Subject: Berry Barton, Dunsford
NGR: SX 8055 9030
Berry is first named in the C13 as La Byry, when it was a possession of Canonsleigh Priory, as part of the Domesday Manor of Dunsford. It was acquired by the Fulford Estate after the dissolution of the monasteries.
The farm appears to have been placed in this unusual location to take advantage of an Iron Age earthwork enclosure, which occupies the slight rise in the ground just to the west. This probably became a stock enclosure, with the farmstead being located just outside, in a similar manner to nearby Melhuish and Middle Town. Despite its absence from Domesday Book, this association with a prehistoric enclosure may mean that the farm was an un-named settlement within the Manor of Dunsford in 1086.
Berry Barton lies unusually on a level hilltop site, just north of the ridge road from Cheriton Bishop to Dunsford. The house is of rendered cob with a slated, formerly thatched roof and has a three room and cross-passage plan, with additional rooms to its south-east end and lean-tos to the rear. It faces south-west, with its outbuildings flanking an irregular tapered farmyard to the north. Most of these are modern, but the stone plinth of a large threshing barn lies on the west side of the yard.
1C15? Three room and cross-passage plan with single bay lower and inner rooms, narrow passage. Walls survive, but apparently no timber elements. Rear door of cross-passage later blocked by stair.
Small houses like this with narrow extremities, found in West Somerset and North Devon, commonly date to the C15.
2Late C16-early C17. Axial fireplace inserted between hall and inner room – an unusual location. Cob stair turret possibly built to rear of cross-passage. Notes made by Charles Holland Fulford in the early C20 refer to a geometric moulded plaster ceiling of this period, perhaps in an upper room. No trace of this has survived. 3Early-mid C17. One or two room two storey extension added to south-east end, with single storey lean-to at rear, ovolo moulded door frame between Period 1 low end room and lean-to.
Full extent of extension uncertain, as it was later shortened.
4Early C19. Period 2 stair turret abandoned and timber stair inserted across rear of cross-passage, blocking Period 1 rear door. Small stair inserted into inner room, rear wall of room pushed out to allow access to rear for open-fronted lean-to. This contained a well and a pump in the late C19 to early C20. 51950s. Much of house remodelled, with about 80% of roofstructure replaced and most internal partitions, doors etc replaced. Had there been a fire? The C17 plaster ceiling was lost then.
An interesting house, probably with surviving medieval fabric in its unusual ground-plan. The later modifications show that it continued to be important, while the former presence of a moulded plaster ceiling of the C16-C17 implies a period of wealth and high status.
The re-use of a nearby prehistoric fortified enclosure as a probable stock enclosure, probably dates to the later Saxon or early Norman period and is of considerable interest.