MSO8682 - Withypool Stone Circle, Withypool Hill (Monument)


The remains of a stone circle on the southwest slope of Withypool Hill. It is alleged that it once consisted of 100 stones, but survey in 1989 revealed 27 upright stones and 3 fallen ones. The diameter of the circle is approximately 36 metres.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

A stone circle, with a diameter of 40 yards, is located on the southwest slope of Withypoole Hill, 733 yards eastsoutheast of Portford Bridge. The remains consist of 37 stones [1], 3.5 feet apart, but formerly there were circa 100. [1,2] The remains consist of 29 earthfast stones set as the circumference of a true circle. The largest stone is 0.7 metres long by 0.2 metres thick, and stands 0.5 metres above the ground, but the majority of the others are considerably smaller. There is no trace of a bank, ditch, or any other feature associated with the stones. Surveyed at 1:2500. [3] [SS 8383 3430] Stone Circle (NR). [4] Additional bibliography. [5-7] The Withypool stone circle, which was first known and surveyed in 1906, proved to be 120 feet in diameter. Thirty seven stones remained at the time of survey, with many gaps; however, if the stones were at an average distance of 3.5 feet apart, then there were originally nearly 100 stones. The average height of the existing stones was only 1.03 feet, the highest being 2 feet. [8] The stone circle, located at SS 837 342, Withypool Hill, is scheduled. [9] The area was swaled in 1978. 29 stones remain intact - stones 13, 17, 25 and 33 were missing (numbered on Gray's plan), stone 3 was broken at ground level, stones 19, 37 and 23 were split, the latter into 3. This reflects natural erosion rather than deliberate vandalism. [10] Stones vary in height from 0.075 metres to 0.4 metres, some being hardly visible. There are 25 embedded stones, and also some loose ones filling the gaps. There is a small pile of stones (modern) in the centre. [11] The remains of a stone circle at SS 8383 3430, measuring 36 metres in diameter, are located on a moderate southwest facing slope at about 385 metres Ordnance Datum, on the southwest side of Withypool Hill. The area, predominantly heather, has been recently swaled so the stones were clearly visible (see plan at 1:100). It was first described by St George Gray in 1906. Thirty seven stones out of a possible original total of about 100, were planned. Twentynine were recorded in 1965 and again in 1978. In 1989, 27 earthfast uprights and three fallen stones were identified by RCHME. Stone 20a may simply be a residual packing stone. The majority of the uprights are about 0.1 metres high, 0.3 metres wide and 0.1 metre thick, with some very small exceptions; stone 26, for example, measures only 0.01 metre high, 0.17 metres wide and 0.02 metres thick. Only four are reasonably large; 2,12,15 and 24 and are about 0.5 metres high, 0.6 metres wide and 0.2 metres thick. The RCHME plan follows the numbering on the 1906 survey, thus indicating former stones, such as 16 and 17, which are now lost. On the early plan, two unnumbered hollows were shown at 2a and 31a; they are no longer visible. [14,15] The remains of a stone circle standing on the southwest slope of Withypool Hill, at SS 8382 3431, are scheduled. It is alleged that the circle once consisted of about 100 stones, but it now consists of around 25 upright stones and several fallen ones, which remain close to their original positions. The stones average 0.5 metres high, 0.4 metres wide and 0.2 metres thick. The overall diameter of the circle is approximately 36 metres with a circumference of about 115 metres. [16] Twenty seven earthfast uprights and three fallen stones were identified in 1989. The majority of the uprights are c0.1 metres high with some smaller; four are reasonably large, c0.5 metres high. [17] In private ownership. [18] Considering their dimensions it is perhaps unsurprising that the stones of the Withypool Hill stone circle are not visible on aerial photographs. However, the site can be easily seen on aerial photographs of the 1940s onwards due to the footpath encircling the site and hollows around several of the stones, eroded by visitors to the site and livestock using the stone settings as rubbing posts. Hints of shadows within these hollows may be cast by the larger stones or simply the hollows indicating their former locations. The eroded path is up to 40 metres in diameter and over 120 metres in circumference. [19-22] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 11. [27] The monument has suffered damage due to the development of an unoffical bridleway through the centre of the circle. [28] The site was surveyed in March 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 12. [29] The stone circle was subject to a programme of works undertaken by AC Archaeology and Substrata during January and February 2017 as part of a project looking at the wider landscape of Withypool Hill. This was commissioned by Exmoor National Park Authority and funding was provided by Historic England as part of their Heritage at Risk programme. The works undertaken included a desk based assessment and site visit, followed by resistivity and magnetometer surveys and measured and photographic surveys of the circle. The circle was first identified in 1898 and archaeologically recorded in 1906 by Harold St George Gray, when 37 stones were plotted [2]; it is alleged that originally it could have contained 100 stones. The asset has been the subject of topographic and conditions surveys from the 1960s onwards: in 1969 and 1978 29 stones were recorded but this had dropped to 27 in 1989. The 2017 survey identified 30 in situ stones forming part of the circle. Stones not recorded in 1989 had been previously identified and had been exposed in a circular track running around the stone circle, indicating that use of the track is causing erosion to the ground surface with formerly buried stones becoming visible. Conversely, some of the stones recorded in 1989 and not identified in 2017 appear to have been lost as a result of erosion along the route of this track. This track averages 610 mm wide and has been created by people walking around the stone circle. The principle track running through the stone circle on a broadly east to west alignment measures up to 6.85 metres wide, and has extensive rutting along the centre. Historically, the creation of this track may have been responsible for the loss of stones (between 10 and 11, and 31a-32) but there is no evidence that new damage is being caused to the visible upright stones. A modern cairn has been created adjacent to the track in the centre of the stone circle. It is formed from small stones possibly derived from the track (i.e. naturally eroding stone) or from another source, the stone circle itself or from the quarry car park immediately west of the survey area, southwest of Portford Bridge. Several animal tracks were recorded passing through the stone circle. These were not causing any damage and there is no evidence that the grazing animals were using the monoliths as rubbing stones. Most are generally too small for such a use. The geophysical surveys revealed a disrupted, sub-circular resistance anomaly group following the course of a modern path surrounding Withypool Stone Circle and the most likely explanation is that this anomaly group represents the path. The magnetic data within and around the stone circle has a number of anomalies that could be interpreted as pits or large postholes. Whilst some of these are most likely to represent natural deposits, their association with the stone circle made their mapping as potential archaeological deposits prudent. One group appeared to form a linear pattern of potential pits. One, and possibly two magnetic anomaly groups with characteristics often associated with intense, in situ heating were recorded within the Withypool Stone Circle. [30] In addition to the works described in [30], work has been undertaken on the site in 2017 to reduce erosion to the site. This included public consultation with local users of the land and a protective dead gorse hedge was constructed around the circle in February 2017, with drainage introduced across the track uphill of the circle to divert rain water away from an eroding gully running down through the circle's middle. Vehicle access to the site was also restricted. This has been subject to monitoring and maintenance throughout the following year. [31] Withypool Stone Circle is situated on the southern slopes of Withypool Hill and consists of 27 stones (as well as a potential lost stone), and 9 clear setting hollows where stones once stood. The stones are sandstone with quartzite veins, varying in size between stubs, barely exposed above the ground, to upright stones roughly 0.5m tall. The monument is a clear circle with some large breaks on the north, south, and western sides. There is some difficulty in finding the smaller stones as the molinia grass can obscure them. A damaging desire line has continued to be followed by horses and walkers directly through the circle. This passes over several vulnerable stones on the north-east side. The continued use, despite the erection of a gorse barrier this year, has also led to waterlogging and further turf damage, unaided by wet weather. On some of the larger stones (2, 11, 24, and 30), livestock have been using them for rubbing, creating erosion hollows. [32] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [33]

Sources/Archives (33)

  • <1> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. P.350.
  • <2> Article in serial: Gray, H.St.G. 1906. The Stone Circles of the British Isles. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 52. P.43-50, Plan.
  • <3> Unpublished document: PITCHER, GHP. 1960s. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 1 September 1965.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <5> Article in serial: Walker, J.W.. 1916-17. Magna. The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. 24. P.5, appendix.
  • <6> Monograph: Burl, A.. 1976. The Stone Circles of the British Isles. Yale University Press. P.300-301, 347, 348.
  • <7> Monograph: Dobson, D.P.. 1931. The Archaeology of Somerset. P.60.
  • <8> Article in serial: Gray, H.St.G.. 1950. Porlock Stone Circle. Archaeological Journal. 107. 87-88. 87.
  • <9> Index: English Heritage. 1913-. Schedule of Monuments. Department of Environment, Ancient Monuments of England 2, 1978, p 119.
  • <10> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. I Burrow, Somerset County Council, 6 December 1987.
  • <11> Report: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. Field Monument Warden Report.
  • <12> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 8334.
  • <13> Article in serial: Fowler, M.J.F.. 1988/1989. The Standing Stones of Exmoor: A Provisional Catalogue of 62 West Somerset Sites. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 132. P.1-13 (Withypool 1).
  • <14> Technical drawing: Sainsbury, I.. 1989. Withypool Hill Stone Circle Ink Survey. 1:100. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <15> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 6 January 1989.
  • <16> Unpublished document: Various. Scheduled Monument Notification . 24 February 2004.
  • <17> 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. SS83SW1, P.68.
  • <18> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. Somerset County Council Planning.
  • <19> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF 160G/UK/1655 (F20) 3295-6 (11 July 1946).
  • <20> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS/8334/5 (15885/30) (19 March 1998).
  • <21> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF LHL CPE.UK.1980 3363 (April 1947).
  • <21> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS/8334/1 (18009/16) (19 March 1998).
  • <22> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. HSL.UK.71-178 Run 83 9309 (September 1971).
  • <22> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 83 SW. MD002197.
  • <23> Aerial photograph: Meridian Air Maps. 1977-1978. Infrared False Colour Aerial Photography. 12.080 (May 1977).
  • <26> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2008. Withypool Stone Circle.
  • <27> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <28> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2009. Monument Management Scheme: 2008-9 Report. P. 6.
  • <29> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <30> Report: Passmore, A. and Dean, R.. 2018. Withypool Hill, Withypool, Exmoor Park: Results of archaeological desk-based assessment, measured and photographic survey of Withypool Stone Circle, and geophysical survey.
  • <31> Report: Blaylock, S.. 2018. Withypool Stone Circle, Withypool Hill, Exmoor: Recording, monitoring and conservation works 2017-2018.
  • <32> Report: Fuller, J.. 2018. Exmoor Prehistoric Standing Stone Condition Survey: 2017-2018. MSO8682.
  • <33> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35802, Extant 2 February 2022.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO129
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11731
  • Local List Status (No)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 83 SW1
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35802
  • Scheduled Monument (County Number): SOMER 36
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 34299
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35720



Grid reference Centred SS 8382 3431 (55m by 55m) Estimated from sources
Map sheet SS83SW

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Record last edited

Feb 2 2022 10:35AM


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