Ancient Monuments

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Grovely Castle and earthworks north of Grovely Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Steeple Langford, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.118 / 51°7'4"N

Longitude: -1.9217 / 1°55'18"W

OS Eastings: 405574.729049

OS Northings: 135418.663909

OS Grid: SU055354

Mapcode National: GBR 3Z5.T46

Mapcode Global: VHB5N.M5X7

Entry Name: Grovely Castle and earthworks N of Grovely Wood

Scheduled Date: 21 March 1956

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1005604

English Heritage Legacy ID: WI 453

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Steeple Langford

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Great Wishford St Giles

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


Part of the multi period landscape of Grovely Castle and Ebsbury Hill.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 21 September 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes part of a multi period landscape which includes a slight univallate hillfort, Iron Age enclosed settlements, part of an extensive field system, a large multivallate hillfort, a Romano-British enclosed settlement, track ways and further prehistoric settlements which may date to the Neolithic together with evidence for medieval re-use of some of the field system situated on and around the steep slopes of the prominent ridge called Ebsbury Hill and incorporating Grovely Castle. Most of these features survive as a complex series of interconnected earthworks but there are also many further remains which are preserved as entirely buried features visible on aerial photographs. To the north west the slight univallate hillfort known as Grovely Castle survives as a roughly oval enclosure defined by a rampart bank standing up to 3.2m high and a ditch of up to 1.5m deep although it is differentially preserved throughout its circuit and appears to contain a smaller circular enclosure. The majority of the Ebsbury Hill fortifications belong to a large multivallate hillfort which covers approximately 24ha and is defined by triple rampart banks with double ditches. Late Iron Age pottery has been found in this large hillfort. Also within the hillfort itself are further enclosed settlements, two oval and one triangular containing house platforms or scoops and part of an extensive field system which also extends beyond and over the hillfort earthworks. To the east this is associated with a separate Romano-British settlement which contains house platforms, tracks and low banks. To the north west of the large hillfort Neolithic finds have been made associated with further settlement evidence of tracks and houses which remain of uncertain date. Lynchets from 1.5m up to 3m high extend throughout the area and attest to medieval or post medieval re-use of this landscape for continued agricultural production.

Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity but these are not included because they have not been formally assessed.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day. Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes, generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth to fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counter scarp bank, while access to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways, while more elaborate features, like overlapping ramparts and outworks, are limited to a few examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate hillforts are rare, with around 150 examples recorded nationally and spread from Devon to eastern England and the Welsh Marches. Wessex represents one of several areas noted for a relative density of these sites, and within Cranborne Chase they form one of a range of different classes within the notable concentration of hillforts identified. They are rare and particularly important for understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities. Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between 5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection of the power struggle between competing elites.

Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts, oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered, for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fence lines, hearths and ovens. Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture occurred on many sites. Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere. They too are rare and are important for understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period. Later Iron Age and Romano-British occupation occurred widely across Cranborne Chase and included a range of settlement types. The surviving remains comprise farmsteads, hamlets, villages and hillforts, which together demonstrate an important sequence of settlement which is very much the case in this specific situation. The non-defensive enclosed farm or homestead represents the smallest and simplest of these types. There are over 50 recorded examples within the area which are thought to date to this later Iron Age and Romano-British period. Most early examples are characterised by a curvilinear enclosure with round buildings, although these are sometimes superseded by rectilinear or triangular shaped enclosures with rectilinear buildings. On Cranborne Chase, many examples were occupied over an extended period and some grew in size and complexity. The part of the multi period landscape of Grovely Castle and Ebsbury Hill survives well and the importance of this palimpsest of sites representing, domestic, agricultural and strategic sites through an extremely prolonged period cannot be overemphasised. The complex nature of the archaeological and environmental evidence contained within the different elements of this landscape together with information about their inter relationships and chronological succession is outstanding and it will also reveal both climatic and technological alterations and adaptations through time set against the overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England


PastScape 214402, 1347137 and 214524; Wiltshire HER SU03NE200, SU03NE203, SU03NE300 and SU03NE607

Source: Historic England

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