Early Medieval and Medieval urban remains, Milborne Port


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


Ordnance survey map of Early Medieval and Medieval urban remains, Milborne Port
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Somerset (District Authority)
Milborne Port
National Grid Reference:
ST 67710 18572

Reasons for Designation

Milborne Port is one of a number of secondary commercial centres or "ports" which developed gradually during the Early Medieval period as a result of economic expansion. They often evolved from pre-existing administrative, legal or ecclesiastical centres, and took on an urban aspect only in the latter part of the early Medieval period through their burgeoning role as centres of collection and distribution for local agricultural products. It is estimated, on the basis of numismatic evidence, that by the end of the 11th century there were about 85 ports in England. Amongst these only a comparatively small number have provided firm archaeological evidence for pre-conquest or conquest period occupation. The significance of the town is enhanced by its status as a pre-conquest mint, of which there were only 6 examples in Somerset, and by its documented royal associations. In addition, a potentially important relationship between the early town and its preceding royal residence is indicated by the proximity of Kingsbury Regis although the significance of the placename is, as yet, unproven.

Topographic considerations and cartographic evidence demonstrate that the scheduled monument occupies a major part of the last surviving extensive area of the historic core of Milborne Port largely undisturbed by subsequent activity. The monument therefore retains the highest potential for the preservation of archaeological deposits within the town. This potential has been confirmed by recent excavations which have demonstrated the low level of post 12th century intrusion and, consequently, good survival of Saxo-Norman and early post-Conquest archaeological stratigraphy and features. Those features sampled produced well preserved and important assemblages of artefacts and ecofacts. The significance of the monument is considerably enhanced by its immediate proximity to St John the Evangelist with its contemporary fabric and sculptural work, as it provides a broader archaeological context against which to view the development of a wealthy and influential minster church.


The monument includes an area of the Early Medieval, Medieval, and post-Medieval town of Milborne Port. The town is situated north-west of the Blackmoor Vale on a southward-projecting limestone peninsular with a shallow steep-sided valley to the south and west.

The Domesday Book records the presence at Milborne Port of a substantial royal vill, held by King Edward before the Conquest and supporting a greater population than any other royal estate in Somerset. Amongst the details listed for the manor are the presence of 56 burgesses and a market paying 60 shillings. This indicates the development on the royal estate of a market town of some size and importance by the 11th century at the latest. That Milborne Port was a pre-Conquest administrative and ecclesiastical centre of considerable significance is confirmed by the presence of a mint there during the reigns of Ethelred II and Knut and by the probable minster status of the parish church of St. John the Evangelist. The church, which is likely to have replaced an earlier church on the same site, still includes important Saxo-Norman fabric. At the time of the conquest it was held by Regenbald, the chancellor of Edward the Confessor and, subsequently, of William I. The status of the town as an early market centre is indicated by the "port" element of its place-name, first recorded in 1249. The full extent of the early town is unknown but it is likely to have been centred on the church and limited to the south and west by the break of slope above the stream valley. The generally regular orientation of the Medieval and modern streets of the town, its property boundaries and the surrounding fieldscape may indicate an entirely planned origin for the settlement. During the Medieval period the town continued to function as a market and a centre of the cloth industry although gradually it became economically overshadowed by its neighbours at Sherborne, Wincanton and Yeovil. The scheduled, monument lies immediately to the east of St. John's church on a gentle southerly slope. It is located near the centre of, and occupies nearly 5% of, the postulated area of the early town. Limited excavation in 1989 confirmed the early Medieval origin of the town, demonstrating widespread evidence for intensive occupation in the Saxo-Norman and early post-Conquest period (11th and 12th centuries) and only restricted subsequent occupation. The 11th and 12th century features recorded by excavation appear mainly to be concentrated along the Church Street frontage and in the northern part of the scheduled area. The features nearest Church Street consist largely of postholes indicating post-built timber structures and pits eventually used for the disposal of domestic rubbish. They are indicative of a pattern of domestic habitation fronting on to Church Street and confirm the early origin of the modern street. Further north the location of features including a terrace and a substantial ditch indicate broadly contemporary occupation of a rather different character. The modern bungalow, other modern buildings and the remains of the air-raid shelter, are excluded from the scheduling. However, the ground beneath these structures 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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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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