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Sweetworthy Iron Age defended settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Luccombe, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.1713 / 51°10'16"N

Longitude: -3.5884 / 3°35'18"W

OS Eastings: 289049.297654

OS Northings: 142534.526528

OS Grid: SS890425

Mapcode National: GBR LC.6JRK

Mapcode Global: VH5K2.RTBH

Entry Name: Sweetworthy Iron Age defended settlement

Scheduled Date: 17 April 1951

Last Amended: 17 June 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008470

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24028

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Luccombe

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Details

The monument includes an Iron Age defended settlement enclosure situated in
the upper corner of a large natural terrace on the northern slopes of Dunkery
Hill.

The enclosure is formed of a bank and outer ditch surrounding a sub-circular
area of 0.3ha, with the earthworks formed of almost straight sections. The
interior has been levelled to form a platform.

The site slopes down to the north, and the earthworks on the upper sides
consist of a bank and ditch originally c.1m high and 1m deep, though now
exaggerated by the formation of a pond in more modern times, and on the lower
side a bank 0.4m high with external scarp 2m high and an outer terrace 6m
wide. Part of the defences on the south east are missing, with only a low
scarp to the interior and a small earthfast stone remaining to trace their
course. It is likely that the earthworks here have been robbed to
construct the later field hedge-bank which runs close by.

The inner platform is defined by a curving scarp 1m high cut into the slope
inside the defences on the south west, and by a scarp 1.2m high protruding
above the slope inside the defences on the north east.

The entrance to the interior is on the north west, where the exterior ground
is level with the platformed interior, and consists of a slightly raised
causeway across the ditch and a 5m wide gap between slightly inturned ends of
the bank. There may have been a similar opposite entrance uphill on the robbed
south east stretch, where there is a 7m gap between the end of the surviving
bank and the start of the small scarp.

On the south west the earthworks have been utilised probably in the 19th
century to construct a pond or reservoir, now dry. A dam with a sluice has
been built across the ditch, and the ditch behind recut and the bank
heightened. This was fed by a leat from the south east, and tapped by a leat
running north west from the ditch below. On the east of the enclosure a
post-medieval trackway runs along the bottom of the ditch and has deepened it.

There is a small gap in the bank on the lower side of the enclosure, probably
made in more modern times for drainage.
Stony mounds within the interior of the site appear to be the result of old
tree root damage, but indications of occupation platforms and hollows are also
present.

MAP EXTRACT
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

During the Iron Age a variety of different types of settlement were
constructed and occupied in south-western England. At the top of the
settlement hierarchy were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition
to these a group of smaller sites, known as defended settlements, were also
constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others in less prominent
positions. They are generally smaller than the hillforts, sometimes with an
enclosed area of less than 1ha. The enclosing defences were of earthen
construction. Univallate sites have a single bank and ditch, multivallate
sites more than one. At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second
phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Where
excavated, evidence of stone- or timber-built houses has been found within the
enclosures, which, in contrast to the hillfort sites, would have been occupied
by small communities, perhaps no more than a single family group.
Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element
of the settlement pattern, particularly in the upland areas of south-western
England, and are integral to any study of the developing use of fortified
settlements during this period. All well-preserved examples are likely to be
identified as nationally important.

The enclosure at Sweetworthy survives as a good example of its class in an
upland area, despite some robbing and alteration of the defences. It is
associated with two smaller examples and forms part of a close group of
prehistoric and medieval deserted settlements which is one of the most
important groupings of such monuments in the region.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Sainsbury, I.S.(part), NMR Monument SS84SE12, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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