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Early Medieval and Medieval urban remains, Milborne Port

A Scheduled Monument in Milborne Port, Somerset

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Latitude: 50.9657 / 50°57'56"N

Longitude: -2.4612 / 2°27'40"W

OS Eastings: 367707.598756

OS Northings: 118573.412429

OS Grid: ST677185

Mapcode National: GBR MX.MG83

Mapcode Global: FRA 56QK.JYP

Entry Name: Early Medieval and Medieval urban remains, Milborne Port

Scheduled Date: 8 May 1990

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017393

English Heritage Legacy ID: 10388

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Milborne Port

Built-Up Area: Milborne Port

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes an area of the Early Medieval, Medieval, and
post-Medieval town of Milborne Port. The town is situated north-west
of the Blackmoor Vale on a southward-projecting limestone peninsular
with a shallow steep-sided valley to the south and west.

The Domesday Book records the presence at Milborne Port of a
substantial royal vill, held by King Edward before the Conquest and
supporting a greater population than any other royal estate in
Somerset. Amongst the details listed for the manor are the presence
of 56 burgesses and a market paying 60 shillings. This indicates the
development on the royal estate of a market town of some size and
importance by the 11th century at the latest. That Milborne Port was
a pre-Conquest administrative and ecclesiastical centre of
considerable significance is confirmed by the presence of a mint
there during the reigns of Ethelred II and Knut and by the probable
minster status of the parish church of St. John the Evangelist. The
church, which is likely to have replaced an earlier church on the
same site, still includes important Saxo-Norman fabric. At the time
of the conquest it was held by Regenbald, the chancellor of Edward
the Confessor and, subsequently, of William I. The status of the
town as an early market centre is indicated by the "port" element of
its place-name, first recorded in 1249. The full extent of the early
town is unknown but it is likely to have been centred on the church
and limited to the south and west by the break of slope above the
stream valley. The generally regular orientation of the Medieval and
modern streets of the town, its property boundaries and the
surrounding fieldscape may indicate an entirely planned origin for
the settlement. During the Medieval period the town continued to
function as a market and a centre of the cloth industry although
gradually it became economically overshadowed by its neighbours at
Sherborne, Wincanton and Yeovil.
The scheduled, monument lies immediately to the east of St. John's
church on a gentle southerly slope. It is located near the centre of,
and occupies nearly 5% of, the postulated area of the early town.
Limited excavation in 1989 confirmed the early Medieval origin of the
town, demonstrating widespread evidence for intensive occupation in
the Saxo-Norman and early post-Conquest period (11th and 12th
centuries) and only restricted subsequent occupation. The 11th and
12th century features recorded by excavation appear mainly to be
concentrated along the Church Street frontage and in the northern
part of the scheduled area. The features nearest Church Street
consist largely of postholes indicating post-built timber structures
and pits eventually used for the disposal of domestic rubbish. They
are indicative of a pattern of domestic habitation fronting on to
Church Street and confirm the early origin of the modern street.
Further north the location of features including a terrace and a
substantial ditch indicate broadly contemporary occupation of a
rather different character.
The modern bungalow, other modern buildings and the remains of the
air-raid shelter, are excluded from the scheduling. However, the
ground beneath these structures is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Milborne Port is one of a number of secondary commercial centres or
"ports" which developed gradually during the Early Medieval period as
a result of economic expansion. They often evolved from pre-existing
administrative, legal or ecclesiastical centres, and took on an urban
aspect only in the latter part of the early Medieval period through
their burgeoning role as centres of collection and distribution for
local agricultural products. It is estimated, on the basis of
numismatic evidence, that by the end of the 11th century there were
about 85 ports in England. Amongst these only a comparatively small
number have provided firm archaeological evidence for pre-conquest or
conquest period occupation. The significance of the town is
enhanced by its status as a pre-conquest mint, of which there
were only 6 examples in Somerset, and by its documented royal
associations. In addition, a potentially important relationship
between the early town and its preceding royal residence is
indicated by the proximity of Kingsbury Regis although the
significance of the placename is, as yet, unproven.

Topographic considerations and cartographic evidence demonstrate that
the scheduled monument occupies a major part of the last surviving
extensive area of the historic core of Milborne Port largely
undisturbed by subsequent activity. The monument therefore retains
the highest potential for the preservation of archaeological deposits
within the town. This potential has been confirmed by recent
excavations which have demonstrated the low level of post 12th
century intrusion and, consequently, good survival of Saxo-Norman and
early post-Conquest archaeological stratigraphy and features. Those
features sampled produced well preserved and important assemblages of
artefacts and ecofacts. The significance of the monument is
considerably enhanced by its immediate proximity to St John the
Evangelist with its contemporary fabric and sculptural work, as it
provides a broader archaeological context against which to view the
development of a wealthy and influential minster church.

Source: Historic England

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