Reasons for Designation
During the Iron Age a variety of different types of settlement were
constructed and occupied in south-western England. At the top of the
settlement hierarchy were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition
to these a group of smaller sites, known as defended settlements, were also
constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others in less prominent
positions. They are generally smaller than the hillforts, sometimes with an
enclosed area of less than 1ha. The enclosing defences were of earthen
construction. Univallate sites have a single bank and ditch, multivallate
sites more than one. At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second
phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Where
excavated, evidence of stone- or timber-built houses has been found within the
enclosures, which, in contrast to the hillfort sites, would have been occupied
by small communities, perhaps no more than a single family group.
Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element
of the settlement pattern, particularly in the upland areas of south-western
England, and are integral to any study of the developing use of fortified
settlements during this period. All well-preserved examples are likely to be
identified as nationally important.
The village, comprising a small group of houses, gardens, yards, streets,
paddocks, often with a green, a manor and a church, and with a community
devoted primarily to agriculture, was a significant component of the rural
landscape in most areas of medieval England, much as it is today. Villages
provided some services to the local community and acted as the main focal
point of ecclesiastical, and often of manorial, administration within each
parish. Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied
continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were
abandoned throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly
during the 14th and 15th centuries. As a result over 2000 deserted medieval
villages are recorded nationally. The reasons for desertion were varied but
often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land use such as
enclosure or emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of
widespread epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their
abandonment these villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and
contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Because they are a common and
long-lived monument type in most parts of England, they provide important
information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming
economy between the regions and through time.
The deserted sites of Bagley and nearby Sweetworthy form one of the most
important groups of medieval farm sites in west Somerset, and their direct
association with prehistoric settlement further enhances their importance. The
site preserves archaeological deposits relating to settlement activity
through from prehistory to the early 19th century.
The monument includes a prehistoric defended settlement enclosure and an
associated deserted medieval farm, situated respectively above and in a small
stream valley below Dunkery Hill.
The prehistoric enclosure has been much degraded by later agriculture, and is
not easily visible, but includes a bank and outer ditch surviving in two
stretches, forming a roughly circular enclosure 62m across with an internal
area of 0.31ha. The upper (southern) side of the enclosure consists of a bank
0.6m high internally and 0.8m high externally. There is no clear profile of a
ditch but the fact that the ground is lower externally suggests the former
presence of one. The lower (northern) arc of the enclosure survives as a
broad, low bank 0.2m high and a broad outer ditch 0.2m deep. In the centre of
the enclosure is a shallow round levelled hollow 14m across, representing the
site of a building or inner enclosure.
Part of the eastern side of the enclosure, through which a later field
hedge-bank ran, no longer survives as an upstanding feature and may have been
robbed to provide material for the hedge-bank. The western side, adjacent to
the deserted farm, has also been disturbed by clearance and hedge lines.
The medieval farm is located immediately below the enclosure on the west, on a
small terrace beside a stream, beyond which is a shoulder of land providing
shelter. The site consists of earth- and stone- work remains of buildings,
enclosures, trackways and field banks. These are flanked on the west by the
stream gorge, and on the other sides by the low scarps around the terrace
which have been stone faced to form the edges of the fields around the farm.
Roughly central to the site are the tumbled ruins of a small cottage, with a
large mound in the north corner indicating a collapsed chimney stack. The
cottage consists of a small square room 5m by 4m, with indications of a
further room to the side. The main room appears to have an entrance facing
north downhill beside the chimney, and perhaps one at the back to a small
yard. A length of bank on the west suggests an outer wall of a second room or
lean-to, of similar size. A low bank forming an apparent room on the east of
the cottage is on a slightly different orientation and seems to have been
overlain by the cottage and an associated wall, and may represent an earlier
phase of the site. It was perhaps reused as a garden or yard beside the
Behind the cottage on the uphill side is a small yard, the west side of which
is a stone-faced bank running south as a continuation of the west wall of the
main room. Branching off this is a wall curving round to meet the other end of
the east room or garden. This latter wall is on a similar orientation to the
east room and may have likewise been adapted from an earlier phase.
In front of the house to the north and across a small open area or track, is
an area of levelled ground by the stream with traces of a building platform,
suggesting a barn or other outbuilding.
A trackway runs into the site from the south west where it fords the stream
above the farm, beside the cottage and yard on the south and east, and to the
east of the barn. Here it branches, opening out into former fields on the
north-east, and leading north down beside the stream to a ford across a larger
east-west stream below the site.
Above the track where it runs around the south of the yard is a wall defining
a short, narrow space below the scarp at the upper side of the terrace. This
may have been a linhay, set into the slope with access to the upper storey
from the higher ground at the back. Outside this wall and perhaps overlain by
it is a lower bank which appears to be the footings of an earlier building in
the same location. This is on the same orientation as the possible earlier
phase of cottage and yard.
To the east of this, the walled scarps join to form a narrow triangular piece
of land in the top corner of the terrace. This has a bank across its end and
earthworks within suggesting a garden plot or possibly a further early
building. There is access from the terrace to the top of the scarp between
this and the linhay.
Field walls and banks associated with the site have largely been broken down
by modern agricultural improvement.
The manor of 'Bagelie' is recorded among the lands of Roger de Corcelle in the
Domesday survey of 1086, and the direct association with an Iron Age enclosure
is an indication of continuous settlement on the site from prehistoric times.
This continuity of settlement, with a slight shift downhill at some point
between prehistoric and medieval times, is attested by other sites in the
area. The farm at Bagley is last recorded on a map of 1840, and when next
mapped in 1890 it is shown as a ruin.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.