On Sunday 16th September, the DPA had a visit to the replica Neolithic / Bronze Age roundhouse at Lower Merripit, outside Postbridge. I believe there were about 27 of us and following an introductory chat outside the farm house, we walked a short distance to the roundhouse. Lower Merripit is one of the oldest farms on Dartmoor, being one of the original Dartmoor tenements and an original longhouse. During renovations a few years ago, a fire pit was uncovered in the house which still contained ashes: they were carbon-dated to 1235 AD.
The roundhouse was constructed by the owner of farm with the assistance of a variety of craftsmen and helpers. It was started in the summer of 2001 and finished in May 2002. It is about 30-feet across, being built as a larger, ceremonial house. A description of the construction can be seen HERE. It has been used through the years as a meeting place and concert venue for many musical events that can be seen on the web site. The farm is a working farm with an active musical involvement including the making of flutes and drums, music downloads, prints and nooks, as well as related workshop events.
The house can hold up to 70 people, so it is something like a “village hall” in its use, as might be surmised about some of the larger hut circles seen on the moor.
The photograph above shows the doorway, which faces in an easterly direction. There are a pair of woven hazel and willow doors that can be covered by hung skins in cold weather.
Entering the house was a bit of an experience – it was dark. There is a fire hearth in the centre of the house and once the fire was lit and the eyes had had time to get used to the firelight and that coming in through the door, it became quite cosy. The smoke from the fire formed quite a cloud in the roof that seeped out through the thatch. There was no chimney. During the time in the house, there was a description and playing of flutes down the ages and how they were made, including ancient bone flutes up to those made at Merripit from different woods, including elder.
The last photograph shows a side view of the roundhouse, with the door at the left – where someone is coming out: they serve to show the size of the house. Smoke can be seen wafting out through the thatch.
We started arriving for the visit from about 10.30 for 11 am and we stayed until after 1.00 pm. It was a very interesting time and gave a very good idea of how our ancestors lived, especially on Dartmoor.
Nearby, there is a replica stone row and kistvaen in the adjacent small grassy field.
There is another functioning round house on Dartmoor at the Heatree Activity Centre, HERE. My wife and I believe we saw another one some years ago, over a hedge somewhere where there were unwelcoming dogs and I probably didn’t take a photograph – can any one say where that might have been?