Merrivale Settlement Site
Bronze Age Huts and Enclosures
Merrivale, Dartmoor, Devon  OS Map Ref SX55557495
OS Maps - Landranger 191 (Okehampton & North Dartmoor), Explorer OL28 (Dartmoor)


Merrivale settlement enclosure
Merrivale settlement site - view looking east over the central enclosure.
The extensive settlement site at Merrivale exists to the northeast of the famous stone rows that cross Longash Common with huts and enclosures lying on either side of the B3357 road as it makes its way eastwards uphill towards Rundlestone. It consists of four enclosures and nearly forty hut remains although interestingly most of these lie outside of the enclosures perhaps suggesting that the enclosures were either the preserve of tribal leaders and hence cordoned off from the rest of the population or that the walls of the enclosures were designed to pen livestock with the internal huts being the shelter for shepherds. The most clearly defined enclosure occurs towards the centre of the settlement (picture above and below right) and consists of an oval of stone and rubble nearly 3 metres wide and up to a metre and a half high measuring 60 metres by 30 metres oriented northeast-southwest. There is a small gap in this wall towards the north which may have been the original entrance and a single hut stands nearby while evidence of later use of the site can be seen close to the western wall where a curious circular domed block of granite is the remains of a medieval apple crusher. An enclosure that stands a short distance to the northwest is a similar size although not as easy to spot on the ground and contains a pair of hut remains while the enclosure to the southeast is much smaller and even more difficult to make out, a forth enclosure to the north seems to be partially overlain by the modern road.
The stone bases of the huts that lie scattered about the site are evidence that Merrivale was quite a well populated area and it might be noted that the huts are in general larger than those found at places such as Sharpitor and Drizzlecombe, ranging in size from 5-10 metres in diameter. To get an impression of what these Bronze Age homes may have looked like have a look at the reconstruction of roundhouses on the Flag Fen page. It seems evident that there was a clear demarcation of the monuments at Merrivale as the settlement area stands away from and slightly upslope of the stone rows and cairns and while this might point to the two areas being in use at different times it seems more likely that they are contemporary with the separation of the areas for the living (the huts) and the areas for the dead (the cairns and rows) being a deliberate act on the part of the prehistoric inhabitants of the moor.
Hut circle at Merrivale  Enclosure at Merrivale
Left: One of the huts of the settlement. Right: Medieval apple crusher with enclosure walls beyond.
 
Google satellite image of part of the settlement site at Merrivale with many hut circles clearly visible especially towards the top and bottom of the view. The walls that mark the central enclosure can be seen to the left of centre. (Zoom and pan map to see the rest of the Merrivale complex)

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