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 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. [6,7] O. G. S. Crawford’s original suggestion that they were part of a prehistoric burial chamber is still valid; despite Grinsell’s view that the stones are too far apart and if prehistoric, might be the remains of a stone circle, stone row, or setting. [8, 16] 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. [12] 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 [20]. It is a cause of speculation whether the stones represent a prehistoric burial chamber (unique on Exmoor) or are the 'Whiteston' of the 13th century Forest Boundary perambulation; this is believed to be the likely of two possible locations for the boundary stones. These are named ‘White Stones’ on 1782 and 1822 maps. [8, 12, 22-3] The scheduled area was revised on 27 March 1996 with new national number, this was previously Somerset 165. [13] The stones are situated close to the Porlock 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. [25] 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. [25] 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. [12,14] 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]

Sources/Archives (30)

  • <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> Unassigned: Dennison, E, Somerset County Council. 26.04.84.
  • <6> 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.
  • <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> Monograph: Briggs, K.M and Tongue, R.L. 1965. Folktales of England. 68-73, 116-17.
  • <9> 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).
  • <10> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited. 48-9.
  • <11> Monograph: Grinsell, L V. 1976. Folklore of Prehistoric Britain. 103.
  • <12> Monograph: Quinnell, N.V. + 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.
  • <13> Unpublished document: English Heritage. 26.4.1996. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <14> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 19 August 1997.
  • <15> Monograph: Snell, F.J.. 1903. A Book of Exmoor. Methuen & Co.. 1st Edition. 264.
  • <16> Unassigned: Crawford, O. G. S.. 1927. MS Notes.
  • <17> Index: Scheduled Monument Notification . DOE(IAM)AMs Eng 2 1978 118.
  • <18> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <19> Article in serial: Wicks, A. T.. 1933. Barrow Lore. Somerset Year Book. 104.
  • <20> Survey: Whit Stones/ink survey . 1:100. General: Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <21> Monograph: MacDermot, E.T.. 1973. The History of the Forest of Exmoor. David and Charles Limited. Revised Edition.
  • <22> Map: 1782. Day and Masters map of Somerset.
  • <23> Map: Greenwood. 1822. Greenwood's County map of Somerset. 76.
  • <24> Unpublished document: Pattison, P. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 13 December 1988.
  • <25> Archive: English Heritage. National Monuments Record / AMIE / Monarch entry - viewable via Pastscape. 35870.
  • <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.
  • <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]



Grid reference Centred SS 8532 4625 (7m by 11m) (Centred on)
Map sheet SS84NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Related Articles (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11548
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE14
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 35870
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33943

Record last edited

Dec 18 2018 3:10PM


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