Stone circle on Withypool Hill 670m ESE of Portford Bridge
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1021261
Date first listed: 30-Nov-1925
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Feb-2004
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: West Somerset (District Authority)
Parish: Withypool and Hawkridge
National Park: EXMOOR
National Grid Reference: SS 83827 34313
Reasons for Designation
Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by
earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones
may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating
out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close
to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout
England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular
clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the
Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may
be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern.
Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the
Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and
laid out carefully, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the
heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully
understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but
it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies
that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided
a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead.
Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the
passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of
stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at
midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles
throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some
form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. Large regular
stone circles comprise an arrangement of between one and three rings of from
20 to 30 upright stones. The diameters of these circles range between 20 and
30 metres. They are presently known only in upland contexts, the majority
being located in Devon and Cornwall or Cumbria. Of the 250 or so stone circles
identified in England only 28 are examples of this type. As a rare monument
type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all
surviving examples are worthy of preservation.
Despite a number of the stones having been displaced or removed, the prehistoric stone circle on Withypool Hill, 670m ESE of Portford Bridge, survives well with many of the stones surviving earthfast and upright in their original settings and a number of other stones, now displaced, marking their former settings. The area enclosed by the stone circle survives well without any obvious disturbance. Excavation of similar monuments has shown that potentially important archaeological deposits and environmental evidence relating to earlier phases of construction, and other internal features, are likely to be preserved beneath the ground surface. It is a good example of its class of monument and its importance is enhanced by its rarity as it is one of only two prehistoric stone circles known on Exmoor.
The monument includes a stone circle of prehistoric date located on a
south and west facing slope about 180m south west of the summit of
Withypool Hill. It lies in high open moorland with views west towards
Withypool Down, and south over Old Barrow Down. The stone circle is formed
by a ring of upright rough stone blocks which originate from the Pickwell
Down beds located to the south of Withypool and it is believed to have
been constructed during the period from the Late Neolithic to the Early
Bronze Age. It is formed by around 25 upright and earthfast stones, and
several which have fallen or are displaced, but remain in or close to
their original position. The sites of former earthfast stones are visible
as shallow depressions and gaps in the circle, particularly on the north
and west sides. The circuit of stones survives most completely on the
eastern side where there is a regular interval of just over 1m between
each stone. The larger of the stones are to be found in this sector; four
of these have an average size of 0.5m in height, 0.6m in width and are
0.2m thick. The average dimensions of the majority of the stones are 0.5m
high, 0.4m wide and 0.2m thick. The overall diameter of the stone circle
is 36m with an approximate circumference of 115m. Given the size of the
circle, and the spacing between each stone, it has been estimated that the
circle originally comprised 100 stones approximately.
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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 35720
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Gray, H St G, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society' in The Stone Circle on Withypool Hill, Exmoor, , Vol. 52, (1906), 42-50
SS 83 SW 1, National Monuments Record,
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