Ancient Monuments

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Bury Ditches, a small multivallate hillfort on the summit of Sunnyhill

A Scheduled Monument in Lydbury North, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.4474 / 52°26'50"N

Longitude: -2.9911 / 2°59'27"W

OS Eastings: 332736.33287

OS Northings: 283732.562324

OS Grid: SO327837

Mapcode National: GBR B6.LY0T

Mapcode Global: VH764.3RL6

Entry Name: Bury Ditches, a small multivallate hillfort on the summit of Sunnyhill

Scheduled Date: 13 January 1932

Last Amended: 4 January 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010320

English Heritage Legacy ID: 19168

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Lydbury North

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Lydbury North

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes Bury Ditches, a small multivallate hillfort situated on
Sunnyhill, a small but steep sided hill at the north west end of Clunton Hill.
The hillfort is positioned strategically on the summit of the hill to overlook
falling ground on all sides. It is roughly oval in plan with maximum
dimensions of 374m south west to north east by 260m transversely with an
enclosed area of 3.3ha. The defences are designed to take maximum advantage
of the topography and include an elaborate system of earthwork ramparts and
ditches which appear to represent several episodes of construction. Around the
south and south east sides of the hill where the natural hillslope is at its
most precipitous, forming a natural barrier to any approach from this
direction, the man-made defences are at their simplest, being formed by two
ramparts only. They are at their most massive south of the east entrance,
where both banks rise 4.4m on their outer faces and 1.9m on their inner. The
inner of the two ramparts maintains these dimensions throughout its length.
The outer fades in its middle section before being reinstated towards the west
entrance to an outer height of 2m and an inner one of 1m. Around the northern
and north western side of the hill, where the natural slopes are less steep
and access to the hilltop is easier, the artificial defences are made more
elaborate. Here, four and in places, five, successive banks with intervening
ditches create a formidable set of defences. The innermost of these, lying on
the upper slope of the hill and separated from the lower ramparts by a berm up
to 12m wide, was probably the last rampart to be built; it rises 1.8m on its
inner face and 3.6m on its outer. The remaining ramparts step down the
hillslope, averaging 2m in height on their inner faces and 4m on their outer.
Towards the western entrance the third and fourth ramparts merge into one
single bank, reducing the defences to three ramparts and an outer ditch. All
of the defences show very steep profiles with little collapse, indicating a
high stone content in their construction. This is confirmed where the inner
fabric is exposed by erosion.
There are two original entrances positioned at the south east and west corners
of the hillfort, both being particularly well defined and undisturbed. The
eastern is a fine example of an inturned entrance formed by a deep inturning
of the inner southern rampart and the two inner northern ramparts to form a
narrow passage 70m long and 2m wide. Such inturned entrances were developed to
ensure that any approach to the interior of the fort could be overlooked from
above. The western entrance uses a different design to achieve the same
result. Here the outer ramparts from the north wrap around and overlap those
from the south to form a deeply funnelled entrance running between the banks
for 90m. Both of these entrances are sophisticated structures, probably
originally guarded by gatehouses and seemingly representing the final state of
development of the hillfort.
The interior of the enclosure has been afforested in the past, though it is
now clear of trees. Several scooped hollows against the inner slope of the
inner rampart in the north of the site may represent the sites of buildings or
other structures connected with the occupation of the site.
All modern boundary features, the guide post in the eastern quarter of the
site and toposcope in the northern quarter, are excluded from the scheduling,
though the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are
defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set
earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the
interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or
more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been
constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first
century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements
of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest
that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with
display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a
rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks
and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by
one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or
inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists
of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures
interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety
of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of
small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a
similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples
recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west
with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the
rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding
the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of
national importance.

Bury Ditches small multivallate hillfort is a fine example of its class. The
defences are particularly well preserved and the two entrances show many
details of design which are not commonly found in such good condition. The
ramparts will contain archaeological evidence relating to methods of
construction employed in creating the defences and to the occupation of the
site. The interior of the enclosure will also contain archaeological deposits
and structures relating to the occupation of the site. Evidence important to
an understanding of the environment in which the site was constructed and the
economy of its inhabitants will survive sealed on the old land surface beneath
the ramparts.

Source: Historic England

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