Medieval settlement at West Ringstead


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019393

Date first listed: 15-Jan-1960

Date of most recent amendment: 14-Dec-2000


Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement at West Ringstead
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Jan-2019 at 23:12:00.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Osmington

National Grid Reference: SY 74861 81642


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

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.

The medieval settlement at West Ringstead survives as a series of well- preserved earthworks and associated deposits. The site is notable for the quality of its earthwork survival and for the diversity in size and form of the features present. The location of the site is also significant as the siting of medieval settlements along this area of coast is generally rare. The associated geology is also significant as it offers suitable conditions for the preservation of waterlogged deposits.


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


The monument includes the site of an abandoned medieval settlement, situated on the gently sloping coastal plain to the south of a natural gap in the South Dorset Ridge, overlooking Weymouth Bay to the south. The settlement and a series of earthworks which extend over about 5ha, are most likely those of the medieval village of `West Ringstead', mentioned in the Domesday survey: the settlement was bounded by a steep valley to the south west, a stream to the north and the presence of heavy clays to the south, east and north west. The settlement includes an area of clustered house platforms in the north west of the monument, along with the church and cemetery, and further house platforms are dispersed to the east. The church, first mentioned in 1227, and the cemetery became disused following the abandonment of the settlement and the church was later converted into a cottage, which is Listed Grade II*. Most of its surviving structure is of 13th century date; this includes elements of the chancel and chancel-arch. The garden of Glebe Cottage has yielded many finds relating to the church, including masonry and human bone. To the south of the church, are a group of four house sites and associated yards. These survive as well defined earthworks up to 0.8m high and between 3m by 6m to 6m by 10m in plan. There are another four possible structures associated with this group, although these are less well defined. To the west of these structures is a road which survives as a well defined hollow way up to 1.5m deep. This is likely to have formed one of the main roads associated with the settlement and it was served by other tracks also surviving as hollow ways, for example to the north east. An additional group of building platforms survives to the east, where a series of terraces and platforms indicate the presence of more dispersed structures associated with the settlement. These include a central terrace 50m by 35m in plan, a sunken platform 60m by 30m to the south and, to the north east, an enclosure defined by banks 3m wide and about 0.5m high. Historical sources indicate that there were originally four settlements within this parish. The Domesday Book records the presence of 19 people within the parish. The Lay Subsidy Roll of 1333 records 13 and, by 1664, only three householders are mentioned in the Hearth Tax Assessment. The settlement belonged to the estate of Milton Abbey during much of the 15th century, but in 1488 Ringstead was merged with the neighbouring parish of Osmington, on account of the poverty of both parishes. It would, therefore, appear that the settlement of West Ringstead became gradually depopulated. Following the abandonment of the settlement, a series of channels and sluices were added to the western part of the site in order to flood some former house platforms which were adopted for use as water meadows until the earlier 20th century. The steep slope to the north supports an extensive area of well-preserved strip lynchets relating to the settlement's outer field system. Glebe Cottage, all stiles, fence posts and gates relating to modern field boundaries, the septic tank in the south east corner of the garden, the soakaway leading west from it, the linking drains between the tank and the cottage, other existing soakaways within the garden, the caravan and the concrete plinth on which it stands, and all sheds and greenhouses, are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath and around these features is, however, 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: 29091

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 180
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-3
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-2
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-3
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 183
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 181-2
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 183
MPP site photo,

End of official listing