Lake villages NW of Oxenpill
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1006160
Date first listed: 08-Jul-1964
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 44388 42200, ST 44656 42118
Two lake villages 460m ESE of Rushmead House.
Reasons for Designation
The lake village, also known as a ‘crannog’ is an artificial island usually built in lakes, marshes, rivers and estuaries and used as a settlement from prehistoric to medieval times. The classic examples are either natural islands defended by an artificial palisade topped with a round house or a small shoal or rise surrounded by wooden piles onto which an entirely artificial raised platform was created. In the latter case wooden piles, usually of oak with sharpened bases were driven into the ground and interwoven with branches or wattle to form a type of coffer dam. Within the dam logs, stones, clay, peat and soil were piled to create an interior surface platform. Above this dwellings were constructed, sometimes single houses or often groups of dwellings. The dwellings are often characterised by a central stone-built hearth. These artificial islands were accessed either by causeways, wooden gangways often raised on piles or by boat. The earliest examples date to the late Mesolithic and are found in Ireland. Neolithic examples also occur in Scotland but the majority date to the Iron Age and some continued in use to the medieval period. They are found across Europe particularly in Switzerland, Germany, France, Ireland where at least 2000 are known and Scotland where they number approximately 600. They do also occur in England with a notable example being Glastonbury Lake Village and several others are clustered in this region. The preservation of artefacts in often soaking conditions can be superb and they contain large amounts of environmental evidence such as wood, grains and pollen. They provide a rare and often exceptional insight into daily life. Although much is already known about the two Lake Villages 460m ESE of Rushmead House, accidental damage in 1990 indicates further rich archaeological and environmental evidence will be retained including agricultural practices, domestic arrangements, social organisation, industrial activity and the overall landscape context of the settlements.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 August 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument, which falls into two areas, includes two lake villages situated on the low lying land to the south of the River Brue and to the north west of the settlement of Oxenpill. The settlements survive as largely buried deposits, layers and structures with slight visible earthworks including mounds of up to 0.7m high in undulating fields. Known locally as ‘Meare Village West’ and ‘Meare Village East’ or by the collective name the ‘Meare Lake Villages’ they were first discovered by Mr S Laver in 1895 when pottery was recovered. The Lake Villages have been subject to extensive and numerous excavations from the 1896 up until 1986 starting with Bulleid and Gray. The lake villages were built in a swampy area and appear to have had four separate phases of Iron Age occupation and two Romano British ones until they were finally flooded and abandoned in the 4th century. There were between 50 or 60 dwellings in each of the villages with successive floors of clay above a foundation of timber and brushwood. Most had evidence for central hearths. The buildings were generally circular in plan, although the earliest structures appeared to have been rectangular. Finds included decorated and coarse pottery, wooden artefacts and vessels, items associated with spinning, weaving, agriculture and metalworking as well as personal ornaments. Samian pottery and other characteristic Roman artefacts were also recovered from both settlements. Excavations in 1968 by M Avery suggested some of the features composed of clay and charcoal above a timber and brushwood sub-structure were actually track-ways similar to others in the Somerset Levels and radiocarbon dating and pollen analysis showed them to be far earlier than the habitation sites. Further excavations between 1977 and 79 concentrated on the lack of structural evidence for walls and roofs of the buildings and although successive floored areas were evident these had often been interspersed with natural bog type deposits indicative of periodic inundation by water. Occupation was seen to be inconsistent across the sites, some areas used more frequently than others and several of the structures had not been used for dwellings. The conclusion reached was the clay floors were the bases of tent-like structures which were used seasonally. The villages were shown to have been surrounded by marsh and not clear ‘lake’ water and had been built on raised bogs. Magnetometer and resistivity surveys were undertaken in 1996 and 1997, coring in 1998 and ploughing in 1990 produced bone, burnt clay, charcoal, flint and pottery.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: SO 349
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
PastScape Monument No:-194185
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing