Dartmoor gives the impression of a prehistoric museum, being one of the principal sources of ancient monuments in Britain, with literally hundreds of known remnants scattered over the moor. Skirting the northern fringes of Dartmoor in particular are numerous hut circles, cairns, tumuli and barrows, but the most impressive by far are the extensive remains of the Bronze Age settlement known as Grimspound.
This settlement can be located between the high points of Hookney and Hameldown Tors - a marvellous overview of Grimspound may be had from the summit of the former. The pound covers an area of about 4 acres, bounded by an extensive dry stone wall, much of it now ruinous. However, here and there parts of the wall remind us of its once massive quality, in places some 9ft thick. Within the compound are the remains of 24 circular stone huts, with additional enclosures for animals.
Evidence gleaned from 19th century excavation revealed that 13 of the stone huts had been inhabited by humans - the remainder may well have provided shelter for animals or space for storage. The huts have an average diameter of just 10ft and the stone walls would have risen to no more than 3 or 4 ft, backed-up externally with turf and topped-off with branches and turf rising toward a central pole. The south facing entrances were paved to prevent build-up of rainwater and large raised slabs within provided seating as well as draught-free sleeping platforms. Few finds were made when excavation was undertaken - a pottery fragment, flint knife, other flint implements and some cooking stones.
Grimspound's perimeter wall, only rising to a height of some 4ft, does not appear to have been designed for defensive purposes, more as a barrier to keep domestic animals within and wild animals without. The Old English word grimm meaning "savage" would seem an apt description of Grimspound today, but 3000 years ago Britain's climate was more temperate making Dartmoor a more hospitable location in which to live, farm and graze livestock.
Bleak, windtorn and desolate, Grimspound in particular and Dartmoor in general, presents a hostile environment for modern day visitors. As such, it provided the perfect setting for the disguised Sherlock Holmes to seek refuge in, when solving the mystery of the Hound of the Baskervilles.