From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present


Lost Village
50° 36′ 47.92″ N 3° 50′ 14.57″ W
1300 BC

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Grimspound is a late Bronze Age settlement consisting of a set of twenty-four hut circles surrounded by a low stone wall, situated in the valley between Hameldown Tor and Hookney Tor, on Dartmoor in Devon.

Grimspound was first mapped by A. C. Shillibear in 1829 but a 1855 plan by Nick Whitely, shows hut circles outlying the perimeter wall, unrecorded elsewhere. In 1893, an archaeological dig was carried out by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, which recorded many details of Grimspound as well as, controversially, making a reconstruction of the site.

The site was first settled in about 1300 BC, the twenty-four hut circles are surrounded by a massive granite perimeter wall, which is thought to have stood at 1.7 metres in places. The roundhouses, with an average diameter of 3.4 metres, were each built of a double ring of granite slabs with a rubble infill, a technique still used in dry-stone walling. Hut 3 has a surviving porch way, with the two jamb stones still upright, although the lintel has fallen. Artefacts discovered include pottery, scrapers and pot boilers. Organic remains such as wood and textiles have not survived owing to the acid nature of the soil

The site is enclosed by a stone wall, interrupted by a large, paved entrance facing south, uphill towards Hameldown. The wall would have been quite substantial, in some places its ruins are more than 4.5 m in thickness. Although the site is of limited value from a defensive point of view, the wall was to keep livestock in, and predators out. On the northern edge of the site is the start of the West Webburn river, which was the main water source for the settlement.

Although twenty-four stone hut circles have been officially recorded here, there are probably remains of more within the enclosure, many of these hut circles feature L-shaped porches. The doorways are paved with naturally flat stones, and all face both downhill and away from the prevailing wind. The huts range between 2.7 to 4.5m in diameter, with walls about 1 m thick, built of upright granite slabs packed with an infill of rubble and possibly peat. Excavations at sites such as Holne Moor have shown that such huts had an interior plank lining.

The hearth was variously located at the centre of the hut, or opposite the door. Ash from the hearths was found to be from oak and willow twigs. A lack of log remains and the presence of peat ash shows that by the time of Grimspound's occupation, the local forests had been replaced by enough peat buildup for it to be cut for fuel. Cooking holes contained granite pot boilers, pieces of stone heated in the fire and dropped into pots of water sunk into the ground. To the right of each hut entrance is a raised, level area, which the Committee called a "dais" and which was probably the sleeping area.