Medieval settlement remains at Whitcombe


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019953

Date first listed: 04-Oct-1979

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Jul-2001


Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement remains at Whitcombe
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Whitcombe

National Grid Reference: SY 71696 88303


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 western area of the medieval settlement remains at Whitcombe survives as a group of well-preserved earthworks and associated buried remains and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the associated landscape. The medieval settlement forms one of several examples which occur along the Dorchester to Wareham road, and together these will provide an important insight into the economy of the area throughout the medieval period.


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


The monument includes the remains of a deserted medieval settlement at Whitcombe, situated at the head of a dry valley on chalkland. The medieval settlement may have originally extended over an area of about 8ha. The eastern part is now occupied by a hamlet which includes a manor, cottages and a farm. The structures include a variety of examples which date from the late 17th and early 18th centuries, most are Listed and none are included in the scheduling. An additional area of possible medieval settlement situated to the south now lies within an arable area and has been reduced by ploughing. The surviving area of medieval settlement was recorded by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England in 1970 and surveyed by A Hunt in 1976. It comprises a series of earthworks which extend over an area of about 1.5ha (situated to the west of the hamlet at Whitcombe). This includes at least six artificial terraces, which are likely to represent the sites of medieval buildings, along with several roads or tracks which survive as hollow ways about 0.5m deep. The settlement appears to have been defined from the surrounding fields by an outer boundary which survives as a bank and ditch. The settlement was situated to the north east of a road aligned north west by south east. This linked the medieval towns of Dorchester and Wareham. The road also formed the main street of the medieval village at Whitcombe; later it became disused and now survives as a hollow way (or depression) between 20m- 30m wide and about 0.6m deep. The parish church is situated near to the centre of the deserted area of the settlement. The church, which is now redundant, is a Listed Building Grade I. The associated churchyard is dominated by post-medieval graves, some of which are Listed at Grade II. The settlement is first mentioned in the Domesday Survey, when a population of 16 was recorded. The 1332 Lay Subsidy Assessment recorded 12 contributors, the 1664 Hearth Tax assessments recorded 15 dwellings and a late 18th century map depicts 10 dwellings. It appears that the reduction in the size of the settlement occurred gradually during the 17th and 19th centuries. All fence posts and gates which relate to the modern property boundaries and the wall surrounding the gardens of the cottages on the western side of the hamlet are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. Totally excluded from the scheduling are the parish church and the associated churchyard (which form part of a Conservation Area).

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: 33197

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 376

End of official listing