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Maiden Castle promontory fort

A Scheduled Monument in Durham South, County Durham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.7694 / 54°46'10"N

Longitude: -1.5619 / 1°33'42"W

OS Eastings: 428283.995109

OS Northings: 541701.018595

OS Grid: NZ282417

Mapcode National: GBR KFJ9.N2

Mapcode Global: WHC4Q.ZDD0

Entry Name: Maiden Castle promontory fort

Scheduled Date: 14 December 1926

Last Amended: 1 July 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008844

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25011

County: County Durham

Electoral Ward/Division: Durham South

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Durham St Oswald

Church of England Diocese: Durham

Details

Maiden Castle Iron Age hillfort is situated astride a precipitous promontory
above the River Wear, protected on all but the western side by steep natural
slopes. Orientated east-west, the fort measures a maximum of 180m by 75m and
is protected on the western side, where natural defence is weak, by an earthen
rampart with an external ditch. The rampart is visible as a scarp 3m high and
is separated from the ditch by a broad berm. Slight traces of a counterscarp
bank are visible inside the rampart towards its southern end. An original
entrance is thought to lie at the northern end of the western side where there
is a break in the ditch. Limited excavation of part of the western rampart in
1956 revealed that it was originally constructed of clay, revetted with
cobbles and capped with a wooden palisade. At a later date the inner side of
the rampart was removed and a stone revetting wall was built and subsequently
wooden stakes were added to the wall in order to strengthen it; these stakes
were burnt when the fort was later abandoned. A medieval mason's mark was
discovered on one of the stones which formed the later stone revetment wall,
implying some form of reuse of the prehistoric hillfort during the medieval
period.

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

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally
defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more
earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it
from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by
steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings
defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches
formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected
along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an
entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively
for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone-
walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings
used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally
Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth
century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with
other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status,
probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest
that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display
as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded
examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of
the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all
examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally
important.

Maiden Castle is well preserved and retains significant archaeological
remains. Defended prehistoric settlements are uncommon in County Durham and
this monument will add to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric
settlement and activity in the area.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Thomas, N, Guide to Prehistoric England, (1960), 111
Jarrett, M G, 'Trans Durham and Northumberland A and AS 11' in , (1956), 124-27
Other
NZ 28 SE 38,

Source: Historic England

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