MSO7336 - Wilmersham Common Stone Row (Monument)


A stone row on a west facing slope of Wilmersham Common above Embercombe Water, comprising up to 51 stones set out in two alignments. There is no evidence for a barrow or cairn at either end.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

A double stone row was reported on Wilmersham Common by Mr Corney who found it in the winter of 1965 [1]. The stone row is at SS 8565 4205, orientated southwest to northeast, on a west facing slope. It is unique for Exmoor and most closely resembles the Dartmoor rows. The 29 stones which form the row extend irregularly over a length of 60.0m, and may be the remains of a double or even a triple row. At each end there is a large stone 0.5m high, between these the stones are merely 0.1 - 0.2m high, deeply enclosed in peat. A curious feature is an apparently triple row extension which curves from the north-east end and again has a large stone at its NE extremity. Surveyed at 1/2500. [2] [SS 8560 4213] Stones (NR). [3] A series of stones extending for a distance of 70 yards and ending at a very shallow circular depression was located by chance. [4] Prehistoric field boundaries on this alignment are present nearby (MSO7337) and the stone line is likely to be an element of the field system and settlement. [5] Corney's row on Wilmersham Common runs uphill for about 60 metres very irregularly, single and double, then swerves some 30 degrees and spreads out into three or four twisting lines. The small stones point across as well as along the row, and three taller ones mark the ends and the turning point. It has no obvious connection with water or any barrow or mound. At first it seemed an authentic stone row but on later visits Corney also noticed not far away on Honeycombe Hill, the remains of old stone and earth banks forming a rectangle and a ring, and a revetted straight bank of much the same length as the row. These suggested farming activity and a homestead. Recent air photographs confirm these features and strengthen the alternative hypotheses that the row is a dilapidated field wall of the same period. [6] A row of 29 stones, most in a fairly straight line, others arranged in a manner suggesting a parallel row as at Yelland, while at the higher northeast end the row appears to become irregularly triple. The stones at the northeast and southeast ends are larger and higher than the rest, a characteristic of Dartmoor rows. There may or may not be traces of an almost destroyed barrow at the higher end. The nearest approach to a Dartmoor row so far found on Exmoor. (The '29' is an error for the plan shows 47 stones). [7] The Wilmersham Common row, centred at SS 8567 4195, is situated on a gently west slope above the deep combe of Embercombe Water. The area is now covered by deep heather but colour slides of c. 1967 in the Shybrow collection at Barnstaple Athenaeum depict the row after swaleing. The row is set out on two alignments. The longer, of 56 metres, is oriented south west to north east with terminal slabs 0.6 and 0.5 metres high. The intermediate stones are between one and fifteen centimetres high; a common interval of 1 metre between stones may be postulated, but gaps, and the possibility that some of the lower stones could be natural grounders, makes this uncertain. The row incorporates both slab and post type stones, the former frequently angled to the alignment and some deviations result in a slightly sinuous course, producing the effect of a double row when stones are up to 1 metre off the alignment. At the north east end of the longer row there is a realignment to the north north east with a terminal stone 0.4 metres high set at right angles to the line. This length of 12 metres has 17 intermediate stones, mostly 5 to 15 centimetres high with four groups of 3 stones set transversely. There is no evidence of a barrow or cairn at either end of the row though Grinsell [8] was uncertain whether traces existed at the higher north north east end. The number of stones visible will vary with climatic conditions, and with plan scale when published. The 1:500 survey of 1966 had 48 stones while that simplifed for Ordnance Survey 1:2500 (but never published) depicted 29 larger stones. McDonnell [18] and Grinsell's plan [8] note 47, and currently 51 can be seen, of which 7 are at surface level. The two "Stones" published on the 1978 Ordnance Survey 1:10000 map [3] are 150 metres to the north of the row and seem to be completely spurious. Eardley-Wilmot's view that the row is a dilapidated field wall cannot be sustained by reference to the nearby Honeycombe field banks which are straight, about 1.3 metres wide or more, 0.4 metres high, and of earth and rubble construction with a few larger stones. Further, there is no field system or surface stone in the vicinity of the row and there is no doubt that the larger stones, at least, have been deliberately positioned. No precise parallel can be proffered since the half dozen Exmoor rows, and even more "stone settings", vary greatly in situation, orientation and construction. [9-12] SS 85674197. A stone row of 50 standing stones, located on the west facing slopes of Honeycombe Hill. The row is 68 metres long, 3 metres wide at its widest point and orientated roughly north east to south west. The longest section comprises an irregular single row of stones with terminal stones of 0.5 and 0.6 metres in height. At the north eastern end of this section, the orientation veers slightly northwards. From this point, the row continues for another 12 metres as an irregular double or triple row, and terminates in a stone measuring 0.4 metres high. Scheduled on 28 March 1996. [13] Similar elements are apparently found on Dartmoor. [14] The Ordnance Survey position is incorrect. 51 stones, seven at ground level. The majority form a northeast to southwest row 56 metres long, with few stones higher than 0.1 metres, though slabs at each end are 0.5 and 0.6 metres high. Some stones at 1 metre intervals, but gaps and deviations give impression of double row. At north-east end alignment changes direction and extends for 12 metres northnortheast to southsouthwest with seventeen stones in a more consistent double row. Most 0.1 to 0.2 metres high, with terminal stone 0.4 metres high at the northnortheast end. In 1983 it was suggested that the stones were a denuded prehistoric field bank. This now considered doubtful and the monument provisionally accepted as a stone row. Colour slide in Whybrow collection at Barnstaple library, 1967. [15] Covered by heather and bracken for much of its length. [17] Possible total of 47 stones. [18] Undamaged. [19] There are 46 stones shown on the plan in Corney's report. The plan is by Charles Whybrow who would not have added stones he did not see. The area had recently been swaled and it is possible that the Ordnance Survey were not able to see all the stones when they visited. [20] Luccombe 1: a row of 29 standing stones. Possibly double or triple row at northeast. Larger stones at both ends. [21] The north (uphill) end of the row where it changes direction lies around a slight curving scarp facing southwest. The curved north tip possibly skirts a hut platform. [22] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 4. [23] Stone C (one of the larger end stones) was knocked over by a vehicle in the summer of 2008. Although it had been replaced in its socket, the stone was very loose and in need of consolidation. The consolidation work was carried out in December 2008. [24] 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. [25] A long stone row c.5 metres from the main track running through Wilmersham Common, orientated roughly east-west leading up the hill from Embercombe Water. There are 51 recorded stones, with few standing taller than 0.2 metres and several others that are buried. The largest three upright stones are A, B, and C. The row is roughly straight from Stones A to B, after which it veers diagonally northwards towards Stone C. All 51 stones were located, though 6 were buried, and one was at risk of the same - Stone 43. There was little evidence of damage in 2017. Whilst the vegetation cover is not directly damaging the stones, the thick heather does conceal a significant portion of the site, which may indirectly lead to vehicle damage. [26-27] The site was revisited in 2018, after reports of damage to Stone C. There is now a gap at the edge of the setting hole where the stone has appeared to have been struck by a vehicle or pushed by livestock rubbing. No recent vehicle tracks suggest this may have happened earlier in the winter. The stone is still relatively well set, however, it now presents a slight “wobble”. [28] The site was visited as part of an academic research project by Dr Sandy Gerrard in 2018. [30] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [31]

Sources/Archives (30)

  • <1> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. WJ Corney, Headmaster Wiveliscombe Junior School.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Quinnell, N.V.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 4 April 1966.
  • <3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1978. 1:10,000 Map, 1978. 1:10,000.
  • <4> Article in serial: Corney, W.J. 1967. A Real Stone Row on Exmoor. Exmoor Review. 48-9.
  • <5> Article in serial: Corney, W.J. 1968. Prehistoric Settlement on Honeycombe Hill. Exmoor Review. 42-3.
  • <6> Monograph: Eardley-Wilmot, H.. 1983. Ancient Exmoor: A Study of the Archaeology and Prehistory of Exmoor. The Exmoor Press. Microstudy C2. pp 31-2.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records. 10 March 1986.
  • <8> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited. pp 43-5.
  • <9> Technical drawing: Quinnell, N.V.. [1987]. Wilmersham Commom, Stone Row/ink survey . 1:200. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <10> Technical drawing: Quinnell, N.V.. 1987. Wilmersham Common Stone Row/ink survey . 1:100. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <11> Unpublished document: Quinnell, N.V.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F2, 17 March 1987.
  • <12> Collection: Pattison, P., Quinnell, N.V., Fletcher, M. and Sainsbury, I.. 1987-1988. RCHME: Exmoor Pilot Survey, SS 84 SE, Somerset.
  • <13> Unpublished document: English Heritage. 25.4.1996. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <14> Article in serial: Fleming AM. 1978. The prehistoric landscape of Dartmoor. Part 1: South Dartmoor. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 44. 99.
  • <15> 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.
  • <16> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2008. HER Input Form: Wilmersham Common Stone Row Site Visit.
  • <17> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records. Site visit report, National Trust archaeologist, July 1976.
  • <18> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. R McDonnell, Western Archaeological Trust, 31 October 1975.
  • <19> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. I Burrow, Somerset County Council, 15 April 1980.
  • <20> Unpublished document: Eardley Wilmot, H. 17/4/1980. H. Eardley-Wilmot to Somerset County Council.
  • <21> Article in serial: Fowler, MJ. 1988. The Standing Stones of Exmoor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 132. 1-13 (Luccombe 1).
  • <22> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. A Preece, 1993.
  • <23> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <24> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2009. Monument Management Scheme: 2008-9 Report. P. 4-5.
  • <25> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <26>XY Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. MSO7336. [Mapped features: #45696 Stone A., MSO7336; #45697 Stone B., MSO7336; #45698 Stone C., MSO7336]
  • <28> Verbal communication: Various. Various. ENPA archaeologist field visit. Jack Fuller, 1 May 2018.
  • <29> Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018 - Scheduled Standing Stones. MSO7336.
  • <30> Website: Gerrard, S.. 2020. The Stone Rows of Great Britain.
  • <31> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36008, Extant 8 March 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 8570 4196 (63m by 59m) (4 map features)
Map sheet SS84SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (4)

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11333
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE18
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • National Trust HER Record
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36008
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33689

Record last edited

Mar 8 2022 3:50PM


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