Photographs of the Forest and Commons


These are notes on the more commonly used terms. A fuller and more comprehensive description can be found in both Crossing 1965 and Hemery 1983.

ANCIENT TENEMENT: farms that probably pre-date William 1's conquest. They lie within the Forest boundary.

BURY: artificial rabbit home.

BLOWING HOUSE: a mill that had water-powered bellows heating the ore smelt.

CIST: Bronze Age burial consisting of an open-bottomed stone sarcophagus, made of flat-sided granite slabs; some are below ground, others have a circle of stones around them and could have been the centre of a small earth mound or barrow.

CLAM: wooden footbridge.

CLAPPER: a drystone bridge consisting of stone piers constructed without any mortar, with flat stone cross-pieces or imposts laid between them.

CLEAVE: steep-sided valley.

CLITTER or CLATTER: a boulder field.

COMMONER: a person who has "rights of common", notably the right to put farm stock out to pasture on the open moors. Traditionally there are three classes: those who hold the 'Ancient Tenements'; those having Venville rights who live in areas bordering the open moors; all other Devonians except the denizens of Barnstaple and Totnes.

FOREST OF DARTMOOR: the land in the centre of the open moors is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. It was never densely forested but probably had more trees than at present. The term forest meant it was a royal hunting park, owned by the King.

GERT: gulley made by opencast mining.

IMPROVER: late C18th and early C19th developers who thought that the open moors could, with scientific method and with really prudent gordonomics, be farmed commercially. Many of their more ambitious enclosures are currently open to ramblers, being little different to unenclosed moorland.

LEAT: artificial water-course.

NEWTAKE: properly refers to up to 8 acres excluding bog and rock that could be enclosed by third-generation holders of the Ancient Tenements; it ended in 1796. It is also applied to the enclosures of Improvers.

POUND: Bronze Age enclosure, usually containing hut circles.

STONE ROW: a row of upright stones dating from the Bronze Age. Some are single, others double or triple. Can have larger terminating stones at one end, sometimes with cists, such as Assacombe.

TURNPIKE: toll roads. Toll gates or turnpikes were situated at various places such as Merivale. There were 8 managing trusts set up from the mid C18th onwards; railways bought about their demise and the last was wound up in in the second half of the C19th.

TURBURY: the right to abstract anything except 'vert (green trees, chiefly oak) and venison, that may do the holder good; i.e. peat for fuel, sand and stone for building, bracken for animal bedding.

VENVILLE: from 'fines villarum' or rents of the vills (farms/villages), being amounts payable for rights of turbury and pasturage.

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