Ancient Monuments

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Martin Down enclosure 300m north of Huish Barn

A Scheduled Monument in Sydling St. Nicholas, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.7857 / 50°47'8"N

Longitude: -2.5119 / 2°30'42"W

OS Eastings: 364010.285796

OS Northings: 98578.31782

OS Grid: SY640985

Mapcode National: GBR MV.ZTNY

Mapcode Global: FRA 57M0.H7C

Entry Name: Martin Down enclosure 300m north of Huish Barn

Scheduled Date: 30 April 1957

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002766

English Heritage Legacy ID: DO 268

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Sydling St. Nicholas

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Sydling St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes a Martin Down enclosure (so called after the site which established the typology) situated on the upper north facing slopes of the prominent Shearplace Hill, overlooking the valley of the Sydling water. The Martin Down enclosure survives as a series of banks of up to 1.2m high and hollow ways of up to 1.7m deep, covering an area of approximately 0.5ha. Excavations by Rahtz in 1958 indicated that settlement spanned three phases dating from the Middle to Late Bronze Age. The complex included a farmstead of several enclosures formed by strong banks, ditches and palisades with a principal enclosure containing two circular house sites. The settlement was apparently abandoned in the Late Bronze Age although there was some limited occupation during the late Roman period (3rd to 4th centuries) possibly by a shepherd. The settlement was connected to the adjacent field system by a series of hollow ways. Finds included pottery characteristic of the Deverel-Rimbury group and barrel-shaped bucket urn types; a decorated bone weaving comb; clay roof and loom weights; whetstones; flint scrapers and animal bone. Charcoal produced dates of 1360 to 1000 BC. Avery and Close-Brooks re-interpreted the evidence in 1969 and suggested the houses had double rings of upright roof supporting posts which had previously been considered an Iron Age tradition and not one already well established by the Middle Bronze Age.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-453117

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Martin Down enclosures (named after a typical example on Martin Down in Dorset), are small, usually sub-rectangular areas often covering less than 0.3ha originally bounded by a low bank and/or fence with a surrounding ditch. Most have a single entrance, identified by a causeway over the ditch. Dating to the Late Bronze Age, from the tenth to eighth centuries BC, these enclosures are interpreted as domestic settlements, and excavated examples have been found to contain circular structures, post holes, pits, hollows and burnt mounds, associated with fragments of querns, pottery, animal bones, charred grain, worked flint artefacts and metalwork. In some cases, as with the enclosure on Martin Down itself, they are associated with contemporary field systems. They occur mainly on the chalk downland of central southern England, although examples in Kent, Sussex, East Anglia and the Midlands are also known. Generally constructed on the flanks of hills, they have also been identified in valley bottoms and on hilltops. Because they are usually situated on good agricultural land, many have been levelled by subsequent ploughing and survive largely in buried form, often visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs. Fewer than 15 examples have been positively identified so far. Martin Down enclosures are thus a very rare monument type and form one of a limited range of monuments dating to the Late Bronze Age. Although much is already known about the Martin Down enclosure 300m north of Huish Barn, further archaeological and environmental evidence will be retained in this rare and important monument.

Source: Historic England

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