The Mendip Hills have a rich archaeological heritage, ranging from Mesolithic cave deposits to Second World War militaryfeatures. The landscape was exploited throughout the prehistoric with a wide range of site types including settlements and ritual landscapes.
The landscape appears to have had significance in the Neolithic, with such field monuments as mortuary enclosures and the henge-like Priddy Circles constructed during this period. There are approximately 300 barrows across the Mendip plateau, constructed between the Neolithic and the early Bronze Age, highlighting the ritual significance of this landscape. Bronze Age barrows are frequently found in linear cemeteries, such as Ashen Hill barrows and Priddy Nine Barrows. Late Bronze Age/Iron Age settlement sites such as Pitcher’s Enclosure, near West Harptree, or Dolebury hill fort, near Shipham, have been found around the edges of the higher ground. There is a concentration of possibly ritual field monuments in the centre of the plateau, but some monument types, suchas Bronze Age barrows, occur in most
Medieval and post medieval deserted or shrunken settlements and extensive relict field systems are found along the southern scarp edge of the limestone plateau in the central Mendip area. Relict field systems we re also found throughout the trial survey in the eastern Mendip Hills and a deserted element was recorded around nearly all of the settlements.
The mineral wealth of the Mendip Hills led to the development of a major Roman mining settlement at Charterhouse. Mining of lead continued in this area into the Post Medieval period, particularly around Charterhouse, Stockhill, East Harptree and Chancellor’s Farm, creating distinctive patterns in the landscape.
The extensive Second World War bombing decoy found on Black Down serves to highlight the wide range of archaeological monuments that are found in this area. The contemporary, or near contemporary, aerial photograph may sometimes be the only record for some other types of site from this period, including Prisoner of War and military bases. Two Prisoner of War camps were recorded to the north of Wells and the structures associated with an ammunition store and associated base were mapped near to Maesbury Castle.