MSO6810 - White Ladder Stone Row (Monument)


A double stone row of probable Bronze Age date, on the northern slopes of Five Barrows Hill.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 7308 3739 to SS 7336 3710. Near Five Barrows (MDE1191) on the southwest ridge of Exmoor a double row of small stones, recorded in 1815 as "White Ladder" and shown on the 1819 Enclosure Map but later lost, was rediscovered in 1975. It has been partly ploughed out, but long stretches at either end indicate an avenue once a quarter of a mile long. A total of 164 stones including 55 pairs, was noted. The row dips very slightly north west to a low mound, diameter 23 feet, with at least half of an outer circle, twice that width, of buried quartz stones, 5 feet apart. At the upper end the row terminates at a stream-head with a recumbent stone 39 inches by 18 inches set a little aside from the line. More than 30 small compact mounds, most of them between 5 feet and 8 feet across, have been found nearby, together with three rather larger ones, 14 feet to 22 feet diameter. Some are round, some oval and at least nine seem to have had an outer circle of quartz, and two show clear traces of a ditch and enclosing bank. They form lines and clusters. The entire complex straddles the Devon-Somerset boundary, and includes various patterns made of small quartz stones, almost submerged, the strangest being two single rows crossed aslant, linking two mounds and a prominent stone. [1] A false antiquity based upon a probable error of name in a forest perambulation of 1815 and in the tithe award map of 1819, coupled with an uncritical archaeological method based on probing by the discoverer. The existence of a stone row at this site has been doubted. [2] There are remains of a double stone row, which with gaps is at least 420 metres long. Cultivation has destroyed about a quarter of the site towards its North-West end. The stones tend to be engulfed in peat during wet periods.160 stones planned in 1976, 92 stones, including 19 pairs, were visible in 1989. The rows are 1 metre to 2 metres apart with individual stones at circa 2 metre intervals. Max dimensions are 0.1 metres high, 0.4 metres wide and 0.3 metres thick. The double stone row is situated in improved rough pasture on the Northern slopes of five barrows hill. The stone row was rediscovered by Eardley-Wilmot in 1975 and surveyed by Spencer for the North Devon Archaeological Society. A total of 166 stones were identified 70 visible and 96 found just below the surface by probing, 61 were quartz. In nov 1989 some 92 of these stones were located, about 30 were just breaking the surface and the others, found by probing, were between 1 and 5 centimetres beneath the turf. About one third of the stones are small quartz blocks the remainder are sandstone or slatey slabs. Because of the number of stones involved their visibility depending on vegetation and the degree of peat shrinkage (under good conditions the stones are quite difficult to locate, hence Grinsell's erroneous report) individual measurements of each stone are not given but none are higher than 0.1 metres, wider than 0.4 metres or thicker than 0.3 metres, most are much less. Initially the row follows the South side of, and is about 15 metres parallel to, the devon and somerset county boundary for some 65 metres before being destroyed by the road. To the se of the road the field was ploughed about 1970 obliterating about 128 metres of the row and only a few quartz stones cleared into the hedgeline to the North are evidence of its existance. When the row commences again to the East of the modern hedge at ss73233722 its doubleness is not so apparent as the stones, some 41, are more scattered along the line and much less visible due to thicker peat and heavier tussock grass and rushes cover. The row disappears at ss73373707 about 475 metres od, which may be the actual end though it could continue, lost beneath the turf. The mound at the North-West end; the large recumbent stone near the South-East end, (which was not located) and other features in the vicinity, (30 small round and oval mounds. Stone circles, an ellipse and crossed rows) alleged by Eardley-Wilmot to be possible antiquities associated with the white ladder row. However this could not be substantiated on inspection. [3] Detailed study of white ladder undertaken 1975-1976. A great variety of stones, stone alignments and mounds have also been recorded in close proximity to the main stone row. They spread across county boundary into somerset. Main stone row and some of the surrounding features have been recorded on plan.The site has been identified as prehistoric. [7] No field visit undertaken by Ordnance Survey. Recorded information based on Eardley-Wilmot's 1977 report. [8] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 5. [11] Pollen sampling was undertaken to the northwest (North Twitchen Springs) and southeast (Comerslade) of the site. The stone row was considered to be older than the series of barrow cemeteries in the area, with a suggested date of 2300-1800 cal BC. Comerslade was the older sequence, with peat accumulation beginning shortly after 6500 cal BC and ceasing c. cal AD 1500. The North Twitchen Springs showed steady peat accumulation since shortly before 2000 cal BC. Both sites showed a semi-open landscape during the early Bronze Age, preserving significant levels of local woodland, with Comerslade appearing to be more wooded than North Twitchen Springs. The area around the latter appears to have undergone a distinct phase of land 'improvement' between 1980 and 1890 cal BC, which may or may not have also occurred at Comerslade. It was suggested that White Ladder, being 'diminutive' in size with stone barely emerging from the present peaty soil, might have parallels with more 'subtle' ceremonial sites and it may have been enclosed within woodland. [12] The site was surveyed in March 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 4. [13] A long double stone row that runs almost parallel to the Somerset/Devon border. It is split into two sections over three fields, the middle of which has had the stones removed through ploughing. Most of the stones are set low in the peat, however, when the ground is dry they can protrude the surface. Those that are visible are quite small or recumbent and they contain distinct patches of quartz. The southern side of the row stretches for a longer distance than the north. On the northern side, the doubling of the row is clearly visible, but it abruptly ends a short distance into the field. This part of the row is not Scheduled. Vegetation cover makes assessing this site difficult, however in august, the site rapidly deteriorated after the rushes were cut low across the area of the row and some damage was noted to a recumbent stone. [14] The site was surveyed as part of an academic research project by Dr Sandy Gerrard in 2018. Surveys were conducted using a prismatic compass and electronic distance device with the plan being generated in the field. [17] The map mentioned in [2] appears to be the 1818 Inclosure Award map [18]. This shows the boundary of the Exmoor Forest, with the words "White Ladder" running along the length of it outside the Forest, centred at approximately SS 7305 3741. If this label does indicate the stone row (and if the label is accurately placed), the row may therefore have originally stretched further to the northwest. [19]

Sources/Archives (19)

  • <1> Report: Eardley-Wilmot, H.. 1976. White Ladder Interim Rep to Nov 1976.
  • <2> Unpublished document: 1978. White Ladder: A Note of Caution.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 28 November 1989.
  • <4> Survey: White Ladder Stone Row/ink survey . 1:1000. General: Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <5> Report: Quinnell, N.V. and Dunn, C.J.. 1992. Lithic monuments within the Exmoor National Park: A new survey for management purposes by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. P. 29-30.
  • <6> Report: Ancient Monuments.
  • <7> Report: Eardley-Wilmot, H.. 1977. White Ladder: An Early Site on Exmoor.
  • <8> Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Record Card. SS73NW20/plans.
  • <9> Article in serial: Eardley, H.. 1978. Archaeology. The Exmoor Society Newsletter.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Eardley-Wilmot, H.. 1980. White Ladder: The Name.
  • <11> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <12> Article in serial: Fyfe, R.. 2012. Bronze Age landscape dynamics: Spatially detailed pollen analysis from a ceremonial complex. Journal of Archaeological Science. 39. 2764-2773.
  • <13> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <14> Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. MSO6810.
  • <15> Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018 - Scheduled Standing Stones. MSO6810.
  • <16> Monograph: Whybrow, C.. 1977. Antiquary's Exmoor. The Exmoor Press. P. 15-16.
  • <17> Website: Gerrard, S.. 2020. The Stone Rows of Great Britain.
  • <18> Map: Kelsey, F.J.. 1818. The Map Referred to in the annexed Award [Exmoor Inclosure Award]. 4 inches : 1 mile. Pen and Ink.
  • <19> Verbal communication: Various. 1993-. Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Team staff comments. Catherine Dove, 19 August 2020.

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS73NW524
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 5591
  • Devon SMR: SS73NW/524
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE1205
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20175
  • Local List Status (No)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NW20
  • National Park
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35063
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33016
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33016
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33016
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33016



Grid reference Centred SS 7323 3722 (361m by 340m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SS73NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Related Articles (2)

Record last edited

Jul 22 2021 9:52AM


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