Picken's Hole


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Picken's Hole
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Sedgemoor (District Authority)
Compton Bishop
National Grid Reference:
ST 39680 55004

Reasons for Designation

Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters provide some of the earliest evidence of human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 10,000 years ago. The sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the north and west of the country, although examples also exist in the softer rocks of south-east England. Evidence for human occupation is often located near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms. The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or were places where material naturally accumulated from the outside. Because of the special conditions of deposition and preservation, organic and other fragile materials often survive well and in stratigraphic association. Caves and rock shelters are therefore of major importance for understanding this period. Due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all examples with good survival of deposits are considered to be nationally important.

The 21 sites in Somerset form the densest and one of the most important concentrations of Palaeolithic cave sites in the country. Picken's Hole is of particular importance due to the presence of rare Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic artefacts and the survival of human and faunal remains. Although partially excavated and, to some degree, disturbed by badgers, substantial archaeological deposits remain.


Picken's Hole is situated north-east of Rackley on the east side of the south-east ridge of Crook Peak, 27m above the present valley floor and 8m below the plateau. The monument consists of a very small cave and a more extensive rockshelter which follows the rock escarpment on either side of the cave. The cave, which is 4m long and has an entrance c.1.5m high and 1.5m wide, has almost wholly been excavated and there is little remaining of archaeological interest except for stalagmitic deposits on the cave wall. Outside the cave mouth is a large excavated area but there are still substantial areas of intact deposit on either side and running parallel with the rock outcrop. Excavations by the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society between 1961-7 and sampling for dating purposes in 1980 have revealed a sequence of deposits outside the cave dating to the last glaciation. The deposits are known to contain fauna spanning the period 25-37,000 radiocarbon years ago in association with Middle Palaeolithic artefacts. It would appear from the distribution of finds that the occupation follows the rock face on both sides of the cave entrance and is scattered over a relatively wide area. The monument, therefore, includes the stalagmitic deposits of the cave interior and the deposits outside the entrance for a distance of 15m and extending laterally 30m on either side of the cave.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Barrington, N, Stanton, W I, Mendip: The Complete Caves and a View of the Hills, (1977)
Campbell, J B, The Upper Palaeolithic of Britain, (1977)
Tratman, E K, 'Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society' in Picken's Hole, Crook Peak, Somerset: A Pleistocene Site, , Vol. 10, no.2, (1964), 112-15
ApSimon, AM, Picken's Hole, Compton Bishop, Somerset..., In Press


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

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