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Medieval settlement at West Ringstead

A Scheduled Monument in Osmington, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.6339 / 50°38'2"N

Longitude: -2.3568 / 2°21'24"W

OS Eastings: 374860.005955

OS Northings: 81643.055528

OS Grid: SY748816

Mapcode National: GBR 10L.4YG

Mapcode Global: FRA 57YD.HMZ

Entry Name: Medieval settlement at West Ringstead

Scheduled Date: 15 January 1960

Last Amended: 14 December 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019393

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29091

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Osmington

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Osmington with Poxwell St Osmond

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes the site of an abandoned medieval settlement, situated
on the gently sloping coastal plain to the south of a natural gap in the South
Dorset Ridge, overlooking Weymouth Bay to the south.
The settlement and a series of earthworks which extend over about 5ha, are
most likely those of the medieval village of `West Ringstead', mentioned in
the Domesday survey: the settlement was bounded by a steep valley to the south
west, a stream to the north and the presence of heavy clays to the south, east
and north west.
The settlement includes an area of clustered house platforms in the north west
of the monument, along with the church and cemetery, and further house
platforms are dispersed to the east. The church, first mentioned in 1227, and
the cemetery became disused following the abandonment of the settlement and
the church was later converted into a cottage, which is Listed Grade II*.
Most of its surviving structure is of 13th century date; this includes
elements of the chancel and chancel-arch. The garden of Glebe Cottage has
yielded many finds relating to the church, including masonry and human bone.
To the south of the church, are a group of four house sites and associated
yards. These survive as well defined earthworks up to 0.8m high and between 3m
by 6m to 6m by 10m in plan. There are another four possible structures
associated with this group, although these are less well defined. To the west
of these structures is a road which survives as a well defined hollow way up
to 1.5m deep. This is likely to have formed one of the main roads associated
with the settlement and it was served by other tracks also surviving as hollow
ways, for example to the north east. An additional group of building platforms
survives to the east, where a series of terraces and platforms indicate the
presence of more dispersed structures associated with the settlement. These
include a central terrace 50m by 35m in plan, a sunken platform 60m by 30m to
the south and, to the north east, an enclosure defined by banks 3m wide and
about 0.5m high.
Historical sources indicate that there were originally four settlements within
this parish. The Domesday Book records the presence of 19 people within the
parish. The Lay Subsidy Roll of 1333 records 13 and, by 1664, only three
householders are mentioned in the Hearth Tax Assessment. The settlement
belonged to the estate of Milton Abbey during much of the 15th century, but in
1488 Ringstead was merged with the neighbouring parish of Osmington, on
account of the poverty of both parishes. It would, therefore, appear that the
settlement of West Ringstead became gradually depopulated.
Following the abandonment of the settlement, a series of channels and sluices
were added to the western part of the site in order to flood some former house
platforms which were adopted for use as water meadows until the earlier 20th
The steep slope to the north supports an extensive area of well-preserved
strip lynchets relating to the settlement's outer field system.
Glebe Cottage, all stiles, fence posts and gates relating to modern field
boundaries, the septic tank in the south east corner of the garden, the
soakaway leading west from it, the linking drains between the tank and the
cottage, other existing soakaways within the garden, the caravan and the
concrete plinth on which it stands, and all sheds and greenhouses, are
excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath and around these features is,
however, 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 West Ringstead survives as a series of well-
preserved earthworks and associated deposits. The site is notable for the
quality of its earthwork survival and for the diversity in size and form of
the features present. The location of the site is also significant as the
siting of medieval settlements along this area of coast is generally rare.
The associated geology is also significant as it offers suitable conditions
for the preservation of waterlogged deposits.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 180
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-3
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-2
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-3
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 183
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-2
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 183
MPP site photo,

Source: Historic England

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