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King's Castle enclosures, Iron Age defended settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Wells, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2083 / 51°12'29"N

Longitude: -2.6188 / 2°37'7"W

OS Eastings: 356869.283519

OS Northings: 145639.731404

OS Grid: ST568456

Mapcode National: GBR MP.44BP

Mapcode Global: VH89S.KWDK

Entry Name: King's Castle enclosures, Iron Age defended settlement

Scheduled Date: 30 May 1958

Last Amended: 16 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008807

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24024

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Wells

Built-Up Area: Wells

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes an Iron Age defended settlement formed of two connected
enclosures separated by a partly open area. The site occupies the flat crest
of an elongated hill which forms the western end of a ridge outlying the
Mendip Hills.
The site includes a well-defined enclosure on the west tip of the hill, a
larger less well-defined secondary enclosure on the east, and a similar sized
area of land between the two, open-sided to the north.
The main enclosure is of sub-circular plan with a rampart 0.7m high and
external ditch 0.5m deep across the ridge, which become a rampart up to 0.5m
high enclosing the tip of the hill behind, with internal quarry ditches on the
north and south. The area enclosed is 0.38ha. The entrance to the interior
consists of a simple causeway and gap 4.5m wide on the top of the ridge on the
Facing this enclosure about half-way along the ridge is a cross-ridge work
with a bank 0.4m high and a ditch 0.5m deep on its west. This has an entrance
on the top of the ridge, consisting of a simple causeway and gap 3m wide. To
the north of this entrance there is a low counterscarp bank outside the ditch
and a shallow ditch behind the main bank. Behind this cross-work to the east
is the secondary enclosure of 0.64ha. This consists, along the north and south
sides, of a terrace or double scarp, up to 4m broad and 0.7m deep on the
south east though shallower on the north and absent for a short stretch behind
the cross-bank on the south. At the far end of the southern side the terrace
gradually becomes a ditch 0.3m deep with external bank 0.5m high, turning in
to form part of the eastern end of the enclosure. The same happens on the
north side though the features are less well pronounced and the change more
abrupt. The two banks join at a staggered junction at which the southern bank
turns east to run along the ridge of the hill for 40m. There is no apparent
gap at this end of the earthworks. The hill becomes constricted to a neck at
this point beyond which the hilltop opens out again, and there are further
earthworks of a field system and cross-work which are broadly contemporary
with the site, though for the purposes of scheduling are treated as a
The terrace defining the southern side of the enclosure continues westwards
beyond the cross-work towards the main enclosure, creating an open sided space
between the two, delimited on the north side by the natural scarp of the hill.
A trackway 6m broad, terraced into the hillside, leads up into this area,
entering it on the north west under the lee of the main enclosure.
The interior of the site is uneven in places, due partly to later small scale
limestone digging or prospecting pits, but possible hut circles are present
within both enclosures. There is also a more modern small rectangular drystone
ruin in the east ditch of the main enclosure.
A ruined wall of drystone boulders runs up along the centre of the approach
trackway and along the northern edge of the site.

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.

King's Castle survives as a good example of its class, and represents an
unusual variation. It is associated with broadly contemporary field systems
along the ridge to the east.

Source: Historic England

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