MSO6949 - Lanacombe III, a prehistoric stone setting at Lanacombe (Monument)


A stone setting comprising at least five stones forming an elongated diamond 19 metres long. Three are in an upright position, two are recumbent. One stone is inscribed with a number of letters.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

Group of 5 stones marked by H. St. G. Gray. [1] LANACOMBE III, SS 7861 4301. A setting of three upright and two recumbent stones, in plan forming an elongated diamond with major axis B-E, 19 metres long, orientated west-north-west to east-south-east. The shorter axis is D-C, 5.2 metres long. A and B lie over a slight hollow; B is probably a displaced stone not far from its true position; A may not be a setting stone. The setting occupies a slightly raised area of grass with rush patches associated with a spring. The stones are positioned on a moderate southeast facing slope at a slight angle to the fall at the east end of Lanacoombe, well below the hill crest and close to the valley edge. There are good views in an east-north-east to west-south-west arc up and down the valley. All the stones appear to be of local, sedimentary sandstones of the Hangman Grits Series. Stone A is inscribed with the letters IC. 5 metres southeast of stone E is a small oval cairn (MSO6967). This association recurs in other settings in the area (eg. MSO6948, MSO6819). Lanacoombe III is one of four stone settings situated along the same valley side: 550 metres southwest is Lanacoombe I (MSO6948); 230 metres southwest is Lanacoombe I (MSO6947) - both of which are visible from the present site - and 150 metres north is Lanacoombe IV (MSO6965). All are orientated west-north-west to east-south-east, a fact which could have major implications for their fate, functions and interrelationships. A further table of information on the stones is held in the archive. [4] The setting includes two upright stone slabs 0.2 and 0.35 metres high and an upright post stone 0.5 metres high. A fallen stone slab 1 metre long is inscribed with letters IC suggesting reuse. A second fallen stone is 0.85 metres long. There is a small cairn 7 metres southeast of the setting (MSO6967). [5] Three further stones were noted to the west in 1993, one upright 0.59 metres high, and two recumbents. Some of the stones suggest a row. [6] Lanacombe 3 was surveyed by RCHME in 1988. Since then amendments have been received [6]. A site visit was made with Richard McDonnell in 1994 [7]. Two additions to the 1988 plan have been made, firstly: a single upright stone (H), 0.45 metres high and 0.15 metres square, which stands within an erosion hollow and leans markedly southwards. Secondly, two groups of recumbent stones, one of which (I) may formerly have been upright. Stone A was formerly noted to have the letters "IC" inscribed upon it. These are crisply cut and are 25 millimetres in height. The "I" is crossed mid way on its upright. In addition, Richard McDonnell has pointed out other graffiti on the same stone: the letter "T" is sharply cut, the groove being "V" shaped. It is 15 millimetres high. The three ends of the letter are finished with triangles or arrowheads. Much older and worn lettering can be faintly made out forming the letter "W" with an "O" beneath it followed by what may be an "I". The letters are 85 millimetres high, and the grooves are 11 millimetres wide and 2 millimetres deep. Resurveyed at 1:100 scale based on the 1988 survey. [6-11] In March 1995 the condition was as previously recorded in 1993. [12] The setting was scheduled with the cairn on 28 March 1996. [13] The condition of the setting was reported as stable. [14] There is a band of high resistance trending northwest to southeast with the main group of settings along its northeast edge. The western group of stones within the setting are situated upon a semicircular high resistance feature which can not be seen at ground level. The feature is 10 metres in diameter which could suggest a hut circle. Another possibility is that the feature is the remains of a ring cairn. [16] 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. [17] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 7. [18] Some of the graffiti noted on the stone setting may date from the military occupation of the area. [19] The site was surveyed in April 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 0. [20] A stone setting situated over the lip of the east facing slopes of Lanacombe on a linear alignment, originally recorded as consisting of 5 stones (A-E) with another 4 added (F-I) in 1993. The setting is orientated roughly west-east with only two stones confirmed as upright. These stones range significantly in size from just under 1m to 0.3m in height. The setting is orientated on a cairn, concealed under rushes. Stones E-I were not present on this site visit, and while F-I have not been spotted since 1993, Stone E was noted in 2015 and was likely missed by this survey. The stones have suffered some historic damage, but this survey found no stones being actively damaged aside from minor livestock rubbing. [21-22] 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. [23] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [25] The site is included in a 2023 Condition Survey [26]

Sources/Archives (27)

  • <1> Map: Gray, H.St.G.. 1905. Gray's Annotated Ordnance Survey 6 Inch Map. 1:10560. Sheet 33 SW 1905.
  • <2> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. E Dennison, Somerset County Council, 2 April 1984.
  • <3> 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 21).
  • <4> Unpublished document: Pattison, P. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 7 December 1988.
  • <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.45. SS74SE51.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Walker, M.. 1993. Details Received at RCHME Exeter.
  • <7> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. Field visit with Richard McDonnell during archaeological survey of Exe Plain/Lanacombe..
  • <8> 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.
  • <9> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R. and Chapman, H.. 1994. Lanacombe III/Ink Survey. 1:100. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <10> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <11> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 6 July 1994.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Walker, M.. 14/03/1995. Letter to Somerset County Council.
  • <13> Unpublished document: Various. Scheduled Monument Notification . English Heritage, 24 April 1996. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <14> Report: Blackmore, O.. 2002. A Condition Survey of Standing Stones on Exmoor National Park Authority Owned Land. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <15> Report: Gillings, M., Taylor, J. + Pollard, J.. 2009. The Miniliths of Exmoor Project: Report on the 2009 Excavations.
  • <16> Report: Gillings, M.. 2009. Report for English Heritage on Geophysical Surveys carried out at the sites of Lanacombe II and III, Exmoor.
  • <17> 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., Taylor, J. + Pollard, J.. 2009. The Miniliths of Exmoor Project: Report on the 2009 Excavations. P. 5.
  • <18> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <19> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 20 April 1994.
  • <20> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <21>XY Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. Exmoor National Park Authority. MSO6949. [Mapped features: #45736 Stone A and B., MSO6949; #45737 Stone C., MSO6949; #45738 Stone D., MSO6949]
  • <22> Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018 - Scheduled Standing Stones. MSO6949.
  • <23> Website: Gerrard, S.. 2020. The Stone Rows of Great Britain.
  • <24> Report: Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. 2010. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from Lanacombe.
  • <25> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 867255, Extant 26 May 2021.

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10975
  • Local Heritage List Status (Rejected)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SE51
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 867255
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33114



Grid reference Centred SS 2786 143e (30m by 26m) (4 map features)
Map sheet SS21SE

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Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Related Articles (2)

Record last edited

Feb 15 2024 2:20PM


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