Ancient Monuments

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Kenwalch's Castle: a large univallate hillfort on Pen Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Pen Selwood, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1006 / 51°6'2"N

Longitude: -2.3617 / 2°21'42"W

OS Eastings: 374767.5888

OS Northings: 133543.068946

OS Grid: ST747335

Mapcode National: GBR 0TS.XC5

Mapcode Global: VH97Z.0LTM

Entry Name: Kenwalch's Castle: a large univallate hillfort on Pen Hill

Scheduled Date: 20 October 1954

Last Amended: 14 April 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008257

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24019

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Pen Selwood

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Church of England Parish: Upper Stour

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes a large univallate hillfort situated on the north end of
a ridge in the hills of the Somerset/Wiltshire border.
The fort has an internal area of 1.6ha and is sub-rectangular in shape,
drawing to a point on the north - a plan determined by the natural contours of
the hill. The earthworks consist of a bank and external ditch or terrace. They
are most massive on the south against the rising ground, with the bank up to
2m high and the ditch 2m deep outside it. On the north tip the bank is 0.5m
high within a ditch 2m deep. The west and east sides make use of the natural
slope to form a drop of 2m-3m from a bank 0.5m high to a ditch 0.5m deep.
Along much of the steep west side the ditch becomes a broad terrace 3m-4m
The original entrances to the fort are likely to have been in the centre of
the north and south sides, at which points today a minor road enclosed by
banks now runs through. The present gaps are wider than the road, suggesting a
former trackway along the ridge with a broader course. There is a second gap
on the NNW adjacent to that through which the road runs, and this may be the
original entrance gap.
An entrance in the south-west corner of the fort is unlikely to be original
and probably relates to the creation of a track running through it, around the
inside of the rampart, and through the NNW gap parallel to the road. This
track at some points runs along a slight terrace inside the ramparts. There is
also a small gap in the bank on the south-east.
Excluded from scheduling is the road surface, though the ground beneath is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 often include round-houses as well as small
rectangular and square structures supported by four to six postholes and
interpreted as raised granaries. When excavated, the interior areas exhibit a
high density of features, including post- and stakeholes, gullies, floors,
pits, hearths and roads. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50
and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England
where they occur on the chalklands 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. In view of the rarity of large
univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the organisation
and regional structure of Iron Age society, all examples with surviving
archaeological potential are believed to be of national importance.

Kenwalch's Castle survives as a good example of its class and will preserve
archaeological evidence relating to its construction, occupation and use of
the surrounding area. Waterlogged deposits may be present in the ditch on the

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burrow, I, Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in Somerset, (1981), 239

Source: Historic England

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