A large Longhouse with outbuildings. You can see the dividing passageway between the human quarters nearest to us and the animal part further away.

In another Landscape photography post from Dartmoor a week ago I told about Hound Tor and Bowerman who was out hunting with his dogs. That was a legend, but lying beside the beautiful Hound Tor in the valley below is the mysterious and maybe a little bit eerie medieval village of Hundatora, that tells us a true story of farming and hardship in medieval England.

The land around Hound Tor has been farmed since the late Stone Age, and at the time when the Normans conquered England, Hundatora was a big enough settlement to be included in the Domesday Book, which was completed in 1086. At that time there lived 6 households and a few cattle, sheep and goats at Hundatora. Four longhouses have been excavated in the area, and they date from the 13th century.

Another Longhouse at Hundatora from the 13th century
Only part of the walls remains of the longhouses now

The longhouses were split in two parts, with a passageway in the middle. In one part the humans lived and in the other the animals were housed. They had a fireplace in the middle of the human part of the longhouse, but no chimney. The buildings had thatched roofs, and the smoke had to find its way out through the thatch. Sometimes outbuildings could be attached to or be found beside the longhouses like in the image at the very top.

Medieval time was a period, when it got warmer in England, and people moved up into the higher lying moors. But around the 14th century it got successively colder again and farming became probably too difficult at the Dartmoor highlands. Farming at Hundatora ceased in the late 14th century. Another contributing explanation for the abandonement of Hundatora could be the plague that killed a third of the population of Devon around 1350. It makes us reflect upon our present pandemic, which seems rather mild comparing to the suffering that medieval Europe experienced. Life expectancy during the period of the plague dropped to just 17 years in England.

Next to Hundatora is a smaller tor called Greator. I climbed up there and captured the image below, where Hound Tor is seen at the top and the remains of the medieval settlement is at the bottom right of the picture.

Hound Tor seen from Greator with the settlement of Hundatora to the right on this side of the cops of trees. The sun is behind me, which explains the flat and boring light, but I wanted to tell the story in pictures and needed an image of Hound Tor seen from the medieval settlement
Hundatora, a medieval settlement lying below Hound Tor was abandoned in the late 14th century due to climate changes
A view from Greator into the valley below looking northeast

4 thoughts on “Hundatora

  1. JE
    Loved the pictures but more meaningful with your historic and personal comments!
    Stay save love to Jennifer too.

  2. Great article, Jan-Eric! I was there a few weekends ago.

    Despite having been there several times in the past, you have deciphered a few details about the site for me! Thank you!

    1. Hi Ajoy,

      There are such layers of culture on Dartmoor. I am just about to post another story about Grimspound, which goes back to around 500 BC or even further back. And the stone circles and other ritualistic monuments will take us back even further in time. Look out for more posts!

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