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Medieval settlement at Holworth

A Scheduled Monument in Owermoigne, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.6484 / 50°38'54"N

Longitude: -2.3255 / 2°19'31"W

OS Eastings: 377085.23431

OS Northings: 83239.719204

OS Grid: SY770832

Mapcode National: GBR 10G.6WT

Mapcode Global: FRA 670C.9VX

Entry Name: Medieval settlement at Holworth

Scheduled Date: 28 July 1958

Last Amended: 14 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016727

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29090

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Owermoigne

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: The Lulworths, Winfrith Newburgh and Chaldon

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes the site of an abandoned medieval settlement at
Holworth, situated on the lower north-facing slope of a shallow valley,
opposite the South Dorset Ridge.
The settlement probably represents the medieval village of either North
Holworth or East Holworth, and was certainly one of three Holworths recorded
within the parish which belonged to Milton Abbey from 933. Holworth is
recorded in the Lay Roll Subsidy of 1333 when at least 14 residents are
mentioned. The settlement survives as a series of earthworks which extend over
an area of about 5ha, composed of clays and grits (known as Wealden Beds)
which are characterised by poor natural drainage. The extent of the settlement
was largely determined by local topography: it is bounded by a steep slope to
the south and by the extent of low-lying ground to the north and west.
The main street of the settlement was aligned east to west and survives as a
hollow way visible as an earthwork 2m wide and about 0.5m deep. To the north,
this is lined by seven roughly square enclosures (or tofts), each of which
included a house, outbuildings and a garden. The tofts are about 25m square,
most have an entrance to the north west with the building to the north east.
At the rear of each toft is a croft (or strip field), aligned north to south
and which vary in size from between 85m by 21m to 91m by 30m. Each croft is
divided by a bank 8m to 10m wide and about 0.5m to 0.65m high. The crofts lead
towards an area of water meadow and as there are no traces of ploughing, it is
likely that the crofts formed pastures.
To the south of the hollow way are three platforms and terraces occupying
higher ground, these are likely to represent the sites of larger buildings
such as the manor and church. To the south, at the summit of the slope, a
track 1.5m to 3m wide runs along the base of a possible lynchet (which may be
a remnant of an earlier field system). The track joins with a further example
1m wide and aligned north to south along the periphery of a large sunken
terrace. The north western area of the settlement contains the site of a pond
which is still waterlogged and a dew pond survives on higher ground to the
The site was first excavated by the Rev D Dixey and Mr H Dewar in 1936,
when a triangular platform associated with dressed stones and a quantity of
13th century pottery was discovered. In 1958, the partial excavation of a toft
enclosure at the eastern end of the group was conducted by P Rahtz. The
excavation included approximately one third of the toft; this revealed at
least two phases of occupation. The earliest remains included traces of a
timber built structure with wattle and daub walls, associated with 12th and
13th century pottery. This was overlain by a stone founded structure
associated with 14th and 15th century pottery. The stone structure had a plan
of 21m by 4.8m and was divided into three areas. It consisted of gravel
flooring, a timber superstructure and a roof of blue slates imported from
Cornwall. Beneath the building was a network of drainage channels which showed
signs of regular cleaning out and recutting and which resulted in the creation
of a silt mound at the eastern end of the building. Similar drainage features
were associated with the toft, the banks of which may have resulted from
successive recutting of the drainage channels. Finds from the excavations
included over 14,000 sherds of pottery, as well as bronze and iron artefacts
including keys, door hasps, spurs and a variety of tools. The finds are now
held at the Dorset County Museum.
All fence posts and gates are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the West Wessex sub-Province of the Central Province, an
area characterised by large numbers of villages and hamlets within
countrysides of great local diversity, ranging from flat marshland to hill
ridges. Settlements range from large, sprawling villages to tiny hamlets, a
range extended by large numbers of scattered dwellings in the extreme east and
west of the sub-Province. Cultivation in open townfields was once present, but
early enclosure was commonplace. The physical diversity of the landscape was,
by the time of Domesday Book in 1086, linked with great variations in the
balance of cleared land and woodland.
The South Dorset local region is a diverse countryside comprising the South
Dorset Downs and narrow limestone ridges and clay vales which curve around the
chalk escarpments. Settlement is characterised by low concentrations of
scattered farmsteads, and small villages and hamlets: ancient settlements
whose arable fields were, on the evidence of Domesday Book, set among
substantial tracts of pasture and woodland in the 11th century.

The medieval settlement at Holworth survives as a series of well preserved
earthworks and associated deposits. The site is notable for the quality of
earthwork survival and the diversity of the forms represented. The settlement
is known from partial excavation to contain archaeological and environmental
evidence which relates to the construction, use and development of the
settlement as well as its associated economy.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 35
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 35
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 35
Rahtz, P A, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in Excavations at the medieval village of Holworth in 1958, , Vol. Vol 80, (1958), 103-105
Rahtz, P A, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in Excavations at the medieval village of Holworth in 1958, , Vol. Vol 80, (1958), 103-105
Rahtz, P A, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in Excavations at the medieval village of Holworth in 1958, , Vol. Vol 80, (1958), 103-105
Rahtz, P A, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in Excavations at the medieval village of Holworth in 1958, , Vol. Vol 80, (1958), 103-105
Rahtz, P A, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in Excavations at the medieval village of Holworth in 1958, , Vol. Vol 80, (1958), 103-105
Dewpond to the west of settlement,

Source: Historic England

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