Ancient Monuments

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The earthwork remains of a turf mizmaze 250m south east of White Hall Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Leigh, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.8719 / 50°52'18"N

Longitude: -2.5415 / 2°32'29"W

OS Eastings: 361996.133323

OS Northings: 108178.192434

OS Grid: ST619081

Mapcode National: GBR MS.TCYL

Mapcode Global: FRA 56KS.PQY

Entry Name: The earthwork remains of a turf mizmaze 250m south east of White Hall Farm

Scheduled Date: 17 August 1960

Last Amended: 6 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019362

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33550

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Leigh

Built-Up Area: Leigh

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Leigh St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes the earthwork remains of the mizmaze situated on Leigh
Common on a low, but locally prominent hill, 250m south east of White Hall
Farm. Located just off the summit of the hill on the north facing slope, the
maze is clearly visible from the village.
The mizmaze has a hexagonal enclosure defined by a bank, up to 5m wide and
0.6m high, with an external ditch, traces of which are visible on the north
and west sides, up to 3m wide. The corners of the bank are enlarged and higher
than elsewhere on its circuit, perhaps reflecting the internal labyrinth
pattern. The sides of the enclosure are an average of 14.5m long and there is
no obvious entrance, although an entrance on the western side is presumed. A
central circular mound, 6m in diameter and 0.25m high, is all that remains of
the internal arrangement of the maze but it is thought the paths would have
been marked by the removal of turves. The pattern of the maze cannot now be
reconstructed but on the 16th century map it is shown as two concentric ovals
linked by a central cross. The clear hexagonal shape of the enclosure suggests
more cross sections, as is suggested on Isaac Taylor's map of 1795, although
the scale of the map is such that the depiction of the monument may be largely
conventional and detail is unclear.
The date of the monument is not known but it may have been constructed as
early as the 13th or 14th century when turf mazes were popular in England and
northern Europe. The maze is depicted on an Elizabethan map of the manors of
north Dorset dated between 1569 and 1574 and on several 18th century maps,
although it is not shown on the enclosure map of 1804. Hutchins in 1774
reports that it had been the custom for the young men of the village to clean
out and repair the maze, scouring out the trenches and trimmming the banks
every six or seven years but by the time he was writing the site had begun to
be neglected. When the common was enclosed in 1800 the maze was no longer
clearly visible. Local folklore associates the maze with witchcraft although
there is no evidence to support a direct connection. However there are 17th
century documents referring to a witches' sisterhood which sometimes met on
Leigh Common. It is likely that the maze served purely recreational functions
associated with local festivals.
All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath
these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Mazes have a long lived history and have a variety of form and purpose, most
commonly as garden features. They are thought by some to derive from
prehistoric cup and ring marked stones and other megalithic sculpture
with spiral designs, several examples of which are found in the British Isles.
The earliest recognized maze design is the seven ring classical or Cretan
labyrinth, single pathed and found as designs carved on stone, cut into turf
or marked by boulders. Mazes also exist as designs on Roman produced mosaic
pavements; and six are known to be in Britain. The medieval Church adopted a
new design of maze, the earliest known full sized example being the pavement
maze in Chartres Cathedral laid out in 1235. These medieval Christian mazes
are circular or octagonal, with a single path following 11 concentric rings
and forming an overall cruciform design, probably meant to be used as a
penance, completed on the knees to gain forgiveness for sins. More secular
uses of mazes continued until at least the 18th century, although between 1649
and 1659 maze games were one of the activities either discouraged or outlawed
by the Puritan dominated Republic. The first more complicated puzzle mazes
developed from the 15th century as features of ornamental gardens, with paths
separated by hedges or flower borders, the most famous being the Hampton Court
maze which was laid out in 1689-96. In the 19th century there was a revival of
interest in mazes of all designs which continued into the 20th century. It is
thought that there were over 100 medieval turf cut mazes in England of which
the approximate locations of 60 are known. Of these, less than eight are
believed to survive in their original locations. A number of other maze types
are also known, including small finger mazes carved on natural rock walls in
Cornwall, and at least one boulder maze on the Isles of Scilly.
Mazes are a rare monument type, providing an unusual insight into early
social, recreational, religious and ritual activity. All examples still in
their original position and with a documented antiquity are likely to be
nationally important.

Despite the fact that the internal pattern of the maze is not known, the
mizmaze 250m south east of White Hall Farm, unusually enclosed by a hexagonal
bank and ditch, is relatively well preserved and a rare survival of this class
of monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bord, J, Mazes and Labyrinths of the World, (1976)
Hutchins, J, History of Dorset: Volume IV, (1870), 451
Barker, K, 'Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Soc' in The Mizmaze At Leigh, Near Sherborne, Dorset, , Vol. 111, (1989), 130-132
Saward, J, 'Caerdroia' in The Leigh Mizmaze, , Vol. 17, (1985), 7-11

Source: Historic England

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