MSO7881 - Whit Stones (Monument)


Two large slabs of rock, possibly of prehistoric origin and probably utilised as boundary markers in the medieval period.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 8532 4624 Whit Stones (NAT). Two stones are shown on the 1962 and 1975 Ordnance Survey mapping, at SS 85321 46239 and SS 85321 46249 respectively. [1,2] Two massive sandstone slabs, both one foot thick, are seen slanting eastwards. Both must have been least 1.5 metres high when they were upright. One is a square-topped rectangle 0.91 metres wide and the other, to the south, has a base more than 1.52 metres wide but narrows to a broad blunt triangle. Both are aligned just east of grid north with a space of 2.35 metres between them, making in all, a line some 4.88 metres long. Despite appearing to be a landmark, they were never on the boundary of Exmoor forest although "Whitestone" appears in the perambulations. [3] These two massive stones, almost 1.22 metres (4 feet) high are possibly the remains of a burial chamber. These are known as either 'Whit Stones' or 'White Stones'. Legends are that they were thrown by the Devil from Hurlstone Point (hence the name) or by the Devil and an anonymous Giant. [6-8] Additional bibliography. [9-11] SS 85324624. Whit Stones: two massive, leaning stone slabs set in a line oriented just east of grid north with a gap of 2.35 metres between them. They are situated close to the Porlock to Lynton road amongst heather and coarse grass, on a moderate, east facing slope. There are extensive views to the north and east across the Bristol Channel and along the Somerset coast. The origin and purpose of these stones is obscure. They are depicted on maps of 1782 [12] and 1822 [13] as `White Stones'. There is a possibility that they are the `Whiteston' of Exmoor Forest boundary perambulations (beginning in the 13th Century) but this is believed to be the likely of two possible locations [14]. When upright they would have formed a significant marker for the approach from the east. The stones are very different from other lithic monuments on Exmoor and there are no stone settings or standing stones like them. Crawfords original suggestion [8] that they were part of a prehistoric burial chamber is still valid despite Grinsells view that the stones are too far apart and if prehistoric, might be the remains of a stone circle, stone row, or setting [15]. Seven metres southeast of stone B is a small, turf and soil mound 5 metres wide by 0.2-0.7 metres high. It is recorded as a possible barrow, (MSO7885). This is unlikely, and the true nature of the earthwork is unknown. [16,17] A table with further information on the stones is held in the Archive. The north stone is 0.85 metres high, 0.7-0.9 metres wide and 0.35 metres thick; it is leaning 60 degrees, but stands firm. The south stone is triangular, 0.9 metres high, 1.65 metres wide and 0.25-0.35 metres thick; it leans at 70 degrees but stands firm despite the presence of an erosion hollow on the east. [18] SS 854463. Whit Stones, standing stones. Scheduled. [19] The scheduled area was revised on 27 March 1996 with new national number, this was previously Somerset 165. [20] The Whit Stones were surveyed using GPS as part of the East Exmoor Project, giving national grid references of SS 85325 46254 and SS85323 46250 for the two stones. The southern stone has an Ordnance Survey benchmark inscribed on its upper face. [18,21] [SS 8532 4624] White Stones (NAT) (Two stones shown) [22] "Whit Stones" labelled on 25 inch 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. A benchmark is labelled on the stones. [23] Additional bibliography. [24-25] The Whit Stones were surveyed in 2002 due to concerns of erosion by a neighbouring footpath. The two stones were noted to lie west of cairn MSO7885, leaning over at a 45 degree angle towards it. They are both large stones, with between 1 metre and 2 metres in length and o.5 metres and 0.8 metres in depth above ground. They appeared solid and firmly embedded. An area surrounding the stones was mildly eroded by animals and free of typical moorland vegetation except grass. The survey sought to establish the relationship between and the position of the stones and the cairn. It also noted that while the stones were not physically affected by the path, they were sheltered and offer a good view of the surrounding area and present a comfortable and convenient place to rest for passing visitors, both human and animal. [26] Conservation works were undertaken under the Monument Management Scheme in Spring 2002 to consolidate the area damaged by the path and deter its future use by animals. [27] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 3. [28] The site was surveyed in May 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 3. [29] A pair of standing stones situated near a turf mound on an area of Porlock Common west of Whitstone Post, between the A39 and the road to Exford. Both stones are larger than many other standing stones on Exmoor and they may have once been boundary markers. The purpose of the turf mound is unknown. These large slabs have attracted livestock to rub against them, which has created erosion hollows around both stones. Numerous animal tracks, and man-made desire lines lead across this area from the road, with 3 lines leading directly to the stones. [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 (31)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560. 1962, Somerset, SS 84 NE.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1975. 1:10,000 Map, 1975. 1:10,000. 1975, Somerset, SS 84 NE.
  • <3> Monograph: Eardley-Wilmot, H.. 1983. Ancient Exmoor: A Study of the Archaeology and Prehistory of Exmoor. The Exmoor Press. Microstudy C2. 40-41.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Eardley-Wilmot, H. 08.12.80. Eardley-Wilmot, H to Somerset County Council.
  • <5> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. E Dennison, Somerset County Council, 26 April 1984.
  • <6> Monograph: Snell, F.J.. 1903. A Book of Exmoor. Methuen & Co.. 1st Edition. 264.
  • <7> Monograph: Page, J.L.W.. 1890. An Exploration of Exmoor and the Hill Country of West Somerset: With Notes on its Archaeology. 80, 139-40.
  • <8> Unassigned: Crawford, O. G. S.. 1927. MS Notes.
  • <9> Monograph: Briggs, K.M and Tongue, R.L. 1965. Folktales of England. 68-73, 116-17.
  • <10> Article in serial: Wicks, A. T.. 1933. Barrow Lore. Somerset Year Book. 104.
  • <11> Article in serial: Grinsell, L.V.. 1969. Somerset Barrows. Part I: West and South. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 113. 14.
  • <12> Map: 1782. Day and Masters map of Somerset.
  • <13> Map: Greenwood. 1822. Greenwood's County map of Somerset. 76.
  • <14> Monograph: MacDermot, E.T.. 1973. The History of the Forest of Exmoor. David and Charles Limited. Revised Edition. p117, 118, 131.
  • <15> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited. 48-9.
  • <16> Technical drawing: Pattison, P.. 1988. Whit Stones/ink survey . 1:100. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <17> Unpublished document: Pattison, P. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 13 December 1988.
  • <18> 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. SS 84 NE 14, 64.
  • <19> Unpublished document: Various. Scheduled Monument Notification . DOE(IAM)AMs Eng 2 (1978) 118.
  • <20> Unpublished document: English Heritage. 26.4.1996. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <21> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 19 August 1997.
  • <22> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1809. 1" 1st edition.
  • <23> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <24> Monograph: Grinsell, L V. 1976. Folklore of Prehistoric Britain. 103.
  • <25> Article in serial: Fowler, MJ. 1988. The Standing Stones of Exmoor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 132. 1-13 (Porlock 1).
  • <26> Report: Cutler, G.M. and Gillard, M.J.. 2002. The Whitstones, Porlock Common: A survey carried out March 21st, 2002.
  • <27> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2002. Whit Stones, Porlock, Somerset.
  • <28> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <29> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <30>XY Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. MSO7881. [Mapped features: #45673 Stone A., MSO7881; #45674 Stone B., MSO7881]
  • <31> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35870, Extant 7 February 2022.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11548
  • Local List Status (No)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE14
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35870
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33943



Grid reference Centred SS 8532 4625 (7m by 11m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SS84NE

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Record last edited

Feb 7 2022 12:36PM


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