The Dartmoor National Park Authority has owned the Grade I listed Dartmoor longhouse, Higher Uppacott, since 1979, purchasing it with the help of a 50% grant from the Countryside Commission.
A longhouse is a medieval farmhouse in which both people and cattle were accommodated. Higher Uppacott is one of the few remaining examples of this historic building type which has retained its original unaltered shippon (cattle shelter) - preserving and maintaining the building in its unaltered state was the prime motivation behind the purchase. In 2001 the historic wing (a separate dwelling since at least the 19th century) and adjoining outbuildings, converted to domestic use in the 1970s and known as Uppacott, came onto the market. With the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant of 75% the Dartmoor National Park Authority was able to purchase this and thus reunite the two halves of the building.
Built in the middle of the 14th century, Higher Uppacott started life as a single storey thatched building with a central cross passage dividing the shippon at the lower end from the domestic accommodation in the upper end; the hall (main living area) would have been heated by an open hearth fire and everything took place here from sleeping to cooking and eating. The upper end was rebuilt sometime towards the end of the 15th century and low partitions inserted between the cross passage and hall and the hall and the inner room, but it wasn't until the middle of the 16th century that the first bedroom was created at the upper end of the house above the inner (far end) room with a partition running the full height of the building; access to the bedroom was via a ladder from the hall. More modernisation occurred towards the end of the 16th century with the building of the fireplace and another bedroom above the cross passage, but it wasn't until the mid 17th century that a floor was inserted above the hall creating a fully two-storied house. The house clearly enjoyed increasing prosperity throughout the 1600s and sometime in the second half of the 17th century a parlour wing was added to the house, with its own fireplace and bedroom above. Finally in the 18th or early 19th century a stable and shippon were added to the 17th century wing which at this stage had become a separate cottage; these farm buildings were then converted into domestic use in the 1970s.
One of the things that makes Higher Uppacott so special is that its development from its medieval beginnings through to the present day is still evident within the fabric of the building and it tells its own story through key architectural features. This virtual tour tells the story of Higher Uppacott by combining expert interpretation of its historic features with the memories of people who have lived in there throughout the last 80 years.
As part of this virtual tour you can also visit the deserted medieval settlement at Houndtor, to look at the archaeological remains of longhouses that date from around a hundred years earlier than Higher Uppacott. The settlement at Houndtor was discovered in the 1950s and excavated by a local amateur archaeologist, Mrs Minter, in the 1960s. Her work established the national importance of the site and the significance of medieval archaeology on Dartmoor.
The site consists of the remains of 11 stone buildings, constructed sometime in the 13th century and abandoned about 150 or 200 years later. Four of the buildings are longhouses; others are smaller houses or outbuildings. Surrounding the settlement is an extensive field system, where cereal crops were grown and animals grazed.
Houndtor deserted medieval settlement is a scheduled monument; it is managed by the Dartmoor National Park Authority in association with English Heritage.
Presentation created - November 2005
To view the Grade 1 listing please click here.