly: ".. a much used flint knife and fragments of at least two pots, as well as a 'rubber' stone. Extensive layers of charcoal near the north-west walls indicated the position of fireplaces."

I didn't actually find Hut 1, but wandering around the area marked '5' in Butler's plan it struck me how well this area would have served the settlers as a gathering area, overlooking the lower part of their settlement, yet flanked by some pretty unusual piles of granite, some of which might have represented rock 'idols'. All sorts of shapes and 'heads' and 'creatures' can be picked out in the stacked piles of granite on Dartmoor. Over all of this, I can't help wondering if the view towards the breast-like protrusions of Haytor was the reason for the positioning of this settlement in the first place.

Butler's take on it's position: "Tucked in the lee of Smallacombe Rocks"... "high above the Becka Brook".. "commands an extensive view westwards over the river 100 m below." He mentions the "stone pit" close by Hut 4 but makes no further comment on it. "The reave ends over a kilometre away to the east, one of the few where both the original terminals can be identified." .... He describes the enclosure walls, then seems to agree with my own thoughts:
"The enclosed area contains a lot of dead ground with much surface stone as well as the tor rocks occupying the available space, which suggests that the position of the settlement rather than usable ground was the primary consideration."

Update December 2019: This settlement is featured on the Prehistoric Dartmoor Walks (PDW) website - see their entry for the Smallacombe Rocks Settlement. The settlement is also recorded as Pastscape Monument No. 445002, as MDV8055 (Prehistoric Settlement at Smallacombe Rocks, Ilsington) on the Devon and Dartmoor HER, and scheduled as Historic England List Entry No. 1002531 (Settlement on Smallacombe Rocks).
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Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : A portal [Hut 2] with a magical view, due South, capturing the 'Goddess' type rocks of Haytor in its frame. (Another pointy stone lies further down the slope). 22nd July 2012. (Vote or comment on this photo)

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : Looking across the interior of Hut 2 towards Haytor at South. (Vote or comment on this photo)

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : A hand-drawn plan of Smallacombe Rocks Settlement after Butler. (His invaluable series of books 'Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities'. This one is on page 26 of Volume One - The East. 1991 edition.) (Vote or comment on this photo)

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : This is the view (to SE [approx]) of Haytor from the top of the rocks, on the grassy level 'gathering area' between huge piles of granite (see previous photo) in area 5 on Butler's plan. It's like being on a stage, with this wonderful view focussing on Haytor. (Vote or comment on this photo)

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : Piles of granite at Smallacombe Rocks (in the area marked '5' on Butler's plan), just to the left (east) of next view (towards Haytor), on the 'gathering area' mentioned in site description. One can imagine how ancient settlers may have imagined they saw rocky 'gods' in these shapes. (Vote or comment on this photo)

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : Looking approx SSE across the interior of Hut 4 towards Haytor. The perimeter of this hut circle was very overgrown with ferns in July.

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : Looking west across the inside of Hut 4 at Smallacombe Rocks settlement. The large stone sticking up in its westerly wall points upwards to Honeybag Tor, at the north of a prominent N-S ridge above Widecombe.

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : Not so easy to appreciate from this angle, but the view of Hut 3 on approach.

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : After passing this E-W reave [on 22nd July], I took the right fork in the trackway, which led me to Hut 3.

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : The same large rock looking back towards Haytor. Maybe it once stood upright as a waymarker?

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : A huge stone sitting beside the trackway on the way to the settlement.

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : Past the burned area (in July 2012!), the granite tramway - once used to haul chunks of granite from Haytor quarry to lower ground - crosses the track to Smallacombe Rocks settlement. About halfway there, the next piece of wider trackway visible, as are the rocks.

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : The pointed rock below the north face of Haytor Rocks is on the right here, and just to left of centre can be seen the narrow pathway (darkest patch of shadow) that leads towards Smallacombe Rocks in the distance (above the patch of burned vegetation in the valley, caused by 'swaling'.) (2 comments)

Smallacombe Rocks Settlement
Smallacombe Rocks Settlement submitted by AngieLake : On the north side of Haytor Rocks look for this pointed stone, which lies above a trackway leading to Smallacombe Rocks.

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"Smallacombe Rocks Settlement" | Login/Create an Account | 2 News and Comments
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Re: Smallacombe Rocks Settlement - anvil stone in hut 3 by AngieLake on Monday, 27 August 2012
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Butler writes (in his ‘Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Volume Five – The Second Millennium B.C.’, published in 1997) on the subject of ‘Hut Interiors’ [pages 135-137]:
“Other less common features not entirely satisfactorily explained include ‘anvil’ stones, smallish flat or upended slabs embedded in the floor, either singly or in an arc around part of the interior. They were found in many of the Grimspound huts, in hut 1 Foale’s Arrishes and in hut 3 Smallacombe Rocks, the Committee suggesting they may have served either as a kind of chopping stone for breaking open bones, nuts, etc., or perhaps less likely as retainers for logs used as sleeping couches. Thirteen were found altogether at Shaugh Moor, both from the huts and elsewhere in the enclosure. Mrs Minter identified one of these stones in hut 2 Heatree Common, and at hut 3 Metherall , R.H. Worth showed that a similar earthfast slab had indeed been used as an anvil by the tinners, at least judging by the thick layer of tin slag that surrounded it."
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Re: Smallacombe Rocks Settlement - Haytor's symbolism? by AngieLake on Tuesday, 07 August 2012
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Maybe the ancient settlers at Smallacombe Rocks - and other Dartmoor dwellers with a similar view of Haytor's protruding rocks - saw them as symbolic of bull's horns rather than a Mother Earth/ Goddess shape?
Here is an example, from the far NE of Dartmoor at Mardon Down:
and the ridge mentioned in the Smallacombe Rocks settlement's description, including Honeybag and Chinkwell Tors, also features in the view from Mardon:
(I think I was using a film camera rather than digital at Mardon, so apologies for the quality of photos. Also a duller day.)
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