Promoting awareness of the archaeology and history of North Devon

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Sites and places of archaeological or historical importance are given protection by various systems of designation and through the operation of the Town and Country Planning system administered by Local Authorities.  There is also oversight in England by Historic England, which makes the recommendations to government about which sites should be afforded protection.  Some of these sites are owned by English Heritage and others are in the care of the National Trust or of charitable trusts operating more locally.  The system has evolved piecemeal over the last century and a half and campaigns to protect archaeological and historic sites have parallels with, and share some pioneers with, campaigns to protect landscapes and natural history.  Probably the best way to find out which sites are protected and within which system is to consult the Historic Environment Record, which Local Authorities are required to maintain under the Town and Country Planning Acts.  There is an Historic Environment Record for Devon, another for the Dartmoor National Park, but sites lying in Devon within the Exmoor National Park are in the Exmoor Historic Environment Record.  As will be explained later, some of the Historic Environment Records relate to sites that have no form of statutory protection but contain features of local interest.

There is no sharp distinction between sites that may be classified as Listed Buildings and those to be classified as Scheduled Monuments, although the former are usually occupied or in some form of use, either currently or in the recent past, and the latter predictably include major archaeological features or military features.  Parks and gardens and battlefield sites may be listed or registered but have no statutory protection status.

Hiberno- Battlefields (non-statutory register)

Historic England maintains a non-statutory list of Battlefield sites, although there is a strong presumption against any form of development affecting such a site. Historic England has three principal criteria for the listing of a battlefield site:

The historical importance of the battle must be significant

The site to be listed must unequivocally be the site of the battle

The site must be recognisable today (so sites subsequently built over would not qualify)

There are currently 46 battlefield sites in England on the list. There are no listed battlefield sites in either North Devon or Torridge Districts.  The Battle of Torrington, although one of the last major engagements of the First English Civil War, does not qualify, in part because it was fought within an urban area which has greatly changed in the interim.  There is one battlefield site for which listing is being sought.  This is at Bidna, Northam, where in 1069 forces loyal to King William I defeated a Norse army led by two sons of King Harold. Arnold (2014) presents a cogent case for the battlefield site lying at Bidna and suggests that had Harold’s sons not been defeated, then there was a real possibility that the Norman Conquest of England might have been put in serious jeopardy, if not reversed.  

Listed Buildings (statutory listing)

Within England by far and away the greatest number of sites afforded statutory protection are Listed Buildings.  These now have protection under the Town and Country Planning Acts and so alterations, including most repair work, changes of use, and demolition require planning consent.  Responsibility for designation and grading lies with Historic England but the day-to-day management rests with owners and is subject to planning permission from Local Authorities.  There are three levels of classification: Grade 1 (buildings and structures of exceptional interest); Grade 2* (buildings and structures deemed particularly important) and Grade 2 (buildings and structures of special interest or of local importance).  At the present time around 2.5% of England’s Listed Buildings are Grade 1; 5.8% are Grade 2* with the rest falling into Grade 2.  Historic England can receive suggestions from the public, local authorities or charities as to buildings worthy of listing and then makes its recommendations to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for formal approval.  There is a presumption that any building dating to earlier than 1700 largely in original condition will be listed and that most buildings dating to before c 1850 will also be listed.  Thus, in North Devon and Torridge all the medieval parish churches have Listed Building status as do many of the older farm-houses and cottages.  There are discretionary grants available to owners of Listed Buildings and a professional body, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, to accredit professionals working in this field and to maintain adherence to a Code of Professional Conduct.

Parks and Gardens (non-statutory register)

Historic England maintains a register of parks and gardens deemed to be of significance.  The register was started in 1983 under provisions in the National Heritage Act of that year.  The principal aims of the register are to celebrate the unique qualities of parks, gardens, open spaces, urban squares, cemeteries, and war-memorials and to encourage their protection and elevate them to the status of a ‘material consideration’ in the planning process.  There are currently c 1600 parks and gardens on Historic England’s register.   There are 14 such parks and gardens listed in Torridge District and 12 in North Devon District.  They range from classic examples of landscaped park and formal garden surrounding mansions and substantial houses such as at Arlington Court; Castle Hill, Filleigh; Clovelly Court; Hartland Abbey; Tapeley Court, Westleigh; and Tawstock Court, through the surviving parks where the house has been demolished such as at Dunsland, Bradford and Stevenstone, St Giles in the Wood to Victorian cemeteries in Barnstaple and Great Torrington, to quite modern gardens created from scratch such as at Marwood Hill and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Rosemoor garden, in St Giles in the Wood parish, just south of Great Torrington.   The list is contained in the Appendix.     

Scheduled Monuments (statutory listing)

These are principally archaeological sites or major historic buildings, and protection goes back to the 1882 Ancient Monuments Protection Act which gave special status to 25 sites in England and created the post of Inspector of Ancient Monuments, the first one being Augustus Pitt-Rivers, a pioneering Victorian archaeologist.  The system was amended in 1913 by a further act which made possible the scheduling of medieval structures.  The current system now operates under the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.  Many such sites are under the management of English Heritage, with Historic England being the body responsible for making recommendations on further potential scheduled sites to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.  There are now more than 20,000 Scheduled Monuments in England.  Protection under the Act makes it a criminal offence to destroy or damage a monument or carry out works or make alterations (such as afforestation), use a metal detector, or remove any object from the site without prior consent.  Protection from demolition, damage or change of use would normally be part of the planning system.  There are many Scheduled Monuments in North Devon and Torridge Districts, ranging from large hill-forts such as Clovelly Dykes or Hillsborough at Ilfracombe to the standing stones on Exmoor and the many barrows, marked on the Ordnance Survey Maps as tumuli.   The system also includes many significant shipwrecks, such as that of HMS Montague, off the south-west coast of Lundy.

The statutory system continues to add new sites and monuments and Historic England notes that 362 new Listed Buildings, 41 Scheduled Monuments (including shipwrecks) and 13 Parks and Gardens were listed or registered in 2021.  There is one location in North Devon which might be thought to merit some form of statutory designation but which fails to meet the criteria for any of them. This is Braunton Great Field.  Predictably it fails to meet the nature conservation criteria, but it is not a building or structure thus cannot be Listed as such and as it is in agricultural use it hardly meets the criteria for being a Scheduled Monument, especially as the dating of many of its surviving features is impossible to ascertain.

Historic Environment Record (non-statutory status, but required under the Planning Acts)

Historic Environment Records are maintained by County and Unitary Councils, both as a record for local interests and to assist in the planning process.  Entries to the HER can come from members of the public, archaeological and historical societies, and as an outcome of the statutory processes of listing and scheduling as outlined above.   The HER can be accessed through the Heritage Gateway and is organised by parish.  There is no rigid system within the HER and some parishes appear to have voluminous entries and others are rather sparse.  As with much associated with archaeology, this often reflects previous investigations rather than an absolute lack of sites meriting some sort of records.  Different principles too have been applied in different cases, thus, for instance, at the Fremington army camp site, individual buildings have their own unique entries but for the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway (the line south from Great Torrington to Peters Marland and beyond) there is a single record, which occurs in the listing of each parish through which the line ran.  The HER contains records of monuments and buildings but also of sites of archaeological finds ranging from Mesolithic flint scatters to Bronze Age axes.  The HER also includes entries on other historical features: including things like burghal strips, the thin properties running at right angles to streets in places that were medieval boroughs such as Black Torrington and Sheepwash; the centres of manors specifically mentioned in the Domesday Book; sites of smithies marked on the First Edition Six Inch Ordnance Survey Maps of the late 1880s; and fields recorded as float meadows in the Tithe Apportionments of 1838-1845.       

Local Lists of Buildings and Sites of Interest

These lists are attached to the Local Plans (in the case of the NDAS area: the North Devon and Torridge Plan and the Exmoor National Park Plan).  As yet, the current plans adopted do not have such lists, although they have been produced for former plans.  An important function of the Local Lists is to give prominence to sites which lack any statutory protection, but which are clearly of at least local, if not national, importance, such as Braunton Great Field or Torrington Commons. North Devon Council outlines its criteria for the inclusion of buildings of local interest as follows:

To be included on the list, a building must meet both of the following criteria:

Remain as a largely intact (or retrievable) example of its architectural style, innovation and craftsmanship or period of build

Be prominent by virtue of its position within the townscape or landscape.

In addition, it should possess at least two of the following qualities that contribute positively to the amenities of its locality:

1. The building is the work of an architect of regional or local note  

2. It has qualities of age, style materials or any other characteristics which reflect those of at least a substantial number of buildings in its wider context

3. It relates by age, materials, or in other significant ways to adjacent statutorily listed buildings and to the wider context

4. Individually or as part of a group, it is a reminder of the development of the settlement of which it forms a part or as part of an earlier phase in its growth

5. It has significant association with established features of a settlement, such as burgage plots and town parks    

6. The building has a landmark quality or contributes significantly to public spaces

7. It reflects the traditional functional character or former uses within the area

8. It has significant historical associations with local people or former events

9. It contributes to the character or appearance of the area


Arnold, N (2004) The defeat of the sons of Harold in 1069.  Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association.  146.  33-56.  


List of parks and gardens on the Historic England Register, as of the end of the year 2021

Listed Buildings and Scheduled Monuments within North Devon and Torridge Districts are too numerous to be listed.

 Name                                       Parish

Annery                                      Monkleigh

Arlington Court                          Arlington

Bear Street Cemetery                 Barnstaple

Buckland House                         Buckland Filleigh

Castle Hill                                  Filleigh

Clovelly Court                            Clovelly

Cock Rock, Croyde                    Georgeham

Dunsland House                        Bradford

Great Torrington Cemetery        Great Torrington

Halsdon House                          Dolton

Hartland Abbey                         Hartland

Heanton Satchville                     Huish

Kenwith Castle                          Abbotsham

Kings Nympton Park                  Kings Nympton

Marwood Hill                             Marwood

Moreton Park                            Bideford

Penrose Allotments                   Barnstaple

Portledge House                       Alwington

Rosemoor RHS Gardens           St Giles-in-the-Wood

Saunton Court                          Braunton

Stevenstone                             St Giles-in-the-Wood

Tapeley Court                           Westleigh

Tawstock Court                         Tawstock

Tetcott Manor                            Tetcott

Upcott West                               Pilton

Youlstone                                  Shirwell