A shrunken medieval village and earlier prehistoric settlement remains at Walnut Tree Field


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008750

Date first listed: 10-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of A shrunken medieval village and earlier prehistoric settlement remains at Walnut Tree Field
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: East Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Sturminster Marshall

National Grid Reference: ST 94980 00375


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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 primarily devoted to farming, 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 as well as acting as the focus of ecclesiastical, and often manorial, authority within each medieval parish. Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied continuously down to the present day, many have declined considerably in size and are now occupied by farmsteads or hamlets. This decline may have taken place gradually throughout the lifetime of the village or more rapidly, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries when many other villages were wholly deserted. The reasons for diminishing size were varied but often reflected declining economic viability or population fluctuations as a result of widespread epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their decline, large parts of these villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Over 3000 shrunken medieval villages are recorded nationally. 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 shrunken medieval village earthworks at Sturminster Marshall survive well, close to St Mary's church. Sturminster Marshall was one of the largest estates in Dorset in the medieval period, being assessed at 30 hides in the Domesday survey of 1086, and the Saxon estate is thought to have been of similar importance. Burials belonging to this period were interpreted by the excavator as belonging to the Late Saxon minster. In addition to the medieval and Saxon remains, the site also has evidence for Mesolithic and Neolithic settlement. Such evidence is unusual in that it is rarely discovered in valley bottoms, areas which provide conditions for the survival of waterlogged remains. The Neolithic evidence is associated with a large ditch which it has been suggested may indicate that the site was partially enclosed and defended.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the remains of a shrunken medieval village surviving as a complex of extant earthworks, with prehistoric settlement remains surviving as buried features, set in a field adjacent to the River Stour. The monument has been surveyed recently and partially excavated, providing detailed information on the evolution of the site from the Mesolithic period to the present day. The surviving earthworks, which date mainly to the 13th and 14th centuries, consist of linear banks and ditches, building platforms, and hollows, as well as spreads of sandstone, mortar, flint and the foundation courses of walls, all of which represent the settlement and infield areas of the shrunken village of Sturminster Marshall. However, the earliest occupation of the site is much earlier. Excavation has shown, for example, that the area of the monument had been settled in the Neolithic period, and, indeed, had indications of a Mesolithic presence in the form of small flint tools called microliths. Excavation also revealed burials which have been interpreted as belonging to the Late Saxon minster which was thought to have existed at Sturminster Marshall before the Domesday survey. Sturminster Marshall was assessed at 30 hides in Domesday Book and, as such, was one of the largest manors in Dorset. Remains of the medieval settlement will extend into the area of the modern village but their extent and survival are not known. A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling; these are the earth bank of the flood barrier and the matting on which it was constructed, the post and wire fences and stone walls; the ground beneath all the exclusions is, however, included.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 21903

Legacy System: RSM


OAU, Sturminster Marshall, Walnut Tree Field. Interim Report.,

End of official listing