Early Christian settlement and monastic site at Marchey Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011266

Date first listed: 15-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Sep-1993


Ordnance survey map of Early Christian settlement and monastic site at Marchey Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: Mendip (District Authority)

Parish: Wookey

National Grid Reference: ST 47960 46211


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

Reasons for Designation

Marchey Farm is a rare example of an early Christian enclosure which also contains evidence for earlier and later occupation in the Roman and medieval periods. Sites associated with the early church take a variety of forms, a common one being the use of circular enclosures to define the sanctified area. Larger circular enclosures were constructed to form the boundary of monastic sites; smaller enclosures were created to define burial grounds or to surround small chapels or hermitages. The size of the Marchey Farm site, combined with documentary records linking the site with Glastonbury Abbey and analogy with similar sites elsewhere, suggest that the enclosure was monastic. Early Christian enclosures of this type were never common. They rarely survive well as frequently the continued use of a site for later religious activity led to the destruction of early remains through rebuilding. Any examples which do survive substantially intact and undisturbed will be identified as nationally important. The Marchey Farm settlement and monastic site survives with upstanding earthwork remains. Its riverside location provides the opportunity for the survival of waterlogged deposits which will contain evidence for the landscape in which the site was located and the economy of its inhabitants.


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


The monument includes a series of earthworks, defined by a substantial ditch and accompanying bank to the south, representing an early Christian settlement and monastic site with evidence for earlier Roman and later medieval occupation, situated on level ground east of the Lower River Axe in the Somerset Levels. The monument occupies an elevated area which, before the modern draining of the Levels, was an island known as Martinsey or Martin's Island. The earthwork remains include an enclosing ditch and bank and rectangular platform thought to be the site of a chapel. The ditch is visible at the south of the monument as a depression c.35m wide and c.0.4m deep with an accompanying external bank, both running in a broad sweep from the Lower River Axe in the west, eastwards around the south side of the island. This feature is interpreted as the enclosing ditch of pre-tenth century monastic enclosure and can be compared with similar examples surrounding early Irish and British monastic sites. Early documentary references record a religious settlement on the site with a chapel dedicated to St Martin. The rectangular platform in the northern part of the monument has been identified as the likely site of the chapel. In addition to the early Christian settlement, Martinsey is also known to have had early connections with Glastonbury Abbey, a fishery having been established on the site by AD 1189. Evidence for the earlier and subsequent occupation of the site came in the form of pottery recovered during the cleaning of drainage ditches within the monument in 1977. Romano-British pottery was plentiful, including samian, black burnished, Rhenish and local wares, as was Saxon, medieval and post- medieval pottery. Roman pottery has also been recovered from other parts of the site, as have Roman roof slates, suggesting permanent occupation. The post-medieval pottery most probably relates to the farmhouse and outbuilding of Marchey Farm which are situated at the north of the site and are believed to date to between c. AD 1500 and 1600. These are now ruined structures. The ruined farm buildings, are excluded from the scheduling, although the underlying ground is 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: 22808

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Batt, M C, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Soc' in Marchey Farm, Wookey: An Early Christian Earthwork?, , Vol. 124, (1980)
Mention of fishery at Marchay, Gibbs, R, Marchey Catalogue, (1985)

End of official listing