MSO11249 - Possible post-medieval tree ring enclosure on Stone Down (Monument)


A circular enclosure is noted on historic mapping and is visible on aerial photographs. It has previously been interpreted as a Bronze Age barrow or a sheep fold, but is most likely to be a post-medieval tree ring enclosure.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (4)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

SS 867 396. Barrow type feature depicted on Stone Down. [1,2] Exford 6. Circular banked enclosure with outer ditch 31 feet diameter and 1.5 feet high. Bank and ditch each 8 feet wide, bank 1.5 feet high, ditch 1.5 feet deep externally. "Almost certainly a tree clump enclosure of the type normal in the C18th". Visited by Grinsell on 25th May 1958. (Grinsells NGR falls at a point where sheepfold (disused) is published on OS 1:10000 1979).[3] Circular earthwork shown on 1962 map. [4] Marked "Old Sheepfold" on 1904 map. [5] Seen on aerial photographs. [6,7] A well preserved field monument on gentle summit, consisting of a circular bank averaging 20.4 metres diameter and 58 centimetres high, with external ditch c2.2 metres wide and 23 centimetres deep present around whole circuit except southeastern quadrant. Entrance gap 3.3 metres wide on south-southeast. Mature beech tree on east side on bank. Interior level slightly above adjacent ground, with low irregular circular mound just east of centre. Sheep poaching on northeast interior of bank shows soil, small stones and peaty material. [8] Site not easy to interpret: sharp profile and presence of beech may imply a recent date, but Eardley-Wilmot argues that exposed location and early map evidence suggest a ring cairn or barrow. [9] SS 86562 39624. A circular embanked enclosure situated in rough grassland on the edge of a previously enclosed area on the summit of Stone Down about 405 metres above Ordnance Datum. The enclosure measures 23.4 metres in diameter over a turf covered stone and earth bank which is 2.5 to 3 metres wide. The external face of the bank, 0.9 metres high, is well defined and sharp especially around the northern side, whilst the internal face, 0.5 metres high, is more irregular and less well defined. A mature single beech tree is growing on top of the bank on the east-southeast. There is a shallow external ditch about 0.3 metres deep and 2 metres wide. On the south-southeast there is a break, about 2 metres wide, in the bank, with a slight causeway over the ditch. The interior of the enclosure is uneven and hummocky. The date and purpose of the enclosure are unclear. It is prominently situated on an exposed summit, with excellent all round views. Its position and uneven interior could be taken as lending support to its interpretation as a prehistoric barrow. However, its form seems too neat and regular to indicate robbing. Alternative interpretations are a sheepfold (as it is described in 1903 [5]) or a tree clump enclosure. Of these the latter seems the most likely. Published 1:2500 survey (1975) correct. [10] In private ownership [11] The circular earthwork accurately described by [10] has also been transcribed as part of the Exmoor National Park National Mapping Programme aerial photograph archaeological survey. The survey can add little detail to the description of the earthwork itself. However, it may be that between the 1940s and 1970s the monument has suffered some erosion or damage as it appears lower on the later photographs available to the survey. Two narrow linear cropmarks can be seen to approach the circular earthwork from the south, varying in distance from between 16 and 21 metres apart. These might mark the remains of narrow ditches defining an approach to the earthwork. This might support the interpretation that this feature was envisaged as a formal landscape feature, perhaps also used as a vantage point. [12-14] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [15] The site is labelled "Sheepfold (disused)" on the 2021 MasterMap data. [16]

Sources/Archives (16)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. Various. Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) . 1802-3, 2 inch drawing.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1809. 1" 1st edition.
  • <3> Article in serial: Grinsell, L.V.. 1969. Somerset Barrows, Part 1: West and South. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat. 113. 32.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560. SS83NE.
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1903, Somerset 46(5).
  • <6> Aerial photograph: 1947. LHL CPE/UK/1980. 4309.
  • <7> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. 8639.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Eardley-Wilmot, H. 1985. Notes, correspondence and plan.
  • <9> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. I Burrow, Somerset County Council, 12 July 1985.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 21 February 1996.
  • <11> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records.
  • <12> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR RAF CPE/UK/1980 (F20) 3277-8 (11 April 1947).
  • <13> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 1063-4 (29 April 1973).
  • <14>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 83 NE. MD002192. [Mapped feature: #47545 ]
  • <15> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35733, Extant 21 September 2021.
  • <16> Map: Ordnance Survey. 2021. MasterMap data. 1:2,500.

External Links (0)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO126
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO6710
  • Local List Status (Unassessed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 NE19
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35733
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33590



Grid reference Centred SS 8657 3953 (50m by 209m)
Map sheet SS83NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Sep 21 2021 1:15PM


Your feedback is welcome. If you can provide any new information about this record, please contact us.