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Somerset Historic Environment Record


Site Name: Iron-age settlement (Meare West), Meare
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Lake villages NW of Oxenpill [No:349]
Civil Parish: Meare
PRN 12287Geophysical Survey (1997) Meare Villages, Meare
PRN 22804Geophysical survey (1978), Meare Lake Villages
PRN 28525Excavation (1968-1969), Meare Lake Village West
PRN 28530Excavation (1979), Meare Village West
PRN 28531Excavations (1910-1932), Meare Village West
PRN 28532Excavation (1978), Meare Village West
PRN 28536Evaluation (2003), Meare Lake Villages
PRN 57109Magnetometer survey (1996), Meare Lake Village
Grid Ref: ST 443 422 (ST 44 SW)
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Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown or has not been checked. Please ask locally and do not visit without permission. [Information last updated on 21 May 2003]


Two occupation sites, one at the above NGR, the other further to the east (PRN 24277), have been dated to the iron age. They were first noticed by a farmer, Mr S. Laver, in 1895, when pottery etc was found when digging post holes. The site was excavated sporadically from 1908 to 1933. There were some 50-60 huts in the area, represented by mounds some 4ft high having successive floors of clay above a foundation of timber and brushwood with central hearths. These huts were circular but there was evidence of earlier rectangular huts. The finds, mostly in Taunton Museum, include decorated and coarse pottery, vessels of wood, evidence of spinning and weaving, agriculture and metallurgy, and fibulae (La Tene 1-3) and other personal ornaments. Roman coins from Constantius II to Valens, and pottery including Samian was also found. The results of Bulleid and Gray's excavations were published from 1948 to 1966. {1}

Michael Avery undertook further excavation at Meare West in July and August of 1968 (PRN 28525). Three areas were opened up in the western group of mounds. {5}

In March 1977, the Somerset Levels Project excavated four small trenches at the east end of the settlement (see PRN 28532). The area of occupation was quite tightly defined with the surrounding area very wet and marshy. The foundation of the settlement were well reinforced with layers of timber and brushwood. The gross stratigraphy was: (i) timber, hurdling and brushwood embedded in the growing raised bog to form a stabilising foundation layer over much of the east end of the site. Density varied across the site with many pieces having mortice holes. Three stages of construction could be tentatively been seen with circular structures. (ii) Settlement debris and peat accumulated together. The amount was not consistent across the site. (iii) Clay floors, forming the mounds that were visible before excavation. In places multiple floors were evident. The clay was brought to the site, perhaps from Meare Island. Hearths were found in many of the mounds, consisting of raised areas of clay. Unlikely that every area of clay flooring represented a dwelling. {6}

Excavations continued into 1978. Results emphasised the lack of structural features, especially in terms of walls and roofing material, and so they huts were more likely to be tent-like structures. It is suggested therefore that occupation was seasonal as elsewhere because of the likelihood of flooding, the fact that people would not live in tents for long, to allow for the continued growth of the bog, and to account for the multiple clay floors interleaved by raised bog mixed with cultural debris. {7}

During the summer of 1979 the Somerset Levels Project carried out a contour survey of the western end of the settlement site and an excavation was undertaken (see PRN 28530). Evidence could be divided into occupational and post-occupational phases. The former may be interpreted as a living area, the central floor, with an external hearth, a well-trodden area between the two, and a place where the wood ash and other refuse was dumped. The lack of structural evidence suggests there was none, although the clean and compact nature of the central floor suggests it was covered. It is likely therefore that a tent was used. {8}

Scheduled as AM 349. {10}

A small area at the eastern end of Meare Village West was examined in 1984 (see PRN 28529). {12}

In 1978 six C14 pottery sherds, a piece of burnt flint and a piece of burnt bone were found in ditch cleaning spoil between fields D and E of the Lake village. {17}

The site was visited by an English Heritage Field Monument Warden in November 1999. At this date it all under permanent pasture, and generally in good condition. In the north-east part of the scheduled area there was a very prominent mound, in an otherwise flat field. The grass had been recently resown after rotoration, giving good grass cover. A low mound extended into the next field, but in next two fields there was no visible trace of mounds. {19}

Two geophysical surveys were undertaken in and around Meare West in the late 1990s. See PRN 57109 for a magnetometer survey undertaken in 1996 and PRN 12287 for a resistivity survey undertaken in 1997. {20}


1 Excavation report - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 44 SW 1 (1978) Location: HER files under PRN 24277.
2 Excavation report - Bulleid, A and Gray, H St G. The Meare Lake Village.  Vol. 1 (1948) Copy held in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
3 Excavation report - Bulleid, A and Gray, H St G. The Meare Lake Village.  Vol. 2 (1953) Copy held in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
4 Excavation report - Gray, H St G. The Meare Lake Village.  Vol. 3 (1966) Copy held in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
5 Excavation report - Avery, M. Excavations at Meare East, 1966. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  112 (1968), 21-39 [page 38-9]
6 Excavation report - Orme, BJ, Coles, JM and Sturdy, CR. Meare Lake Village West: A Report on Recent Work. Somerset Levels Papers.  5 (1979), 6-17 [page 6-11]
7 Excavation report - Orme, BJ, Coles, JM and Sturdy, CR. Meare Lake Village West: A Report on Recent Work. Somerset Levels Papers.  5 (1979), 6-17 [page 12-17]
8 Excavation report - Orme, BJ, Coles, JM, Caseldine, AE and Bailey, GN. Meare Village West 1979. Somerset Levels Papers.  7 (1981), 12-69
9 Aerial photographs - NMR ST4442-1. (November 1925) Location: National Monuments Record, Swindon
10 Verbal communication - Dennison, E [Ed]. Somerset County Council, Sites and Monuments Record (17/07/1985). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
11 Mention - Coles, JM and Orme, BJ. Archaeology in the Somerset Levels 1984. Somerset Levels Papers.  11 (1985), 5-6 [page 6]
12 Excavation report - Coles, BJ, Rouillard, SE and Backway, C. The 1984 excavations at Meare.. Somerset Levels Papers  12 (1986), 30-57
13 Detailed records - Jones, G. The carbonised plant remains from Meare West 1979:2. Somerset Levels Papers  12 (1986), 57-60
14 Detailed records - Caseldine, AE. The envionmental context of the Meare lake villages. Somerset Levels Papers  12 (1986), 73-96
15 Detailed records - Evans, JG. Molusca from the iron age sites at Meare, Somerset. Somerset Levels Papers  12 (1986), 97-102
16 Aerial photographs - DAP PW13,14. (1990) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
17 Detailed records - Somerset Levels Project finds sheet. Record ID: 78.1 Location: Somerset County Museum.
18 Aerial photographs - NMR ST4442/1. (25/11/1925) Location: HER files under PRN 24277.
19 Site visit report - Graham, A [Alan]. English Heritage Field Monument Warden. (24/11/1999) Report location: Unchecked but probably HER files.
20 Verbal communication - Nicholas, M [Matthew]. Somerset County Council, Heritage Service (09/07/2003). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained

Record created in July 1985

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