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Slight univallate hillfort and two ring cairns on the summit of Titterstone Clee Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Bitterley, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.3983 / 52°23'53"N

Longitude: -2.5965 / 2°35'47"W

OS Eastings: 359511.722293

OS Northings: 277976.908964

OS Grid: SO595779

Mapcode National: GBR BQ.Q5GC

Mapcode Global: VH83Z.YZ6B

Entry Name: Slight univallate hillfort and two ring cairns on the summit of Titterstone Clee Hill

Scheduled Date: 5 December 1928

Last Amended: 17 May 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008391

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19139

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Bitterley

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Cleeton St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the remains of a slight univallate hillfort, and two
ring-cairns which occupy a strong defensive position on the rounded summit of
Titterstone Clee Hill. The hill itself is an imposing landmark formed by a
basalt intrusion in the Carboniferous period. The archaeological remains which
survive on the summit of Titterstone Clee provide evidence that the site was
in use as a focus of ritual activity in the Bronze Age. By the Early Iron Age
it had become a centre for habitation and a system of defences encircling the
hilltop had been constructed. These substantial stone walls continued to be
developed and modified throughout the occupation of the site, the final phase
being the construction of elaborate entrance gates. The hillfort has maximum
dimensions of 770m east to west by some 450m north to south, enclosing an area
of 28ha and making it one of the largest hillforts in Shropshire even
though it has been damaged along its southern side by modern quarrying.
Where the defences survive they follow the terrain and were designed to
enhance the natural strategic advantages of the topography. The rampart today
remains visible largely as a tumbled stone wall forming linear scree running
around the north and east of the hill summit. These defences can be traced
from the base of the Giant's Chair outcrop, at the western edge of the summit,
north east as a stone and turf bank 3.5m wide and 0.4m high, with a tumbled
swathe of angular dolerite blocks 8m wide on its outside. After 180m the
defences turn to the south east and continue in a similar form for 470m with
walling standing in places up to 1m high. In the angle formed between these
two lengths of wall lies the original north entrance, it is 4m wide and is
slightly inturned. Some 40m to the south west of this gateway a 20m length of
the stone tumble has been cleared to expose the wall core. It is a well made
drystone construction 2m wide and 0.8m high. Around the eastern end of the
hill the rampart continues in similar fashion, up to 13m wide in places and
standing up to 2m high on its interior face and 2.4m on its exterior. This
section of the defences was investigated by O'Neil in 1934 and the excavation
trenches remain clearly visible. The most northerly excavation trench, which
cuts the wall at right angles, is visible as a linear intrusion 16.5m long by
3m wide and 1.2m deep. A second trench lies at right angles to the first, cut
along the inner face of the rampart and measuring 11m long and 1.5m wide.
Another clearly marked excavation trench 20m long by 2m wide lies in the
eastern angle of the hillfort cutting through the original east entrance. From
this point the rampart runs for 116m south west to where it is cut again by a
cross-trench before ending on an old quarry face after another 70m. For most
of the southern part of the enclosure the hill and defences have been removed
by quarrying. However two short lengths of rampart do survive. At the most
southern extremity of the site a 31m long length of stony bank crosses a ridge
between two old quarry faces, this is considered a part of the original
circuit of defences. It stands 0.5m high on its uphill north side and 1.7m
high on its downhill side. A second length of tumbled walling 150m south
from the OS trig pillar also represents these southern defences. It survives
as a spread of angular stone 8m wide and 1m high orientated north west to
south east and running from the southern foot of the Giant's Chair outcrop
south east to end after 180m on an old quarry face.
The 1934 excavations identified four phases of construction. In the first
period a timber-revetted earth rampart was constructed with timber entrances.
During period two the defences fell into disrepair and appeared to have been
partly dismantled. Period three saw a rebuilding of the rampart in stone and a
remodelling of the gateways, with the construction of two stone and timber
guard chambers flanking the main south eastern entrance. There followed a
period in which the fort continued to be inhabited but the defences fell into
disrepair or were slighted. These phases can be dated by reference to dated
features at other Marches hillforts to the period between the Late Bronze Age
and the pre Roman Iron Age. In 1991, archaeological investigations were
carried out to the east of the Civil Aviation Authority and Meteorological
Office radar installations which demonstrated that the remains of walls and
other features related to the occupation of the hillfort survive in its
interior. Within the confines of the hillfort, in its western quarter on the
highest point of the hill, are the remains of two cairns. The existence of the
more northerly was first recorded by H H Lines in 1891 who described a cairn
on the summit of Titterstone Clee 80 feet in diameter with exposed cists and
surmounted by a modern OS triangulation cairn. Today this structure remains
visible as a low stony mound 10m in diameter and 0.6m high, still surmounted
by a modern OS trig pillar which is included within the scheduling. A portion
of stony bank 3.5m wide and 0.5m high curves around the west side of the
central mound. This may once have formed a complete circle 28m in diameter,
however the whole eastern half of the circle has been removed. Loose stone
piled against the inner edge of the bank in the north east quarter may
represent the site of a cist. The remains suggest that it should be classed as
a ring cairn, a comparatively rare type of cairn in Shropshire.
Some 80m to the south east is a second cairn truncated along its
south western edge by old linear surface quarrying, it survives as a flat
topped and well defined mound 23m in diameter and 0.8m high. Turf-fast
dolerite blocks protrude through the turf around the circumference of the
mound to form a continuous stone kerb. O'Neil sectioned this structure in 1932
and describes it as a flat topped earthen circle comprising a ring of dolerite
blocks packed in clay. Underlying the centre of the mound was a circular pit
1.3m in diameter, excavated 2.3m below the old ground surface. Today O'Neil's
excavation trenches can be recognised as linear depressions 1m wide and 0.2m
deep. One orientated north west to south east, the other projecting at right
angles from this to the truncated southern edge of the mound. This monument
also represents a ring cairn. Both cairns are believed to date to the Bronze
The radar installations, associated buildings and fences, all metalled
surfaces and structures are excluded from the scheduling though the ground
beneath each is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 -
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 counterscarp 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 only 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.
Although on a national scale the number is low, in Devon they comprise one of
the major classes of hillfort. In other areas where the distribution is
relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the
Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different classes occur within
the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern England, the Welsh
Marches, central and southern England. In view of the rarity of slight
univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the transition
between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which survive
comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further
archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The slight univallate hillfort on the summit of Titterstone Clee Hill survives
well despite damage along the south side by quarrying. The rampart is unusual
in its method of construction, making extensive use of drystone walling to
create what remains today an impressive perimeter defence. The large size of
the enclosed area, one of the largest hillfort interiors in Shropshire
indicates that the site was of considerable importance during its life.
Excavations have demonstrated that the monument still retains many internal
features of different types which contain important information relating to
the use of the site and the economy of its inhabitants. The two ring cairns
which survive within the confines of the hillfort, though both disturbed, will
also contain important archaeological information regarding the early land-
use, settlement pattern, burial practice and social structure of the early
inhabitants of the area. Environmental evidence relating to the landscape into
which the various elements of the monument were constructed will survive
sealed beneath the rampart and cairn mounds. Considered together and in their
association with other monuments of a similar age which survive on the
surrounding hills, the features of the hillfort contribute valuable
information to our understanding of the early occupation of this area of

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cunliffe, B, Iron Age Communities in Britain, (1978), 5-9
Jones, A E, 'BUFAU report' in Titterstone Clee Hillfort Evaluation, (1991), 2-9
Jones, A E, 'BUFAU report' in Titterstone Clee Hillfort Evaluation, (1991), 5-9
Kenyon, K M, 'Archaeological Journal' in Excavations on The Wrekin, Shropshire, 1939, , Vol. 89, (1942), 99-109
Lines, H H, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Titterstone Camp and Others, , Vol. 3, (1891), 1-35
Musson, C R, 'Hillforts' in Excavations At The Breiddin, (1976), 293-300
O'Neil, B H S, 'Archaeologia Cambrensis' in Excavations At Titterstone Clee Hill Camp, , Vol. 89, (1934), 88-89
O'Neil, B H S, 'Archaeologia Cambrensis' in Excavations At Titterstone Clee Hill Camp, , Vol. 89, (1934), 83-111
O'Neil, B H S, 'Archaeologia Cambrensis' in Excavations at Fridd Faldwyn, , Vol. 97, (1939), 1-57

Source: Historic England

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