Early Christian to medieval settlement and cemetery


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


Ordnance survey map of Early Christian to medieval settlement and cemetery
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Somerset (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 01108 42677

Reasons for Designation

Settlements dating to the fifth and sixth centuries are rarely identified in western England due to the lack of distinctive artefacts. Those sites which are identified on the basis of imported pottery are usually in defensive locations and represent either high status sites or monastic establishments. Such sites were never common and often survive poorly due to their continued use. The centuries after the collapse of the Roman administration which saw the establishment of kingdoms among the British and Anglo-Saxons are the most poorly understood historical period in Britain. Any sites from this period that survive substantially intact and undisturbed will be identified as nationally important. The site at Carhampton contains well preserved remains of this date, associated with metal-working. It also contains evidence of the continuing use of the site by the earliest Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of the area and subsequent medieval activity. The cemetery is likely to be associated with the earliest use of the site and contain an important sequence of evidence relating to changes in the population through time. The earlier remains are deeply buried, and potentially waterlogged, and will contain evidence relating to the environment, agriculture, diet and industry of the period.


The monument includes an occupation and metalworking site of the early Christian to Saxon, or `Dark Age', period, and an associated cemetery continuing in use into the medieval period. The site was revealed by excavation and lies below the present day ground surface. On the north and west of the site lies an area of occupation dated to at least the fifth to eight centuries AD. Remains are preserved here of a metalworking site as well as settlement and burials. Ditches, pathways and structural features such as postholes and mortar layers were revealed by excavation, though the excavation trenches were too narrow to allow the plan of any of these structures to be seen. The metalworking hearths are on the east of the site, and quantities of metal slag and charcoal are present. There is an indication that the hearths were abandoned suddenly at the end of their use. From this phase were recovered several sherds of pottery of a rare type dating to the late fifth or sixth centuries AD. There is currently no evidence for pottery being made in Britain in these centuries, and the only sherds found come from wares imported from places such as the eastern Mediterranean. Such pottery is only found at a handful of sites in Britain along the western coasts, and usually indicates either a place of high status or perhaps an early monastic site. The remains become more concentrated towards the east of the monument and it is thought that the main part of the site lies below the area of the old Eastbury Farm buildings and by the road. The settlement evidence which occurs in this area is covered by a layer of occupation debris dating to the 13th century or earlier. It is likely that the early settlement extends beneath the remaining areas of the site, though excavations in these areas did not go below the later layers. The medieval cemetery lies in the south west part of the site, in an area bounded to the north by the wall of what is now the old vicarage garden. A large number of skeletons were uncovered, interred in an east-west direction. Successive years of burials had disturbed earlier graves, and later skeletons had become mixed with those below. Amongst the 18 burials seen were those of a new-born child and a juvenile, suggesting that the cemetery was being used for the general population. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the latest burials are from the 12th to the 16th centuries. Structural features were also present, some of which were earlier than the burials, whilst others were integral to the cemetery towards the latter period of its use. The wall between the vicarage garden and the paddock to the north seems to correspond to the original boundary of the medieval cemetery, whilst burials from the earlier period extend beyond this. The boundary may thus be of some antiquity. Records from the 19th century tell of skeletons being found over a wider area, between the vicarage and Eastbury Farm. The number of burials in the cemetery is estimated at several hundred. From about the 13th century onwards much of the site was used as water meadow, enriched by deliberate flooding, and a thick layer of silty soil overlies the remains. Documentary records show settlement here from at least the ninth century. Carhampton may take its name from an early Christian saint, Carantoc. Monastic legends written in the 11th/12th centuries tell how, centuries before, Saint Carantoc built a church at Carhampton, and later a monastery and another church, on land given to him by King Arthur. In the mid ninth century Carhampton was raided twice by the Vikings, and the Saxon kings who fought them were defeated. The area subsequently seems to have been taken into Crown jurisdiction for reorganisation of the coastal defences, by King Alfred and his son King Edward, and in Alfred's will of 899 he compensates monks at Cheddar for the loss of Carhampton. By 1066 it was part of the royal lands of Edward the Confessor, and in the Domesday Book compiled soon after the Norman Conquest it is recorded as part of a grouping of several manors. There were two churches here in the Norman period. In 1180 they were given to Wells Cathedral, and later in the mid 13th century made over to Dunster priory. One of the churches is the present Church of St John, a common dedication of the 10th/11th centuries. The other was dedicated to St Carantoc, and may have originally been the monastic church. By the late 13th century changes are evident in the structure of the village. Only one church is mentioned, and the first records of a number of small manors appear. One of these manors is Eastbury, the manor house for which stood on the site of the present Eastbury Farm. Archaeologically, this is the period when the boundaries of the medieval cemetery appear to be defined, and the water meadow system was introduced on the fields which now covered the rest of the site. The old church of St Carantoc may have continued in use as a private chapel, as the antiquary Leland in the 1540s records `a Chapel of this Sainct that sumtyme was the Paroche Chirche'. There are no mentions of the church and cemetery after this until the early 1800s when it seems that the building was gone and the location of the cemetery forgotten. Workmen digging in orchards and gardens between the (old) vicarage and Eastbury Farm came across stone and cement `ruins' with many human bones and skeletons `lying as if decently buried'. This was interpreted as the site of Lelend's Chapel of St Carantoc. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern structures and fence posts, though the ground beneath these features 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.

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Books and journals
Savage, J, A History of the Hundred of Carhampton, (1830), 286-8
Savage, J, A History of the Hundred of Carhampton, (1830), 286-8
Dunning, R, The Churches of Carhampton, 1993, Unpub.comm.,Somerset County Council
Dunning, R, The Churches of Carhampton, 1993, Unpub.comm.,Somerset County Council
Held by Somerset County Council, Hollinrake, C & N, (Various) Eastbury Farm and the Old Vicarage, Carhampton CE93&94, (1994)
Held by Somerset County Council, Hollinrake, C & N, (Various) Eastbury Farm and the Old Vicarage, Carhampton. CE93-4, (1993)
Hollinrake, N, (1994)
In Somerset County Council, Hollinrake, C and N, The Old Vicarage, Carhampton. CE93, (1993)
In Somerset County Council, Hollinrake, C and N, The Old Vicarage, Carhampton. CE93, (1993)
Webster, CJ, Pottery from Carhampton Bypass Evaluation, Site Code CE94, 1994, Unpub.report, Somerset County Council


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.

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