MSO7356 - Prehistoric hillslope enclosures southwest of Sweetworthy (Monument)


Two prehistoric hillslope enclosures survive as fairly substantial earthworks on unenclosed moorland, close to the hillslope enclosure of Sweetworthy. They are 35 metres and 37 metres in diameter and both contain evidence of hut platforms.

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Type and Period (3)

Protected Status

Full Description

(SS 8890 4243 and SS 8898 4244) Two probable prehistoric ringworks similar to the one at Sweetworthy (MSO7333) are visible on the air photograph. [1,2] Two subcircular enclosures, 80 metres apart, are situated at 360 metres Ordnance Datum on a narrow shelf of a north slope of about 1 in 5. Both are heather and bracken covered and have recently been fenced round by The National Trust. The western enclosure, at SS 8887 4236, has an internal diameter of 35 metres, but is in poor condition, and untraceable around the north east quadrant. Part of the east and north west sides consist of an outward facing scarp 2.5 metres long and 0.4 metres high but from the south east to the west there is a distinct bank with a flat top 2 metres wide. The inner face, which has been partly scarped to level the southern half of the interior, has slopes 6 metres long and 1.1 metres high. The outer face of the bank is from 1 to 3 metres wide and 0.5 metres high. There are no traces of an outer ditch which might be expected on the upper south side, if only to deflect surface runoff. No entrance gap can be seen unless a faint butt end of bank on the west is indicative of its former position. In the southwest quadrant of the interior an ill defined semicircular scoop, 6 metres across and 0.2 metres deep, may represent a house platform. Although the construction of the work seems mostly of earth with some rubble; an alignment of four blocks of stone exposed in the surface of a former trackway, where it crosses the bank in the southwest, suggests there was at least an inner revetment. The eastern enclosure, at SS 8899 4241, has an internal diameter of 37 metres and is in fair condition. The lower north east quadrant of the perimeter consists of a scarp, 3 metres long and 0.5 metres high, which merges into the hillslope. Elsewhere there is bank between 5 and 8 metres wide overall and about 0.4 metres high save on the south where the inner face is 0.9 metres high. Here, as with the western earthwork there seems to have been some scarping of the hillslope to create a partly levelled interior. In the north west there is a possible simple entrance, 2 metres wide, flanked by low stub ends of bank. There are no traces of any outer ditch to the enclosure. Close to the bank within the western part there is a depression 15 metres overall with a level interior 10 metres across. It is 0.3 metres deep with faint traces of banking on the eastern side. There is a 4 metre gap in the northwest (in the direction of the entrance) and the feature appears to be a house site. Both sites are only half the size of the nearby Bagley and Sweetworthy settlements (MSO7345 and MSO7333) but otherwise similar, except for the apparent lack of outer ditches. Whether or not they are contemporaneous both fall within the category of Iron Age or Iron Age/Romano-British hillslope settlements. To have three within 300 metres and a fourth 600 metres away creates a unique grouping between 330 metre to 350 metre contours in a sheltered area cut by small combes which extend northwards to the East Water valley. [3-5] The enclosures were located to the National Grid using GPS as part of the RCHME Exmoor project. The sites are discussed in their archaeological landscape context in the survey report. [6] Two subcircular enclosures of probable late prehistoric date are visible on aerial photographs surviving as fairly substantial earthworks on unenclosed moorland on the north facing slopes of Dunkery Hill, close to the hillslope enclosure of Sweetworthy. The assumed centre point of the easternmost of the two enclosures is given by the above authority. However, as also stated above the north east quadrant is not visible. The southwestern quadrant is visible for almost 70 metres of its circumference, and is centred on circa SS 8886 4234. This section appears to define a slightly ovoid enclosure with the longer axis running downslope. The internal diameter of 35 metres quoted above may be slightly low, the visible fragment having a possible minimum diameter of over 40 metres. Although more is visible of the the second enclosure earthworks, it is also incomplete, visible on the aerial photographs as two lengths of curved bank at SS 8899 4238 and SS 8900 4242, 58 and 36 metres in length respectively. It appears to be notably more ovoid in shape than the eastern enclosure, the long axis of the site following the contour of the combe roughly east to west. The internal areas of the two enclosures do appear slightly irregular in appearance but it is not possible to define discrete hut circles. However, a possible third smaller enclosure, perhaps an unenclosed hut circle, can be seen to the southwest of the eastern enclosure at SS 8897 4237. [7-10] Additional reference. [11] (Eastern) wide bank forming circular enclosure. (Western) southwest arc of circular enclosure. [12] May be associated with surrounding earthworks (MSO7333, MSO7357). [15] (Western) Possible unfinished hillslope enclosure - 120 degrees of hypothetical circular earthwork and ditch, although the whole circuit can be seen in vegetational changes. Surviving bank is very stony and about 0.3 metres high and 3 metres wide. Track crosses the enclosure but there is no indication of the original entrance. [15] Monument scheduled on 13 July 1994. [17] The site was visited as part of the Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009. Both enclosures were given a survival score of 10. [19] Work was undertaken in March 2009 to clear scrub from the enclosures. [20] As part of the 2009/10 Monument Management Scheme vegetation control was undertaken on the site, through cutting and spraying, around and within the enclosures. [21] The site was surveyed in June 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. The eastern enclosure was given a survival score of 4 and the western one a score of 3. [22] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [23]

Sources/Archives (23)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: West Air Photography. 1981-1983. Oblique aerial photographs across Exmoor National Park. 27534.
  • <2> Serial: Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 1851-. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. Volume 127 (1983), 83,94.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Quinnell, N.V.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 6 August 1987.
  • <4> Technical drawing: Sainsbury, I. and Quinnell, N.V.. 1987. Sweetworthy/ink survey . 1:250. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <5> Collection: Pattison, P., Quinnell, N.V., Fletcher, M. and Sainsbury, I.. 1987-1988. RCHME: Exmoor Pilot Survey, SS 84 SE, Somerset.
  • <6> Report: Riley, H.. 1996. The prehistoric enclosures and medieval and post medieval settlements at Bagley and Sweetworthy, Luccombe, Somerset. RCHME.
  • <7> Aerial photograph: 10/1/1989. DAP LD28-34, LF17-19. DAP LD/33.
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8842/18 (15856/01) (20 January 1998).
  • <9> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/73109 955-6 (29 January 1973).
  • <10> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SE. MD002185.
  • <11> Monograph: Kain, R.. 2006. England's Landscape: The South West. Collins. Volume 3. 57; figure 3.14.
  • <12> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 8942.
  • <13> Aerial photograph: 1947. LHL CPE/UK/1980. 3175.
  • <14> Aerial photograph: September 19. HSL.UK.71-177 Run 89. 8668.
  • <15> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. E Dennison, Somerset County Council, 15 February 1984.
  • <16> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Various. Somerset HER parish files - Exmoor records. PRN 33712.
  • <17> Unpublished document: English Heritage. 12/8/1994. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <18> Report: Preece, A.. 1993-1994. English Heritage Monument Protection Programme.
  • <19> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <20> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2009. Monument Management Scheme: 2008-9 Report. P. 12.
  • <21> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2010. Monument Management Scheme: 2009-10 Report.
  • <22> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <23> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36096, Extant 14 March 2022.



Grid reference Centred SS 8893 4238 (166m by 109m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SS84SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (3)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO160
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11354
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11356
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO7356
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE49
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • National Trust HER Record
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36096
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33710
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33712

Record last edited

Mar 14 2022 9:59PM


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