Ancient Monuments

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Castle Rings camp

A Scheduled Monument in Donhead St. Mary, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.025 / 51°1'30"N

Longitude: -2.1606 / 2°9'38"W

OS Eastings: 388830.299247

OS Northings: 125082.38526

OS Grid: ST888250

Mapcode National: GBR 1XC.LL0

Mapcode Global: FRA 66CD.N33

Entry Name: Castle Rings camp

Scheduled Date: 26 June 1917

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1005698

English Heritage Legacy ID: WI 55

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Donhead St. Mary

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Donhead St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


Large univallate hillfort called Castle Rings and part of a cross ridge dyke 645m north-west of North Down Farm.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 June 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. As such they do not yet have the full descriptions of their modernised counterparts available. Please contact us if you would like further information.

This monument, which falls into two areas, includes a univallate hillfort and part of a cross ridge dyke situated at the point where the broad plateau called Tittle Path Hill narrows into a prominent ridge and overlooks the valleys of the River Nadder and two of its tributaries. The hillfort survives as an oval enclosure measuring approximately 320m long by 200m wide internally and defined by a rampart bank standing up to 8m wide and 1.9m high internally, a ditch of 16m wide and from 2.6m up to 4.4m deep and a counterscarp bank of 0.8m up to 1.5m high and 5m wide which is so well preserved to the south east it stands up to 3.1m high and resembles an outer rampart. The hillfort has two original simple gap entrances to the east and west and more modern breaks to the north and south. The hillfort covers approximately 6.9ha in total. To the north-west is a length of cross ridge dyke which curves slightly and mimics the line of the hillfort. It survives as a bank of up to 6m wide and 2m high with a western ditch of from 3m to 5m wide which is from 2m to 5m deep. This has also been interpreted as a possible outwork of the hillfort.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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. Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen. The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by outworks. 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. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the chalk lands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north. Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual components. They are rare and important for understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society. Cross ridge dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km long and 1km long, comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as a combination of both. The evidence of excavation and analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been reused later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities, although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or defensive earthworks. Cross ridge dykes occur across Cranborne Chase and are one of the few monument types which illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age. Very few examples have survived to the present day nationally and all well-preserved examples are considered to be of importance. The number of well-preserved examples within Cranborne Chase is particularly notable. The large univallate hillfort called Castle Rings and part of a cross ridge dyke 645m north west of North Down Farm survive well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, inter relationship, territorial, political and strategic significance, longevity and overall landscape context and in the case of the hillfort its agricultural practices, trade and domestic arrangements.

Source: Historic England


PastScape 206321
Wiltshire HER ST82NE200

Source: Historic England

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