Dartmoor National Park Authority

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Education Contact Details

Education Service,
Dartmoor National Park Authority,
Parke, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot,
Devon TQ13 9JQ
Tel: (01626) 832093


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The History of Dartmoor

Link to the print version of The History of Dartmoor PDF icon (45Kb - PDF Help)

The following are some selected dates in the history of Dartmoor.

About 295 million years ago  Magma intruded into the Earth’s crust pushing through much of the area we now know as Devon and Cornwall. This cooled to form granite and Dartmoor came into being.

c3500BCNeolithic people began building chambered tombs.
c2000BCPrehistoric people began erecting standing stones, stone rows and circles and burying their dead beneath cairns.
c1500BC  Stone huts were built and the Dartmoor landscape was divided into territories and fields by boundaries known as reaves.

Iron Age people build hillforts around

Dartmoor fringes.

cAD900Lydford founded as a burgh, or defended settlement, by Saxon kings of Wessex.
976A Royal Mint established at Lydford until 1016.
981Tavistock Abbey founded.
997Viking invaders attack Lydford, unsuccessfully, and Tavistock, destroying its first abbey.
1086The Domesday Book records a castle at Okehampton and implies another at Lydford.
1156First written record of tin extraction on Dartmoor.
1195Stannary courthouse and gaol built at Lydford.
1201Stannary Charter (tin) issued by King John.
1239King Henry III granted the manor and castle of Lydford and the Forest of Dartmoor to his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall and Poitou.
1240First known attempt to set down the boundary of the Forest of Dartmoor. The Sheriff of Devon was ordered to summon a jury of twelve knights to fix the boundary by a perambulation. This meant walking or riding round the boundary from one fixed point to the next - a journey of 50 miles (80.5km).
1262Peat cutting rights set out in a Charter of Henry III.
1272Trowlesworthy rabbit warren set up.
1278Buckland Abbey founded.
1305Ashburton, Chagford and Tavistock created as Stannary Towns.
1328Plympton becomes a stannary town.
1337Edward III created the Duchy of Cornwall to provide an income for his son and heir, Edward the Black Prince. The Black Prince was therefore the first Duke of Cornwall.
1345Population of Lydford parish doubled in 45 years.
1348The Black Death arrived in England. Many Dartmoor settlements deserted.
1494First recorded Great Court of tinners held on Crockern Tor.
1560Water supply via leat to Plymouth from River Meavy, near Sheepstor, proposed.
1591Drake's leat completed.
1608Twenty two newtakes existed on the moor.
c1700Inscribed stones marking the route between Ashburton and Tavistock set up.
1755Ashburton Trust administered local turnpike road.
1760Okehampton Trust administered local turnpike road.
1762Tavistock Trust administered local turnpike road.
1765Potato market existed at Two Bridges.
1772Moretonhampstead Trust administered local turnpike road.
1780Large newtakes began to be created on Dartmoor.
1780Last wild deer hunted on Dartmoor.
1789John Andrews became the first known visitor to be guided to Cranmere Pool.
1791Estimated 80,000 sheep were summered on Dartmoor.
1791Forest of Dartmoor Enclosure Bill failed in Parliament.
1793Devonport water supply leat began.
1806Princetown Prison foundation stone laid by Thomas Tyrwhitt on 20 March.
1810Elsewhere, William Wordsworth in his Guide to the Lakes stated that the Lake District should be '... a sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy'.
1820Haytor granite tramway opened.
1823The Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway, Devon’s first iron railroad, opened.
1830Lee Moor Pit opened to extract china clay.
1846Tramroad to Zeal Tor opened.
1849South Devon Railway reached Plymouth.
1854James Perrott of Chagford set up first letterbox on Dartmoor at Cranmere Pool.
185450,000 acres (20,235ha) of afforestation proposed on open moorland.
1858Official opening of the Lee Moor Tramway.
1858Railway reached Moretonhampstead.
1860Tavistock Golf Course opened on Whitchurch Down Common.
1861.Tottiford Reservoir completed
1861Military manoeuvres on Dartmoor.
186240,000 trees planted at Brimpts, near Dartmeet. Mostly felled in the First World War.
1863Okehampton Turnpike Trust wound up.
1864Elsewhere, Abraham Lincoln signed Act of Congress to set aside the Yosemite Valley in California to be used as a public park.
1866Tottiford Reservoir expanded.
1871London and South Western Railway reaches Okehampton.
1872Elsewhere, the world's first National Park established at Yellowstone, Wyoming, USA on 1 March.
1874Railway reached Lydford.
1875War Office established a permanent camp at Okehampton.
1875Sourton Ice Works opened.
1879Rattlebrook Tramway built.
1880Horse drawn coach services for visitors to Dartmoor started at Bovey Tracey.
1883Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) formed.
1883Railway reached Princetown.
1884Kennick Reservoir completed.
1888Hansford Worth presented a paper to Plymouth Institution advocating Dartmoor to be a Public Park, similar to American National Parks
1889Elsewhere, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) formed.
1893Dartmoor Exploration Committee formed and began archaeological excavations at Grimspound.
1893Work began on the construction of Burrator Dam.
1894Robert Burnard, Member of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, published The Acquisition of the Forestry of Dartmoor as a County Park.
1895Duchy of Cornwall granted licence to military.
1895Elsewhere, the National Trust formed.
1898Burrator Reservoir completed.
1898Mr Seale Hayne MP gave information in Parliament that over 15,000 acres (6070ha) of Dartmoor common land had been enclosed since 1820.
1901Military Manoeuvres Bill discussed but dropped by Parliament.
1901 -

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle, first published - as nine parts in The Strand Magazine

1907Venford and Trenchford Reservoirs completed.
1910Redlake Tramway built.
1910Red grouse introduced onto Dartmoor, but never thrived.
1911Day excursion trains from London to Dartmoor became available.
1911Official opening of the Red Lake Tramway to facilitate china clay extraction.
1912Elsewhere, the Society for the Preservation of Nature Reserves was founded.
1918Yelverton Golf Course opened on Roborough Down Common.
1919Scheme to build eight reservoirs to service five new hydro electric power stations dropped.
1919Elsewhere, the Forestry Commission created.
1919Duchy of Cornwall planted 5,000 acres (2,026ha) of moorland under coniferous trees at Fernworthy.
1921Brimpts Plantation replanted.
1925Dartmoor Pony Society formed.
1926Reservoir at Swincombe proposed.
1926Elsewhere, the Council for the Preservation of England was founded (CPRE).
1928Burrator Reservoir expanded.
1929Elsewhere, CPRE invited Government to investigate the possibility of national parks.
1929Elsewhere, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald appointed the Addison Committee to study the feasibility of national parks
1930Forestry Commission take over management of 3,100 acres (1,256 ha) of land for eventual afforestation.
1930Golden Dagger, the last tin mine to be worked on Dartmoor, closed.
1931Elsewhere, the Report of the Addison Committee recommended national reserves and nature sanctuaries should be established.
1931Rattlebrook Tramway closed.
1932Redlake Tramway closed.
1932Elsewhere, the Mass Trespass took place on Kinder Scout in the Peak District on 24 April.
1936Elsewhere, the Joint Standing Committee for National Parks set up with Sir Norman Birkett KC as Chairman.
1936Work began on the construction of Fernworthy Reservoir Dam.
1937Two Bills to harness Dartmoor's water for power and supply fail in Parliament.
1937Dartmoor Preservation Association meeting reaffirms its belief in a Dartmoor National Park.
1939Elsewhere, Access to Mountains Act passed but never implemented.
1942Elsewhere Land Utilisation in Rural Areas (Scott Report) published.
1942Fernworthy Reservoir completed.
1945Duchy of Cornwall leased Soussons Down to Forestry Commission which fenced, deep ploughed and planted 550 acres (223 ha) with conifers.
1945Elsewhere, National Parks in England and Wales (Dower Report) published in May. This proposed Dartmoor as a national park.
1945Elsewhere, Sir Arthur Hobhouse appointed Chairman of the Committee on National Parks in England and Wales in July.
1947Elsewhere, Committee on National Parks in England and Wales (Hobhouse Report) published in July. This delineated the area of Dartmoor to become a National Park.
1947Elsewhere, Conservation of Nature in Scotland (Ramsay Report) failed to create national parks in Scotland.
1947Public inquiry into military use of Dartmoor.
1949Ten houses built at Bellever to house Forestry Commission workers.
1949Elsewhere, National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act passed on 16 December. This created the National Parks Commission and set out the National Park purposes of preserving and enhancing the beauty of National Parks and promoting their enjoyment by the public.
1949Elsewhere, the Nature Conservancy Council created by Royal Charter.
1950There were estimated to be about 30,000 ponies on Dartmoor moorland.
1951Elsewhere, the Peak District confirmed as England’s first National Park on 17 April.
1951Planning permission granted to allow china clay extraction at Lee Moor.
1951Elsewhere Snowdonia confirmed as the first National Park in Wales on 18 October.
1951Dartmoor National Park designation confirmed on 30 October.
1952Dartmoor National Park Committee Members appointed; this Committee established as a Committee of Devon County Council.
1952Inquiry into military uses of Ringmoor Down.
1953Dartmoor Commoners’ Association came into being.
1954Myxomatosis introduced into the wild rabbit population.
1956Devon declared a Rabbit Clearance Area, thus bringing to an end the Dartmoor warrening tradition.
1957Avon Dam completed.
1957Taw Marsh water pumping wells installed to extract water; later found to be radio-active and emitting radon.
1958Last commercial peat cutting venture on Dartmoor failed.
1958Lee Moor clay extraction permission granted on appeal in January.
1960Road Traffic Act passed - now offence to drive off-road on Dartmoor.
1960The first Ten Tors Expedition assembled to walk a course of 55 miles (88.5km).
1962Railway line to Ashburton closed.
1963Water Resources Act required water authorities to seek new reservoir sites to meet future water need. Swincome Reservoir was proposed.
1964Railway line to Moretonhampstead closed.
1965Roadside banking built along A386 to prevent cars driving off-road.
1968Elsewhere, the Countryside Act replaces the National Parks Commission with the Countryside Commission.
1968Meldon Reservoir site chosen instead of Gorhuish (outside Dartmoor National Park) in November.
1969Voluntary Afforestation Agreement between the Forestry Commission and the Dartmoor National Park Authority.
1970Swincombe Reservoir site rejected by Parliament.
1972Meldon Reservoir officially opened.
1972Elsewhere, the Local Government Act directed County Councils to form separate National Park Committees to which planning and countryside functions were to be delegated.
1972Lee Moor china clay extraction and tipping permission granted after Public Inquiry.
1973Elsewhere, Defence Lands Committee (Nugent Report) published. Training areas on Dartmoor reduced by two square miles (5.18 sq km).
1974Elsewhere, Local Government Reorganisation enacted the 1972 Direction. Ian Mercer was appointed as the first National Park Officer for the Dartmoor National Park Authority.
1974Elsewhere, Local Government (Finance) Act created the National Park Supplementary Grant which provided 75% of the funds required by National Parks on the understanding that the County Council paid the remaining 25%.
1974Elsewhere National Park Policy Review Committee (Sandford Report) published.
1975Dartmoor identified by European Economic Community as a Less-Favoured Area on 28 April.
1977Continued Use of Dartmoor by Ministry of Defence for Military Training (Sharp Report) published. Proposed the setting up of the Dartmoor Steering Committee and Working Party and that training be transferred from Ringmoor Down to Cramber Tor.
1977First Dartmoor National Park Plan published.
1978Dartmoor declared a Special Investment Area by the Development Commission on 31 March.
1979The Dartmoor National Park Authority established its operational headquarters at Parke, Bovey Tracey.
1980Much of Dartmoor acquired Assisted Area Status.
1980Ringmoor Down Military Training Licence over 1,168 acres (4,73 ha) terminated by the National Trust.
1981South West Water licensed military training on 1,235 acres (500 ha) of Cramber Tor for two years.
1981Elsewhere Wildlife and Countryside Act passed.
1983Revised Afforestation Agreement between the Forestry Commission and Dartmoor National Park Authority signed on 4 February.
1983HRH the Prince of Wales visited Dartmoor National Park Authority headquarters at Parke, Bovey Tracey on 9 March, to meet staff and preside at Duchy Estate Management Steering Committee.
1983Dartmoor National Park Plan First Review published.
1983Cramber Tor licence extended to 1988.
1983Okehampton Bypass southern route through part of the Dartmoor National Park approved by Department of the Environment and Transport on 19 September.
1983Willsworthy military ranges planning application for modernisation granted by Secretary of State for the Environment.
1983Postbridge, Dartmoor National Park Authority's first purpose-built Information Centre, opened.
1984Dartmoor Commons Act passed. This established a legal right of access on foot and horseback on all Dartmoor common land and also vested powers to regulate grazing in the hands of a new Dartmoor Commoners’ Council.
1985There were estimated to be less than 3,000 ponies on Dartmoor.
1986First Dartmoor Commoners' Council members elected on 30 June.
1986The West Devon (Parishes) Order confirmed. Lydford parish, once incorporating the whole of the Forest of Dartmoor, was greatly reduced in size, and the Forest of Dartmoor parish was created. Sticklepath parish was newly created out of parts of Belstone, Sampford Courtenay and South Tawton parishes.
1988Review of Forestry Act brought in greater safeguards to broadleaved woodland on Dartmoor.

Restoration by Dartmoor National Park Authority of St Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton, completed on 14 May

1988Okehampton Bypass officially opened.
1989Dartmoor Pony Support Scheme began on 1 March.
1989Dartmoor National Park Byelaws came into effect on 17 April.
1989Elsewhere, Roadford Reservoir completed in October.
1990Severe storms destroy 3% of Dartmoor’s woodland (approx 107,000 trees) on 25 January.
1991Elsewhere, Fit for the Future - Report of the National Parks Review Panel (Edwards Report) published on 21 March.
1991Duchy of Cornwall renewed military training licence over 23,116 acres (9,355 ha) for 21 years on 29 September.
1991Dartmoor National Park Plan Second Review published on 30 October.

Monitoring Landscape Change project completed for all National Parks on 12 December. Dartmoor National Park estimated to be 368 square miles (954 sq km) in area not 365 as quoted since 1951.

1992From 1 April planning applications now sent direct to the Dartmoor National Park Authority instead of the relevant District Council.
1992Cramber Tor Licence renewed until 2.7.2001 on 1 July.
1993High Moorland Visitor Centre opened by HRH the Prince of Wales, at Princetown on 9 June.
1993New facilities for the disabled opened at Princetown and Bellever on 7 October.
1994Dartmoor designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) on 1 April.
1994Dartmoor boundary amended which meant the exclusion of Lee Moor in the National Park.
1994Dartmoor Traffic Management Strategy published in June.
1994Use of Roborough Down Training Area ceased on 1 October.
1994Fencing of A382 began after public inquiry and Secretary of State's decision on 1 August.
1995Dartmoor National Park Local Plan published.
1995Environment Act passed. This Act made provision for the establishment of free-standing National Park Authorities.
 The Act revises the statutory purposes of National Parks which are now designated for the purposes of (i) conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area; and (ii) promot- ing opportunities for the  understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities (... of the areas) by the public. Furthermore, if it appears that there is a conflict between those purposes, the National Park Authorities shall attach greater weight to the purposes of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. Other relevant authorities (ministers, public bodies, statutory undertakers, etc) now have a statutory duty to have regard to these purposes in the exercise of their own functions.
 The Environment Act also requires that each National Park Authority, in pursuing the purposes of the National Parks, shall seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park, but without incurring significant expenditure in doing so, and shall for that purpose, co-operate with local authorities and public bodies whose functions include the promotion of economic or social develop- ment within the area of the National Park.
1996October. New Dartmoor National Park Authority established as a shadow authority with powers to set up the necessary financial and administrative mechanisms for its future operation.
 The existing Dartmoor National Park Committee of 21 members, a committee of Devon County Council, continued to function to 31 March, 1997.
1996Moor Care, a part European funded programme to combat erosion on Dartmoor, initiated.
1997April. The free-standing National Park Authority is fully established.
 The new Authority comprises 26 Members. Seven Members are appointed by Devon County Council, seven by the District Councils (three from West Devon Borough Council, three from Teignbridge District Council and one from South Hams District Council). Twelve Members are Government appointees, five of whom represent parish council interests. The remaining seven Government appointees are usually local persons, with specialist knowledge or a particular interest in the National Park.
199829 September. Launch of the Dart Biodiversity Project which aims to achieve practical benefits for wildlife within the River Dart catchment area on Dartmoor.
199929 September. Elsewhere, Government announces two new National Parks in England to be created (South Downs and New Forest).
1999The International League for the Protection of Horses makes available reflective neck collars to help prevent roadside pony casualties.
199911 August - the moon moved between the earth and the Sun bringing a total eclipse to the West Country and a partial eclipse to the rest of the United Kingdom. This was the first total eclipse to cross the British Isles since June 1927, and the first to darken parts of Dartmoor and south Devon since a pair of eclipses in 1715 and 1724.
2000The Countryside and Rights of Way Act passed.
2000Dartmoor National Park Management Plan Consultation Draft published in January.
2000Dartmoor National Park Local Plan, Issues Papers, First Alteration 1995 - 2011 published in February.
2000Dartmoor National Park Authority’s, first Best Value Performance Plan 2000 - 2001 published in March.
2000Dartmoor Commoners’ Council introduce a regulation that from 1 January of each year all stallions put out on the Dartmoor commons must be accredited as being sound in conformation, strong, healthy, hardy, and displaying good male characteristics and being fit for Dartmoor’s demanding conditions with the aim to improve the quality of ponies. The Council also implemented the mandatory annual removal of all foals off the commons between 1 January and 1 April.
2000A moorland bird survey, co-funded between Dartmoor National Park Authority, MAFF, RSPB, the Devon Bird Watching and Preservation Association and English Nature, revealed that Dartmoor’s population levels of stonechat, whinchat, and meadow pipit are of international importance; Dartmoor populations of skylark, wheatear and Dartford warbler of national importance. Reflecting national declines, curlew and lapwing populations had fallen dramatically.
2001Dartmoor Biodiversity Action Plan published.
200150th Anniversary of Dartmoor as a National Park.
2001February. Foot and Mouth disease outbreak confirmed nationally, and on Dartmoor.
2001China clay companies relinquish planning permissions at Lee Moor and Shaugh Lake.
2002Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund established (with Government assistance).
2002Dartmoor Local Access Forum established.
2002State of Farming on Dartmoor, 2000 A report commissioned by the National Park Authority and carried out by the Centre for Rural Research, Exeter University, published.
2004Dartmoor Hill Farm Project launched.
2004Dartmoor National Park Local Plan: 1995 - 2011 Adopted version published.

Useful web links for further information:

Other factsheets:

Other Publications:

Other Publications (not available on-line):

Dartmoor National Park Guide

Pevensey Press, David & Charles

This publication may be photocopied for educational purposes under the Copyright Act 1988.

© Dartmoor National Park Authority 2004

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