Twenty-two DPA members and friends gathered near the Warren House Inn on Thursday 25th April to visit Hurston Ridge double stone row. The weather was not the best, in fact, it rained occasionally and there was a breeze.
The first item of interest was a WB stone near the road, seen while walking toward Moretonhampstead. The letters “WB” are difficult to see now, occupying the upper six inches on the face of the stone. This is one of a series of 15 mainly similar stones that mark the bounds of Headland Warren, where rabbits were bred to feed the miners. The “15” includes Bennet’s Cross, also marked “WB”. The stones date from around 1780 (Dave Brewer, 2002, Dartmoor Boundary Markers, Halsgrove, Tiverton, pp. 265-268).
Just over 100 metres from the car park, we turned off the road into a good green track that led northwards. We soon saw signs of Water Hill Mine in the form of a quite extensive gert. Within sight of where the track crossed the gert, a filled-in shaft was visible.
The photograph above is taken from where the track crosses the gert (visible to the left of the clear grassy track) – it shows the roughly circular pound that is marked as Furnum Regis or King’s Oven on maps. This is approximately 70 yards across. The name implies that there was once an old smelting house hereabouts. Furnum Regis is recorded as a landmark on the 1240 Perambulation of Dartmoor, after King Henry III granted the Forest of Dartmoor lands to his brother, Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall.
Where the track passes by King’s Oven, we find one of Dartmoor’s mysteries – the V stones. The upper ends of the arms are drilled with a hole but there seems to be no good explanation except that they may have been anchorages for some sort of machinery in the past.
A spurious explanation is that they point the way to the Warren House Inn.
In the central area of the King’s Oven pound is an abandoned millstone, remarked on by Robert Burnard as looking like the nether stone of a crazing mill i.e. the bottom stone, although there is some confusion the stone he remarked on may have been removed. The indications are that there was tin activity was established here prior to 1240, 780 years ago.
Hurston Ridge stone row consists of two rows, with 99 stones arranged in 49 pairs. There is a ruined cairn at the uphill end (just behind the camera) with one stone visible, probably of the retaining circle.
There is a very obvious blocking stone at the downhill end of the rows. There is also an obvious curve or bend in the rows.
Water Hill is the hill behind Warren House Inn, elevation 489 metres (1604 feet). It is topped by a Bronze Age burial cairn that consists of stones covered by grass on top which is a separate pile of stones. It has extensive views, including to Princetown where the trees, church and prison can be seen.
The group did not linger long on the top of Water Hill as the weather was not turning any more kindly and some were beginning to feel its effects.
The “Four Aces” or “Ace Fields” are seen from Water Hill and any area elevated near Warren House Inn. They are said, in folklore, to have derived from a pack of cards played with by Jan Reynolds in the church at Widecombe that he dropped as the Devil carried him off across the skies. They are four fields with supposedly rabbit-proof walls used for growing vegetables to feed miners in the area, particularly the once-busy Birch Tor & Vitifer mine.
After descending from Water Hill to the road beside Warren House Inn, the site of Bawden’s (or King’s Oven) Bungalow is passed on the way back to the car park. This was where Cap’n Moses Bawden, the captain of the Birch Tor & Vitifer Mine lived. It was demolished in 1976.
Another Dartmoor oddity is found on the site of the old bungalow – a Telegraph Marker. There are seven of these recorded between Moretonhampstead Square and Callington Road, Tavistock. I have not been able to find mention of them anywhere else.
An old miners’ haunt, the Warren House Inn, one of the highest inns in England (the 4th highest?).
The inn sign features a common sign of three rabbits, or three hares, seen as far afield as China. They are usually depicted as three rabbits, each with two ears but sharing only three ears between them.