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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 36049

Hob Uid: 36049
Location :
Somerset
Somerset West and Taunton
Luccombe
Grid Ref : SS8878042400
Summary : The well preserved earthwork remains of a deserted medieval settlement near Sweetworthy Combe are visible as a series of rectilinear enclosures, depressions and boundary banks. The settlement may have contained three houses, the largest of which is approximately 32 metres long and 11 wide, and half a dozen smaller and less clearly defined ancillary structures. Fragmentary field boundaries visible on rough grazing to the west may be associated with the settlement. The remains have been transcribed from aerial photographs and surveyed in the field.
More information : SS 88804245. Deserted farmstead of Sweetworthy. Although no buildings are shown on the 1841 tithe map, clear remains can be seen on air photographs. Richard McDonnell discovered the well-preserved earthworks of several medieval buildings and enclosures linked by a hollow way and these can be clearly seen on air photograph near the Sweetworthy ringwork (SS 84 SE 12). (1-3)

"The site, together with Bagley (SS 84 SE 21) forms the most impressive group of medieval farm sites in West Somerset, particularly since they are associated with several probable prehistoric ringworks (SS 84 SE 12, 30 & 49) and a number of post-medieval waterleats and field banks". (4)

Centred at SS 8877 4242, at 330 metres O.D., is an area of desertion covering 1.5 hectares of well grazed pasture. The east and west sides are bounded by deep stream courses, dry in summer, with a third intermediate and tributary one which effectively separates the settlement into two parts.
The eastern part, at SS 8882 4244, lies on a very slight south west slope. Most prominent is a rectilinear yard or enclosure 33 metres by 10 metres, formed by a turf covered earth and stone bank 0.5 metres high. From it similar banks extend east and west to the old stream cuttings, creating a northern boundary beyond which there is rough pasture on a 1 in 5 slope becoming precipitous towards East Water combe. The enclosure has an entrance gap of 3 metres at the centre of the southern side, flanked on the west by a remnant of bank 12 metres long. To the south east are four rectilinear depressions, 0.1 metres deep, each about 5 metres by 3 metres, open on the lower south west ends. A larger one 9 metres by 6 metes, and 0.2 metres deep, incorporates a single earthfast slab 1.2 metres long and 0.1 metres high. This is in the south west beside a probable entrance gap. 25 metres south east of the primary yard or enclosure a stance, 15 metres by 10 metres has been cut into the slope to a depth of 0.8 metres and contains traces of a structure 12 metres by 6 metres, with an entrance in the south east and access by a passage along the south west side. This seems to be the only house in this part of the complex, the other depressions denoting pens or outbuildings.
There are two incomplete enclosures abutting the south west end of the large yard. It is uncertain if these represent buildings and from one a track like depression 0.1 metres deep runs to the stream channel. Its purpose is obscure for although the stream evidently issued near this point the subsequent cutting is 4 metres deep with precipitous sides, certainly inaccessible to cattle. From near this end of the cutting a linear hollow, 4 metres wide and between 0.4 and 1 metres deep, extends for 35 metres to the south east with a cropmark continuation to the moorland hedge, beyond which there are no traces. Perhaps a hollow way but the possibility of a former spring line cannot be discounted.
From the northern end of the above mentioned hollow there is 15 metres of blank ground and then another angular hollow 20 metres long and 3 metres wide occurs, cut 0.5 metres deep into a local slope. If this is part of the hollow way the whole is oddly discontinuous and takes a curious route, but both ends seem deliberately rounded as if the feature is complete in itself. Desertion in the western part (in which the second hollow occurs), at SS 8874 4243, is on a north slope of 1 in 6, leading to the convergence of the intermediate and western dry stream gullies. In the south are two rectilinear stances, 19 metres by 6 metres, and 14 metres by 8 metres, cut into the slope to depths of 0.5 and 1metres respectively. Each could represent a house site and the wider one has evidence of a structure 10 metres by 6 metres with a possible entrance near the north east corner. The narrower western stance is alongside the gully and within a few metres of a constriction that is now used as a crossing place for farm vehicles, but may have earlier origins. On the far side two north to south platforms have been terraced into the hillside on the west side of the gully, one above
the other in 1 metre steps. The platforms or terraces are 15 metres and 20 metres long and 4 metres and 7 metres wide, but show no evidence of structures.
Below the postulated house sites two east to west platforms about the gulley. The upper one, 15 metres by 6 metres, is poor; the lower is formed by a bank of earth and rubble 0.4 metres high externally but up to 1 metres high on the inner face. The interior 21 metres long and 7.5 metres wide has two partial subdivisions represented by parallel footings 2.2 metres apart rather in the nature of a stall. The building has an entrance gap 3.5 metres wide near the north east corner. Remarkably large, the building may have been roofed or even a yard with pens, and its unusually good definition may imply later use. Immediately to the south is another platform 18 metres by 10 metres, but of no distinction, and lastly, towards the convergence of stream cuttings an east to west platform is cut into a local slope to a depth of 1.5 metres. Overall it measures 15 metres by 8 metres but some slippage has reduced the flat interior to only 9 metres by 4 metres and it may be the site of an outbuilding.
The settlement may have comprised three houses and a half dozen ancillary structures of which the group in the eastern part are distanced from the house and clustered near the yard or paddock. Comparable small building sites seem absent in the western part of the complex. Houses and their stances do not conform by size or shape to the standard longhouse of Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor and may indicate a different and localised building tradition. All the visual evidence suggests desertion in the medieval period and it seems most unlikely there are no early references to the settlement unless it is the Hagley of the "Bagley and Hagley" steadings (SS 84 SE 21).
No rig and furrow can be seen in the vicinity; possibly traces have been destroyed by subsequent ploughing, and there has clearly been some improvement of the pasture since 1947, when A.P.s show numerous bushes over the field. Although the area is unlikely to become arable and much of the western part is too steep for anything but grazing land, scheduling seems a requirement. (5)

The earthworks were surveyed at a scale of 1:500 and located to the National Grid using GPs as part of the RCHME Exmoor project. The settlement was considered in its archaeological landscape and full details are given in the survey report (6).

The well preserved earthwork remains of a deserted medieval settlement near Sweetworthy Combe are visible as a series of rectilinear enclosures, depressions and boundary banks on aerial photographs, centred on circa 887424. The extant remains have been thoroughly summarised by the above authorities and the 1:500 will provide a detailed plan of the settlement (5-6). The earthworks and their environs have also been transcribed as part of the Exmoor National Mapping Programme survey. This survey has identified further subtle earthwork evidence, for cultivation to the immediate west of the settlement in the form of field boundaries and possible ridge and furrow cultivation. Unfortunately many of these remains have been largely levelled, probably by recent agricultural improvement, or are on aerial photographs with insufficient control for rectification. Nonetheless, it seems probable the field system was associated with the settlement. (7-12)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : (RAF CPE/UK 1980 April 1947 3174 & 4171)
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Source Number : 2
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : (SCPO HSL UK 1971 Run 89 8668)
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Source Number : 11
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : SS 8842/1 (2113/1127) 20-APR-1982
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Source Number : 12
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : SS 8842/38 (23831/24) 19-FEB-2005
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Source : Sweetworthy Deserted Settlement/ink survey
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Source : Bagley and Sweetworthy
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Source : Sweetworthy deserted medieval settlement/ink survey
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Source Number : 3
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : (West AP No 27534)
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Source Number : 4
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
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Page(s) : 83,94
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Vol(s) : 127, 1983
Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 NVQ 11-SEP-87
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Source Number : 6
Source : The prehistoric enclosures and medieval and post-medieval settlements at Bagley and Sweetworthy, Luccombe, Somerset : an archaeological survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England
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Source Number : 7
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : RAF CPE/UK/1980 F20 3237-8 11-APR-1947
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Source Number : 8
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR OS/79014 050-51 17-APR-1979
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Source Number : 9
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR SS 8942/19 (23826/23) 19-FEB-2005
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Source Number : 10
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : SS 8842/39 (23826/24) 19-FEB-2005
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Deserted Settlement, House Platform, Hollow, Field Boundary, Trackway, Ridge And Furrow
Evidence : Earthwork, Levelled Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 33703
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 24027
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : HER Number (Exmoor National Park)
External Cross Reference Number : MSO7346
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SS 84 SE 31
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1473440
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SS 84 SE 31
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1987-09-11
End Date : 1987-09-11
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2007-04-01
End Date : 2009-07-01