MSO6948 - Lanacombe I: Large stone setting at Lanacombe (Monument)


A stone setting of 13 stones on the south facing slope of Lanacombe, forming either a double row, or quadrilateral arrangements. Two stones are inscribed "TD" in 18th/19th Century lettering.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

Group of 10 stones marked by H.St.G. Gray at SS 7822 4272. [1] Lanacoombe I A setting of thirteen stones, eleven upright and two fallen or displaced. This is a complex monument that is difficult to understand as a geometric arrangement through surface evidence alone. It could be a double row: D-H-K / F+E - I-L and an elongated diamond: A-C-D-B. G and J could form another quadrilateral with F+E and I. This, however, is pure speculation and it begs a number of questions; is the pattern intentional or are the surviving remains incomplete? It is possible also that this is a multi phase monument, with stones added at different times. The longest axis is A-L measuring 42 metres and aligned northwest to southeast, while G-H is the greatest transverse axis, measuring 18 metres. Lanacoombe IV sits on a very slight, southeast facing slope on a tongue of land under lush grass and rush, a little elevated above the surrounding area of coarse grass. It is well below the crest of Lanacoombe and overlooks the steeper fall into the valley between it and Trout Hill. There are fine views up and down the valley from north to southwest, but it is blind to the west and northwest. The area occupied by the setting is covered by small, scattered surface stone. This is possibly because of thin soil cover. All the stones appear to be of local, sedimentary sandstones of the Hangman Grits series. The east face of stone H and the northeast face of stone L are both inscribed with the letters "TD" in 18th or 19th Century lettering. Stone L has developed a pronounced lean since the inscription was cut. The significance of the letters is not known for certain, but it may be connected with a prominent Exmoor family called Darch. Once Thomas Darch held a moiety of the former Royal Forest in the mid 18th century and the family itself received all the freehold tithes of the Forest until about 1790 [2]. It may be that the two inscribed stones facing to the east mark the onset of Darch territory. 5 metres east-north-east of stone H is a subcircular cairn of small stones, (MSO6968). Stone L is also partly surrounded by what appears to be a disturbed stone cairn, (MSO6969), but whether the disturbance is modern or caused by the insertion of the stone is not clear; indeed the stone and the cairn may once have formed an entity. The large size of stone L is unusual both within this setting and in others: taken together with the inscription on it this might imply a totally late date for the stone itself. Lanacoombe I is one of four stone settings along the same valley side, 330 metres east-north-east is Lanancoombe III (MSO6949) and 660 metres northeast is Lanacoombe IV (MSO6965). All are orientated west-north-west to east-south-east (or northwest-southeast, a fact which might have major implications for their date, functions and interrelationships. Only Lanacombe IV is not visible from the present site. A further table of information on the stones is held in the archive. [3] The ground is littered with broken rock. The site is something more than a setting. The length is longer than usual for a setting. To the west is perhaps the remains of a Neolithic field system; this site is possibly the remains of a Neolithic village. [4] A linear setting occupying a slight knoll protruding on the south facing flank of Lanacombe. The ground surface is characterised by spreads of surface stone and amorphous hollows which may be the result of stone robbing, perhaps associated with the construction of the enclosure to the south (MSO6899). The setting was surveyed by RCHME in 1988 at 1:100 scale. Since then suggested amendments have been received [4], namely two cairns at the northwestern end of the setting. These were found to be natural, and no more than further instances of natural clitter. The suggestion [4] that the setting represents a former settlement of Neolithic date is completely unfounded and is not borne out in the slightest by the archaeological evidence. Surveyed at 1:2500 scale. [5,6] Eleven upright stones and two fallen or displaced, forming a complex arrangement perhaps representing more than one setting. Uprights 0.3 to 0.65 metres high. One stone has the letters TD inscribed on its east face, and there are similar letters on the northeast face of another surrounded by a small cairn. A second cairn 9 metres north of these. [8] The ground here has natural outcrops of broken stone, but the idea of settlement features should not be dismissed without further study. [9] The condition is still the same as described by RCHME in 1992. [10] Scheduled on 27 March 1996. [11] Survey records 13 stones as being present. Five of these are situated in erosion hollows. [12] A proposal for limited excavation was put forward following damaged to the stones. The fieldwork was planned for the 16 to 21st April 2007 and had the following aims: To examine the morphology of the stone holes and the technology used to erect the stones; to look for dating and associated activity evidence; to recover material for environmental sampling from any sealed contexts; to assess the damage to the stones and critically investigate the possibility for reerection. The excavation would be preceded by a resistivity and magnetometry survey of the entire setting. [16] By the time of the current excavation three stones had fallen, two by the time of the 1989 survey. The recent toppling of stone H allowed for it’s excavation and re-erection. Excavation revealed that the stone hole of stone H was not dug but created through the removal of outcropping stone to create a hole twice the size of the stone. The stone was held in place by small stones and packing soil. During the excavation two large pieces of worked quartz were recovered from the stonehole. To the south of stone H four large flat stones were discovered aligned to the setting, suggesting deliberate placement. [17] In the 1989 survey stone B was recorded as upright but had tilted before work in April 2010. Stone C, which was at an angle of 15 degrees in 1989 was “virtually horizontal” by 2010. Stone B was erected by selected stones being used to wedge Stone B upright before smaller stones and soil were packed around it. There is a lack of evidence for the stonehole being deliberated dug or grubbed (fragments of rock removed to form a hollow in the natural rock). Stone C was erected by the creation of a socket of stone slabs into which Stone C could be slotted. The packing of stone C has subsequently been disturbed by the stone pivoting. The hollow into which the stone was placed appears to be natural rather than man-made. Both stones B and H have a large piece of quartz placed closed to the edge of the upright stones. [18] The geophysical surveys revealed a dense series of features in the vicinity of known stone settings. This suggests that instead of being isolated ritual monuments, the settings could have been part of a ‘busy’ landscape and the tradition of erecting stones was part of inhabiting and marking the land. The surveys also revealed a strong correlation between the positioning of settings and the underlying geology. The settings are located on areas of shallow bedrock and surface clitter which, before the accumulation of peat on the moor, would have been areas of enhanced visibility. The significance of this correlation is at present unclear. [19] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of10. [20] A condition survey in 2009 (SEM6829) found the setting to have two loose stones. Consolidation work was carried out under the 2009/10 monument management scheme. A site visit in June 2010 confirmed that the consolidation works had been successful. [21] A digital reconstruction drawing was created in 2013 by Peter Lorimer. [22] The site was surveyed in April 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 4. [23] A large stone setting arranged in an irregular linear arrangement from the lip of the east slopes of Lanacombe on a rough northwest-southeast alignment, heading towards a cairn. It consists of 13 stones, which vary significantly in height and shape. Several stones are significant in size (Stone A, B, D, H, I, K), with the biggest Stone L, lying semi-recumbent on the cairn itself. Stone H has the initials “TD” inscribed upon it. The surrounding ground is littered with natural stone outcroppings. Animal rubbing has increased slightly on this site, leading to sturf damage around Stone A, D, H, and I. [24-25] The site was visited as part of an academic research project by Dr Sandy Gerrard in 2018. [26] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [27] The site is included in a 2023 Condition Survey [28]

Sources/Archives (27)

  • <1> Map: Gray, H.St.G.. 1905. Gray's Annotated Ordnance Survey 6 Inch Map. 1:10560. Sheet 33SW.
  • <2> Monograph: MacDermot, E.T.. 1973. The History of the Forest of Exmoor. David and Charles Limited. Revised Edition. P.402.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Pattison, P. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 7 December 1988.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Walker, M.. 1993. Details Received at RCHME Exeter.
  • <5> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R.. 1994. Lanacombe, SS 74 SE 49-51, 73, 88, 92-94, 105-106, 108, 122/ink survey. 1:2500. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 6 July 1994.
  • <7> Article in serial: Fowler, M.J.F.. 1988/1989. The Standing Stones of Exmoor: A Provisional Catalogue of 62 West Somerset Sites. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 132. 1-13 (Exmoor 19).
  • <8> 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.44. SS74SE 49.
  • <9> Report: Preece, A.. 1993-1994. English Heritage Monument Protection Programme.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Walker, M.. 14/03/1995. Letter to Somerset County Council. Site Visit in March 1995.
  • <11> Unpublished document: Various. Scheduled Monument Notification . English Heritage to Somerset County Council, 24 April 1996.
  • <12> Report: Blackmore, O.. 2002. A Condition Survey of Standing Stones on Exmoor National Park Authority Owned Land. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <14> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <15> Report: Gillings, M., Taylor, J. + Pollard, J.. 2009. The Miniliths of Exmoor Project: Report on the 2009 Excavations.
  • <16> Report: Gillings, M., Pollard, J. + Taylor, J.. 2007. A Proposal for Limited Excavation at the Stone Settings of Lanacombe I and Lanacombe II, Exmoor.
  • <17> Report: Gillings, M., Pollard, J. + Taylor, J.. 2007. Excavation and Survey at the Stone Settings of Lanacombe I and III.
  • <18> Report: Gillings, M., and Taylor, J.. 2010. Excavations at the stone settings of Lanacombe I and IV, Exmoor, SW England. University of Leicester Archaeological Services. P. 3-6, 10-11.
  • <19> Report: Gillings, M., Taylor, J. + Pollard, J.. 2009. The Miniliths of Exmoor Project: Report on the 2009 Excavations. P. 5.
  • <20> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <21> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2010. Monument Management Scheme: 2009-10 Report.
  • <22> Artwork: Lorimer, P.. 2013. Lanacombe, Exmoor: Digital reconstruction drawing. Digital.
  • <23> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <24>XY Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. Exmoor National Park Authority. MSO6948. [Mapped features: #45741 Stone A., MSO6948; #45742 Stone B., MSO6948; #45743 Stone C., MSO6948; #45744 Stone D., MSO6948; #45745 Stone E and F., MSO6948; #45746 Stone G., MSO6948; #45747 Stone H., MSO6948; #45748 Stone I., MSO6948; #45749 Stone J., MSO6948; #45750 Stone K., MSO6948; #45751 Stone L., MSO6948; #45752 Stone M., MSO6948]
  • <25> Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018 - Scheduled Standing Stones. MSO698.
  • <26> Website: Gerrard, S.. 2020. The Stone Rows of Great Britain.
  • <27> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 867254, Extant 26 May 2021.

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10973
  • Local Heritage List Status (Rejected)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SE49
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 867254
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33112



Grid reference Centred SS 2781 1428 (49m by 42m) (13 map features)
Map sheet SS21SE

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Record last edited

Feb 15 2024 2:20PM


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