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The earthwork remains of a turf mizmaze 250m south east of White Hall Farm

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: The earthwork remains of a turf mizmaze 250m south east of White Hall Farm

List entry Number: 1019362

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Leigh

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 17-Aug-1960

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Oct-2000

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 33550

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

Mazes have a long lived history and have a variety of form and purpose, most commonly as garden features. They are thought by some to derive from prehistoric cup and ring marked stones and other megalithic sculpture with spiral designs, several examples of which are found in the British Isles. The earliest recognized maze design is the seven ring classical or Cretan labyrinth, single pathed and found as designs carved on stone, cut into turf or marked by boulders. Mazes also exist as designs on Roman produced mosaic pavements; and six are known to be in Britain. The medieval Church adopted a new design of maze, the earliest known full sized example being the pavement maze in Chartres Cathedral laid out in 1235. These medieval Christian mazes are circular or octagonal, with a single path following 11 concentric rings and forming an overall cruciform design, probably meant to be used as a penance, completed on the knees to gain forgiveness for sins. More secular uses of mazes continued until at least the 18th century, although between 1649 and 1659 maze games were one of the activities either discouraged or outlawed by the Puritan dominated Republic. The first more complicated puzzle mazes developed from the 15th century as features of ornamental gardens, with paths separated by hedges or flower borders, the most famous being the Hampton Court maze which was laid out in 1689-96. In the 19th century there was a revival of interest in mazes of all designs which continued into the 20th century. It is thought that there were over 100 medieval turf cut mazes in England of which the approximate locations of 60 are known. Of these, less than eight are believed to survive in their original locations. A number of other maze types are also known, including small finger mazes carved on natural rock walls in Cornwall, and at least one boulder maze on the Isles of Scilly. Mazes are a rare monument type, providing an unusual insight into early social, recreational, religious and ritual activity. All examples still in their original position and with a documented antiquity are likely to be nationally important.

Despite the fact that the internal pattern of the maze is not known, the mizmaze 250m south east of White Hall Farm, unusually enclosed by a hexagonal bank and ditch, is relatively well preserved and a rare survival of this class of monument.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the earthwork remains of the mizmaze situated on Leigh Common on a low, but locally prominent hill, 250m south east of White Hall Farm. Located just off the summit of the hill on the north facing slope, the maze is clearly visible from the village. The mizmaze has a hexagonal enclosure defined by a bank, up to 5m wide and 0.6m high, with an external ditch, traces of which are visible on the north and west sides, up to 3m wide. The corners of the bank are enlarged and higher than elsewhere on its circuit, perhaps reflecting the internal labyrinth pattern. The sides of the enclosure are an average of 14.5m long and there is no obvious entrance, although an entrance on the western side is presumed. A central circular mound, 6m in diameter and 0.25m high, is all that remains of the internal arrangement of the maze but it is thought the paths would have been marked by the removal of turves. The pattern of the maze cannot now be reconstructed but on the 16th century map it is shown as two concentric ovals linked by a central cross. The clear hexagonal shape of the enclosure suggests more cross sections, as is suggested on Isaac Taylor's map of 1795, although the scale of the map is such that the depiction of the monument may be largely conventional and detail is unclear. The date of the monument is not known but it may have been constructed as early as the 13th or 14th century when turf mazes were popular in England and northern Europe. The maze is depicted on an Elizabethan map of the manors of north Dorset dated between 1569 and 1574 and on several 18th century maps, although it is not shown on the enclosure map of 1804. Hutchins in 1774 reports that it had been the custom for the young men of the village to clean out and repair the maze, scouring out the trenches and trimmming the banks every six or seven years but by the time he was writing the site had begun to be neglected. When the common was enclosed in 1800 the maze was no longer clearly visible. Local folklore associates the maze with witchcraft although there is no evidence to support a direct connection. However there are 17th century documents referring to a witches' sisterhood which sometimes met on Leigh Common. It is likely that the maze served purely recreational functions associated with local festivals. All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Bord, J, Mazes and Labyrinths of the World, (1976)
Hutchins, J, History of Dorset: Volume IV, (1870), 451
Barker, K, 'Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Soc' in The Mizmaze At Leigh, Near Sherborne, Dorset, , Vol. 111, (1989), 130-132
Saward, J, 'Caerdroia' in The Leigh Mizmaze, , Vol. 17, (1985), 7-11

National Grid Reference: ST 61996 08179

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1019362 .pdf

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This copy shows the entry on 18-Dec-2017 at 06:45:09.

End of official listing