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Widecombe History Group Talks
Dartmoor National Park Authority's Archaeologist Andy Crabbe takes a look at the Archaeology and Industry of the Haytor Area.
Is it Hey Tor, High Tor or Haytor, it really does not matter, but what is important is the wide variety of archaeological evidence that there is to witness on and around Haytor Down. The first illustration that Andy showed us was an engraving by Spreat c1845 of Haytor, and in the foreground could be seen the famous granite railway. This unique piece of industrial archaeology, so much of which is still there to see and enjoy today, with its importance to the Haytor quarries, can be traced running down to the Stover Canal.
Around Haytor there are many early prehistoric remnants, hut circles, cairns, bronze age reeves, as well as much medieval evidence, to be seen by the careful observer.
Evidence of the medieval ‘ridge and furrow’ cultivations, remains of homesteads, the early wedge and groove method of splitting granite, and the more recent ‘feathers and tares‘. Andy also posed the question as to why 50% of the population of Dartmoor seemed to disappear in 1348/49, the period of the infamous ‘Black Death'.
Looking at the 1680s when tin mining and tin streaming was at its most active has also left evidence for the curious to look out for when walking over this area.
Looking once again at the quarries around Haytor, there is much to see at nearby Holwell Quarry, Emsworthy, Harrow Barrow and some small scale work quite close to the well known Haytor one.
George Templar is believed to have used about 1700 granite ‘rails’ to build his famous railway and various illustrations were shown of the quarry with men drilling the bed rock before blasting, the tripod cranes used for loading, the cottages of the work men and by 1829 it was a very busy industrial site.
The fact that the military used this area during 1853-1900 was mentioned and a couple of old postcard images were shown depicting the uniforms of the army at that time, and the camp site itself. Nearby is Saddle Tor and up to 7000 men were believed to have been encamped there.
To those who know the area today, it was interesting to note how the vegetation has altered over the last 100-150 years. The bracken and thorn trees were far less evident then, as today it is becoming inundated.
What was really brought home to the meeting was that to have a walk around Haytor Down with a guide to point out the wide variety of man’s past activities, will be well worthwhile.
Andy has agreed to take our group on such a walk on Wednesday 12th June, meeting at the lower car park at 6.00 p.m. when he will be able to show us evidence of the influence of man on the area over the past 4.5 thousand years.
Thanks were recorded to Geoffrey Fenton for fetching his laptop so that the illustrations for the talk were able to be projected on screen.
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