MSO7904 - Possible prehistoric enclosure on Porlock Allotment (Monument)


A small enclosure is defined by a prominent bank and broad external ditch, with a well defined entrance on the north side. It is likely to be prehistoric. The earthwork was robbed for ballast for the nearby railway trackbed.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

SS 843436. A small enclosure. [1] SS 8430 4365. Traces of ditch and bank, circular form, about 60 metres in diameter. [2] SS 8430 4365. A pound noted on air photographs was confirmed on the ground. It is approximately 70 metres in diameter, with substantial banks and traces of an outer ditch. The well-defined entrance is on the north side and although no hut circle walls are visible, two levelled platforms are present. A large circular feature in the southwest quadrant was visible on the air photographs but was not seen in the field. [3] Centred at SS 8431 4373 on west facing slopes on Porlock Allotment is an enclosure. It is oval in shape, measuring 52 metres by 43 metres and is defined by a prominent bank up to 1.2 metres high and a broad external ditch 0.4 metres deep. The feature has been badly disturbed so that the bank has been largely robbed away on the west and south, surviving only on the north and east. The ditch is discontinuous, fading away on the downslope side, and having been infilled on the east. A break in the bank and ditch on the northern side marks a possible entrance. The date and function of the enclosure are uncertain, but it is most likely to be prehistoric. There is no conclusive evidence for settlement internally, although various scarps and a slight platform (possibly a hut stance) are visible in the centre of the enclosure. The feature lies close to the trackbed of the Simonsbath to Porlock Railway (MSO7906), which passes on the eastern side and has infilled the ditch. The very disturbed nature of the enclosure is probably due to its proximity to the railway. The earthwork seems to have been used as a ballast quarry and may even have served as a location for a works store or temporary accommodation. To the south of the enclosure is a field bank, some 160 metres long, running southwest to northeast from SS 84294 43662 to SS 84432 43748. It is not clear whether it is associated with the enclosure although it appears to be prehistoric. Surveyed with GPS at 1:1000 scale, August 1996. [4,5] The much disturbed and mutilated remains of this enclosure can be seen as subtle earthworks on aerial photographs of the 1940s onwards. The enclosure appears roughly pentagonal in shape although this impression may be enhanced by the truncation of the southeast bank by the course of the Simonsbath to Porlock Railway and the loss of the bank on the southwestern face. Internally the transcribed enclosure measures 47 metres across at its widest point, enclosing an area of c. 1450 square metres. No internal features suggestive of settlement evidence are can be discerned on the photographs available to the survey, but patterns of vegetation may have been previously mistaken for hut circles or platforms. [6-8] A probable circular enclosure on a west facing slope. Encloses 2 circular house platforms but a third circular feature noted on aerial photographs in the south-west quadrant was not seen. On the upslope side the banks are well defined but spread. They are up to 1.5 metres high and are cut by the Exmoor-Porlock railway (MSO7906). There is a well defined entrance is on the northeast side, with what is possibly an original outer ditch. On the downslope side the enclosure is defined by a low terrace with no other ditch visible. There is a possible orthostat on the southwest side of the westerly house platform. The house platforms are 11 paces in diameter and the enclosure 50 paces in diameter. [9] There is a field bank nearby which may be the remains of a field system. [10] The field bank runs eastnortheast to westsouthwest and is of varying dimensions ranging from 1 metre high and 4 metres wide to virtually nothing. [11] This was surveyed during a measured field survey in 2013, undertaken as part of the Dig Porlock project, run by the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership Scheme. [16] Geophysical survey undertaken in 2013 concentrated on this enclosure, as survey area 3. The bank was visible in the resistivity data, with some sections having higher resistance readings than the whole, indicating that parts of the bank were stone built. The corresponding ditch was also clearly visible in the resistivity survey as a low resistance feature; interestingly, in areas where the bank appeared to be comprised of stone, the ditch appeared to be deeper (indicated by much lower resistance), perhaps having been quarried to provide the stone. An entrance is implied to the north of the feature, seen in both bank and ditch. Inside the enclosure are two features, one possibly representing a path and the other dispersed stone or a floor surface. Three slight hollows possibly representing trackways or paths are noted within the enclosure, one in the southern end forming a circular walk around what is suggested could have been a timber structure. To the north of the circular track an area of high resistance is seen, indicating the presence of an area of stone; this could be the remains of a building, a spread out former cairn, or a floor surface. [17] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [18]

Sources/Archives (18)

  • <1> Unpublished document: Silvester, R. 28.07.76. R Silvester, Uni of Exeter, to Somerset County Council.
  • <2> Aerial photograph: Aerial photograph reference number . OS 73 087. 687, 8.
  • <3> Article in serial: Burrow, I., Minnitt, S. + Murless, B.. 1980. Somerset Archaeology 1979. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 124. P. 116.
  • <4> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1996. Porlock Allotment/enclosure/hut platforms/SS 84 SW 29, 57/ink survey. 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North and H Riley, 1 August 1996.
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 8443/15 (23340/25) (1 March 2004).
  • <7> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/931 (F20) 3054-5 (8 November 1952).
  • <8> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SW. MD002184.
  • <9> Unassigned: McDonnell, R. 7/6/1982. R McDonnell, 7 June 1982.
  • <10> Unassigned: Dennison, E, Somerset County Council. 26.04.84.
  • <11> Unassigned: McDonnell, R. 6/6/1982.
  • <12> Aerial photograph: 1947. LHL CPE/UK/1980. 3062.
  • <13> Aerial photograph: September 19. HSL.UK.71-178 Run 85. 9335.
  • <14> Aerial photograph: 1990. DAP QP 7-9.
  • <15> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 8443.
  • <16> Report: Riley, H.. 2013. Dig Porlock: Earthwork surveys on Porlock Allotment. 3, 10, 15, 16.
  • <17> Report: Gillings, M & Taylor, J. 2013. Porlock Allotment, Exmoor: Geophysical Survey. 7-12.
  • <18> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36285, Extant 21 June 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 8431 4372 (53m by 59m) Centred on
Map sheet SS84SW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (4)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO177
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11551
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SW29
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36285
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33947

Record last edited

Jul 11 2021 10:36PM


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