MSO7903 - Porlock Allotment I: Prehistoric stone setting southsoutheast of Black Barrow (Monument)


A prehistoric stone setting on Porlock Allotment, near the source of the Hoscombe stream. It comprises three rows of three stones, some of which appear to have been used as rubbing posts. They range in height from 0.1 to 0.5 metres.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

The Ordnance Survey 6 inch map of 1962 shows a group of stones at SS 8336 4378 which have been surveyed at 1:2500. The group consists of six stones, from 0.1 to 0.5 metres high, set upright in peaty soil and similar to the settings recorded by Chanter and Worth in 1906 and believed by them to be Neolithic or early Bronze Age. Since 1906, further settings have been discovered and it is certain that others remain to be found. They are now virtually confined to the northern half of Exmoor Forest where there has been little enclosure or cultivation. The majority are above the 1000 foot contour and on a slight slope or shelf regardless of aspect. Local stone is always used whether sandstone, slate or shale with slabs or posts embedded on end. They seldom exceed 0.6 metres in height and are often merely protrusions. Occasionally where there is some depth of peat the stones can be lifted out and replaced with ease; where there is little topsoil packing stones are used. Unique to south west England and with an average density of about one setting per square kilometre, they bear no resemblance to Dartmoor rows and have no obvious association with any cist or cairn. Suggestions have been made that the stones marked meeting places for penning and sorting flocks, but while sheep rearing has been almost continuous on Exmoor since early medieval times there is no tradition of their use and they are too short for use as uprights for hurdle pens. In Grinsell's book an oblique reference by Speed to "Anticke worke ... stones pitched in order, some triangle-wise" on Exmoor indicates that their purpose was unknown in the 17th Century. Analagous prehistoric settings occur in Scotland and uphold the Worth and Chanter classification with that of Grinsell who states they "maybe regarded generally as of Bronze Age date but caution must be exercised as they are often indistinguishable from medieval or later boundaries". [1-3] (SS 8336 4378) Stones (NR) [4] Stone setting comprising three rows of three stones. Eight of the stones are visible, standing or fallen, with a ninth lying under peat. The stones point along the rows, slightly uphill, to the northwest. [5] SS 8336 4378. A Setting of eight recumbant or near recumbant stones and one buried stone is situated at 419 metres above sea level on a slightly sloping north facing hillside near the source of the Hoscombe stream. The site posesses good views to the west and northwest and is set in an area of course moorland grass with patches of heather. The geology is the Hangman Grit series with the monument comprised of sandstone slabs and posts.The setting is arranged in three south-west to north-east rows, each of three stones, and forms a quadrilateral 8 metres southwest to northeast by 6.5 metres northwest to southeast. From examination of the three near recumbant stones, B, C and F, it is not possible to determine a specific orientation of the stones within the setting.The site appears to have been vandalised in the recent past. Though earlier authorities give no indication of how many of the stones were upright, the presence of erosion hollows around stones C,F and J would point to at least three others being erect and used by livestock as rubbing posts. Stone G lies on the ground surface and appears to have been recently disturbed, perhaps in conjunction with the toppling of C, F and J. [6,7] Surveyed with GPS, 19 August 1996. [8] Remains of three short rows of three stones. One stone buried, the rest recumbent or leaning. [9] Group of stones ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 metres high set upright in peaty soil, similar to other stone settings in the area. Difficult to date but may be medieval, relating to sheep rearing activity. [10] Stone also reported at SS 8325 4381 on the parish boundary which may represent an outlier or a boundary stone. [11] Length of setting 7 paces, width 6 paces. Most westerly stone is largest and was thought to be an outlier of a circle but disproved by probing which found another stone. [12] "Stones" marked on Ordnance Survey 1:10,000 map. [14] Scheduling on 27 March 1996. [15] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 12. [16] The site was surveyed in May 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 0. [17] A 3x3 stone setting similar to MSO6862, situated onPorlock Allotment, amongst very thick vegetation. The site consists of 8 stones, which vary significantly in shape, and 1 hollow. All of the stones are either leaning or recumbent, making the site very difficult to locate and interpret. Stones A-C (especially C) appear to be slightly offset to the rest of the stones, perhaps due to historic disturbance at the site. The vegetation cover over the site is significant and has completely concealed the stones. However, there is an absence of more damaging vegetation like bracken and gorse. There is a risk of some stones being completely buried under turf and vegetation (Especially stones B, C, E, H, G, and J). [18] The site was surveyed as part of an academic research project by Dr Sandy Gerrard in 2018. Surveys were conducted using a prismatic compass and electronic distance device with the plan being generated in the field. [19] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [20]

Sources/Archives (20)

  • <1> Article in serial: Chanter, J.F. and Worth, R.H.. 1906. The Rude Stone Monuments of Exmoor and its Borders. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 38. II, pp 538-552. P. 549.
  • <2> Monograph: Orwin, C.S.. 1929. The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest. Oxford University Press. 1st Edition.
  • <3> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited. P. 46-7.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1978. 1:10,000 Map, 1978. 1:10,000.
  • <5> Monograph: Eardley-Wilmot, H. 1983. Thirty Exmoor stone-settings.
  • <6> Technical drawing: Probert, S.. 1989. Porlock Allotment 1/ink survey . 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. SAJ Probert, 6 January 1989.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 19 August 1996.
  • <9> 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. SS84SW27. P. 60.
  • <10> Map: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1965. SS84SW. 27.
  • <11> Unassigned: McDonnell, R WAT. 24.11.76.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Eardley-Wilmot, H. 28.09.82. Eardley-Wilmot, H to Somerset County Council.
  • <13> Article in serial: Fowler, MJ. 1988. The Standing Stones of Exmoor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 132. P. 1-13 (Porlock 6).
  • <14> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1978. 1:10,000 Map, 1978. 1:10,000. SS84SW.
  • <15> Unpublished document: English Heritage. 26/4/1996. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <16> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <17> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015.
  • <18>XY Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. MSO7903. [Mapped feature: #45650 Porlock Allotment I, MSO7903]
  • <19> Website: Gerrard, S.. 2020. The Stone Rows of Great Britain.
  • <20> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36281, Extant 21 June 2021.

External Links (2)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11570
  • Local List Status (No)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW27
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36281
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33967



Grid reference Centred SS 8336 4378 (16m by 17m)
Map sheet SS84SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Jun 21 2021 9:56PM


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