Medieval settlement east of Holy Rood Church


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


Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement east of Holy Rood Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Purbeck (District Authority)
Coombe Keynes
National Grid Reference:
SY 84340 84070

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the West Wessex sub-Province of the Central Province, an area characterised by large numbers of villages and hamlets within countrysides of great local diversity, ranging from flat marshland to hill ridges. Settlements range from large, sprawling villages to tiny hamlets, a range extended by large numbers of scattered dwellings in the extreme east and west of the sub-Province. Cultivation in open townfields was once present, but early enclosure was commonplace. The physical diversity of the landscape was, by the time of Domesday Book in 1086, linked with great variations in the balance of cleared land and woodland. The South Dorset local region is a diverse countryside comprising the South Dorset Downs and narrow limestone ridges and clay vales which curve around the chalk escarpments. Settlement is characterised by low concentrations of scattered farmsteads, and small villages and hamlets: ancient settlements whose arable fields were, on the evidence of Domesday Book, set among substantial tracts of pasture and woodland in the 11th century.

Despite some reduction by ploughing, the medieval settlement east of Holy Rood Church survives as a series of earthworks and associated buried remains and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument, the associated landscape and economy. The monument is unusual in that it developed within and adjacent to a sizeable dry valley, from which the settlement derived its name.


The monument includes the remains of a medieval settlement at Coombe Keynes, situated at the northern end of a dry valley with views across the Frome Valley. The origins of the settlement are uncertain, although the Church of the Holy Rood situated west of the settlement dates from the 13th century. The settlement was recorded by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England in 1970 and by C Tracey in 1987. It survives as a series of low earthworks and associated buried remains which now extend over an area of about 8ha. A hollow way, aligned north-south along the coombe bottom, is likely to represent the course of a street. This is visible as an earthwork 15m wide and about 0.5m deep, and is flanked to the east by a series of closes, or rectilinear enclosures, with dimensions ranging between 250m by 120m and 300m by 180m. To the west of the hollow way are three other possible building platforms, all situated within the shelter of the coombe bottom. On the higher ground to the west, there are three probable building platforms, as well as a large pond which remains partially waterlain. The Hearth Tax returns of 1662-4 record 14 taxable householders. It appears that the site had become largely abandoned by 1770, when J Sparrow produced a map of the area for the Weld Estate. The Church of the Holy Rood (a redundant church, the structure of which has been extensively restored) and the surrounding churchyard are not included in the scheduling. All gates and fence posts, telegraph poles and a water trough are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 52
Tracey, C, Historic Landscape of Weld, (1987), 58-59


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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