Ancient Monuments

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Field system on Seldon Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Up Cerne, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.8218 / 50°49'18"N

Longitude: -2.4974 / 2°29'50"W

OS Eastings: 365058.1774

OS Northings: 102588.567

OS Grid: ST650025

Mapcode National: GBR MV.XK33

Mapcode Global: FRA 56NX.NVY

Entry Name: Field system on Seldon Hill

Scheduled Date: 11 July 1961

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002460

English Heritage Legacy ID: DO 607

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Up Cerne

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Cerne Abbas St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


Part of a regular aggregate field system with medieval re-use 695m south west of Cerne Rise.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 11 February 2016. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument, which falls into two separate areas, includes part of an extensive prehistoric regular aggregate field system with later medieval re-use situated on the relatively steep sloping faces of Wancombe and Seldon Hills overlooking the valley of the River Cerne. The field system survives as a series of rectangular enclosures defined differentially by banks, lynchets and crop or soil marks which form a complex series of rectangular fields averaging 100m long by 40m wide. On the steeper slopes these earlier prehistoric fields have been overlain by the characteristic medieval strip field terraces, also defined by lynchets of up to 5m wide and 1.7m high. Other features including pits, hut circles and enclosed settlements have also been identified throughout the field system on aerial photographs taken in 2006.

The full extent of the field system is not included in the scheduling because it has not been formally assessed.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls or reaves, orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the field system. The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Regular aggregate field systems occur widely and have been recorded in south western and south eastern England, East Anglia, Cheshire, Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, North and South Yorkshire and Durham. They represent a coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time and can thus provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries.
The distinctive medieval strips fields were produced by areas of unploughed land being left between allotments and the shape was determined by the action of ploughing which always turned the soil to the right and thus produced an undulating S-shape. The size of the strips was roughly an acre (0.405ha) which represented a days’ work with a plough and the length was determined by the distance an ox team could plough before needing a rest, a furlong (201.2m). On steeper slopes the action of ploughing led to the creation of distinctive terraces where the cultivated field began to become more level and the terraces were defined by those areas not cultivated which created steeply sided platforms. Despite reduction in the height of some of the banks and lynchets through cultivation the part of a regular aggregate field system with medieval re-use 695m south west of Cerne Rise survives comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, social organisation and significance, agricultural practices, technological alterations and developments, climatic change and overall landscape context whilst indicating the continued importance of this hillside to agriculture through time.

Source: Historic England


PastScape 198947

Source: Historic England

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