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An example of a similar turf maze found at Breamore Down, Hampshire

An example of a similar turf maze found at Breamore Down, Hampshire

Credit: Jim Champion, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Troy Maze at Somerton

The Troy Maze at Somerton is a rare example of a genuine post-medieval turf maze in England. Its exact age is unknown but it is believed to date from either the late 15th, 16th or early 17th century.

The maze consists of turf and gravel cut into a curving design that can be followed through 15 winding loops into the maze's centre.

Maze or labyrinth?

More properly the design should be referred to as a 'labyrinth' as the path through to the centre does not branch or feature any dead ends, but historically turf designs like the one at Somerton are usually referred to as 'mazes'.

'Troy' or 'Troy Town' is also a common name given to mazes like this, although theories differ as to why this is the case.

The rise and fall of turf mazes

Turf mazes were once popular, but they fell out of favour, particularly in the mid-17th century, when puritanical beliefs outlawed such amusements. Only seven other original turf mazes from the period remain in England, although many modern examples exist.

The exact purpose of the maze (and other mazes like it) is unknown and may have had both Christian and secular uses.

The Troy Maze at Somerton sits in a private garden just south of Troy Farm, and can only be viewed by appointment.

Troy Farm, Somerton

Region: Cherwell

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