Ancient Monuments

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Promontory fort on Combs Edge

A Scheduled Monument in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.3027 / 53°18'9"N

Longitude: -1.921 / 1°55'15"W

OS Eastings: 405361.065678

OS Northings: 378420.922791

OS Grid: SK053784

Mapcode National: GBR HZ07.XS

Mapcode Global: WHBBL.G7GX

Entry Name: Promontory fort on Combs Edge

Scheduled Date: 15 October 1936

Last Amended: 7 December 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009294

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23365

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Chapel-en-le-Frith

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Chapel-en-le-Frith St Thomas a Becket

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument, sometimes known as Castle Naze, is an Iron Age promontory fort,
possibly of more than one construction phase, occupying a triangular spur of
Combs Edge in the western gritstone moorlands of the Derbyshire Peak District.
The remains comprise a three sided enclosure bounded on the north and west
sides by vertical rock faces and, on the south east side, by a double line of
earthwork defences. The enclosure has an area of c.1.28ha and retains buried
remains throughout of such features as workshops, hearths, storage pits and
the postholes and foundations of buildings. The defences comprise an inner and
an outer rampart and an outer ditch from which the material for the outer
rampart would have been obtained. Between the ramparts is a wide space which,
today, appears level but which probably represents the construction ditch for
the inner rampart. South of the north west corner of the fort is a group of
stone extraction pits and traces of a track which drops over the cliff edge.
These features probably relate to the 19th century enclosure of the intake
round the edges of Combs Moss.
The outer ditch of the defences averages 8m wide and is filled in by silt to a
depth of c.1m. The rampart flanking it varies between 2m in the north to 4m in
the south. On the side facing into the gap between the ramparts it is between
2m and 3m high. The inner rampart rises 2m above the gap and between 2m and 3m
above the interior of the fort. The gap itself varies between 10m and 15m wide
and is thought possibly to have been a shallow ditch because it has a distinct
terminus at its north east end. Both ramparts are steep, their sides sloping
at about 60 degrees, and each is c.10m wide at the base, narrowing to c.3m. At
their south west end the earthworks extend to the cliff edge while, at their
north east end, they terminate short of the cliff edge at a causeway. This
causeway extends north eastward out of the area of the scheduling for c.100m
and represents the original entrance into the fort. The deep hollow way which
approaches it from the north west possibly also had its origins at this time
but the engineered feature visible today is a much later creation, being a
late medieval or post-medieval packhorse route. The overall length of the
earthworks is c.160m, but they are pierced near the centre by a second
entrance which can be seen to postdate the earthworks by the way in which it
cuts deep into the build-up of deposits in the gap between the ramparts. This
later entrance appears to relate to the packhorse route and it is possible
that the fort had some associated function for the carriers who used the route
through it. No excavation of the fort has been carried out but Romano-British
pottery and an early 4th century coin of the Emperor Constantine I were found
on the surface in 1873 and, in 1957, a survey of the fort was carried out
which reported that exposed portions of the ramparts showed the innermost to
be of rubble construction while the outermost was revetted by a drystone wall.
This suggests that the outer rampart and ditch were a later construction
though still of Iron Age date. The modern field wall, fencing and stile around
the edge of the fort are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these features 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

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

The promontory fort on Combs Edge is very well preserved having apparently
suffered very little disturbance since it was abandoned. The possibility of a
post-medieval use for the fort is also of interest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cox, JC, The Victoria History of the County of Derbyshire, (1905), 256
Thomas, N, Guide to Prehistoric England, (1960), 72
Challis, A J, Harding, D, 'BAR 20, Part 2' in Later Prehistory from the Trent to the Tyne, (1975), 47
Preston, F L, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Hill-Forts of the Peak, , Vol. 74, (1954), 9
Ramm, H G, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in A Survey of the Combs Moss Hillfort, , Vol. 77, (1957), 49-53

Source: Historic England

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