MSO7422 - Ley Hill medieval settlement (Monument)


A deserted medieval settlement on Ley Hill, comprising the remains of seven buildings visible as low stony banks along a hollow way. The Ley Hill site is currently the only excavated deserted medieval settlement in Exmoor National Park.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

A deserted medieval settlement was located on Ley Hill by R. McDonnell in 1994, during archaeological evaluation work for the National Trust. [1] The site consists of six housing platforms, a hollow way and boundary banks. [2] The earthworks of this deserted settlement were surveyed at 1:500 scale by the Exeter Office of Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England in January 1997, as part of its East Exmoor Project. The remains of seven buildings were identified, surviving as low stony banks, arranged along an axial hollow way. The site is interpreted as a small hamlet, for which no documented history survives. A detailed report has been deposited in the National Monuments Record. [3-6] The settlement consists of seven buildings grouped along a former route from Exford to Porlock, which survives as a holloway 0.7 metres deep. Two groups of buildings survive and two isolated structures but there is no trace of property boundaries associated with them. The first group of three buildings appear to lie at right angles on two sides of a yard to the south side of the holloway and cut back into the hillside. Two more buildings form a group to the north of the holloway. The final two structures are isolated on the south side of the holloway. The site is associated with a field system (MSO7370), part of which continues as a lynchet into the settlement, confirming the relationship. There is no evidence to name the site Lower Wells, nor was any ground evidence located to suggest that Higher Wells was ever a settlement. [7] Radiocarbon dating of a seed sample from the site was undertaken in March 1999. It revealed a radiocarbon age BP of 675+-45. Calibrated age ranges were 1) cal AD 1284-1385, cal BP 666-565 and 2) cal AD 1270-1398, cal BP 680-552. [8] The site was photographed by the RCHME in 1999. [9] The building furthest down the southeast facing slope was excavated in 1998.The evidence indicated that it had been a barn. In 1999 and 2000, there was an excavation to examine the highest building terrace, where earthwork evidence suggested that it was the largest building on site. The front wall of the building was cob set directly onto the ground, and a floor surface of beaten earth survived. A cross-wall (surviving as rubble stone) also rested on the beaten floor and butted onto the cob front wall. Several large pieces of probable 13th/14th century pottery and a whetstone were found, indicating that the building may have been a dwelling, though no hearth was located. Postholes in the yard area in front of the building suggested there had been another building parallel to it. [10] Additional bibliography. [12-20] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [21] The reports have been combined into a single report published in the SANHS Proceedings. A deserted medieval hamlet was discovered in 1994. A programme of recording was initiated due to damage being caused by use of a bridleway. Results show that the buildings were constructed of cob, or cob on stone footings. The three excavated structures may have been in use as a house, a longhouse and a barn. Locally made pottery recovered during the work suggested a date range of the 12th to 14th Centuries. The Ley Hill site is still the only excavated deserted medieval settlement in Exmoor National Park. [22]

Sources/Archives (23)

  • --- Unpublished document: Dove, C.. 2022. Exmoor LHL Panel Meeting 28 November 2022. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <1> Report: McDonnell, R.R.J.. 1994. Horner Wood: Report on the Preliminary Archaeological Field Assessment of Two Sample Areas. Richard McDonnel. P.12.
  • <2> Article in serial: Heal, S.V.E.. 1995. Somerset Archaeology 1994. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 138. P.179.
  • <3> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R. and Riley, H.. 1997. Ley Hill settlement/pencil survey. 1:500. Permatrace. Pencil.
  • <4> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1997. Ley Hill settlement/ink survey. 1:500. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <5> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R. Wilson-North and H. Riley, 13 February 1997.
  • <7> Report: Wilson-North, R.. 1997. A medieval settlement and prehistoric enclosure at Ley Hill, Luccombe, Somerset. RCHME.
  • <8> Report: Naysmith, P.. 1999. Radiocarbon dating certificate: Leyhill settlement.
  • <9> Photograph: Hesketh-Roberts, M.. 1999. Job: Ley Hill Deserted Medieval Village. Unknown. Negative.
  • <10> Article in serial: Thackray, C.. 2001. Holnicote Estate - Excavation at Ley Hill Deserted Medieval Settlement. The National Trust: Annual Archaeological Review. 2000-2001. 9. P.63-64.
  • <11> Article in serial: Rundle, C.. 2000. Archaeologists Uncover Mediaeval Settlement: Ancient Oak Woods Reveal Their Secrets. Western Daily Press.
  • <12> Report: Papworth, M.. 1999. Magnetometry survey of part of the Ley Hill Site. National Trust, The.
  • <13> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 2000. [Unknown]. Archaeology South West. 5.
  • <14> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 2000-2001. [Unknown]. The National Trust: Annual Archaeological Review. 9.
  • <15> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 1999. [Unknown]. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat. 142.
  • <16> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 2001. [Unknown]. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat. 143.
  • <17> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 2002. [Unknown]. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat. 144.
  • <18> Report: Papworth, M.. 1998. A resistivity survey of the medieval settlement at Ley Hill, Luccombe, Somerset. National Trust, The.
  • <19> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 1999. [Unknown]. The National Trust: Annual Archaeological Review. 7.
  • <20> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 1999-2000. [Unknown]. The National Trust: Annual Archaeological Review. 8.
  • <21> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1084187, Extant 8 February 2022.
  • <22> Article in serial: Richardson, I.. 2019. Ley Hill, a deserted medieval site on Exmoor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat. 162. pp 9-42.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Local Heritage List Status (Listed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE67
  • National Park
  • NBR Index Number: 2K/00047
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1084187
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35403



Grid reference Centred SS 2892 145e (103m by 103m) Estimated from sources
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (3)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Dec 8 2023 2:07PM


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