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Bury Castle, an Iron Age defended settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Selworthy, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2134 / 51°12'48"N

Longitude: -3.5513 / 3°33'4"W

OS Eastings: 291741.737705

OS Northings: 147169.520178

OS Grid: SS917471

Mapcode National: GBR LF.3VHR

Mapcode Global: VH5JX.DRFN

Entry Name: Bury Castle, an Iron Age defended settlement

Scheduled Date: 4 April 1949

Last Amended: 16 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008808

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24025

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Selworthy

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a small enclosure representing an Iron Age defended
settlement with an additional cross-ridge defence on the uphill west side,
situated on the tip of a spur. The site lies above a steep drop on two sides,
but occupies only part of the width of the spur, leaving a gentler approach to
the south west.
The enclosure is sub-rectangular in plan with slightly curving sides and
rounded corners. The long axis lies north east to south west. It has an
internal area of 0.21ha, enclosed by univallate earthworks. The defences are
greatest on the upper sides, consisting of a bank up to 2m high and outer
ditch up to 2m deep, forming an external face 1.7m high. On the lower sides
use is made of the natural slope which has been scarped to form a bank 0.2m
high above a drop of 1.8m, with a slight outer terrace. The earthworks have a
steep, well preserved profile.
The most likely original entrance is in the centre of the north eastern side
where there is a disturbed area consisting of a gap in the rampart and a mound
of stone extending out from the interior of the enclosure, truncating the
ditch which turns out along it. This may represent a tumbled out-turned
entrance or collapsed gatehouse. Uphill from this there is a counterscarp bank
outside the ditch. The present entrance on the south west appears to have been
created by a modern trackway over the ramparts.
Uphill, 32m above the enclosure, is a cross-ridge work with two arms meeting
at a shallow point on the crest of the ridge. The north east arm, 45m long,
runs parallel to the top side of the enclosure, and the second arm runs south
from this for 45m. It is formed of a bank c.2m high and external ditch c.2m
deep, of similar proportions to the upper side of the enclosure, forming an
external face 2.5m high. On the north east this work runs to the edge of the
hill and turns briefly towards the enclosure as a scarp and terrace. A length
of natural scarp completes the gap between the two. On the south, however, the
work ends well short of the edge of the hill, suggesting that approach was
intended from this direction. There is a gap through the cross-work
immediately south of the apex, consisting of a shallowing of the ditch and
lowering of the bank, but this appears to be modern.
The cross-work may have defined an outer enclosure, but a more likely purpose
was to provide better visibility both from and of the site along the uphill
approach. Such cross-works covering the otherwise blind approach to a defended
site are a feature of several sites in the region.
The outer edge of the cross-work ditch has been reused as the course of a
later field enclosure bank, and it has been faced with dry stone walling.
Redundant field banks are present around the site and date from the
post-medieval or early modern period.
Excluded from the scheduling are the interpretation signs, though the ground
beneath is included.

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.

Bury Castle survives as a good and well-preserved example of its class, with
an associated cross-ridge work which is a feature of several broadly
contemporary monuments in the region.

Source: Historic England

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