Ancient Monuments

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Belsar's Hill ringwork

A Scheduled Monument in Willingham, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.3121 / 52°18'43"N

Longitude: 0.0855 / 0°5'7"E

OS Eastings: 542267.218195

OS Northings: 270266.348305

OS Grid: TL422702

Mapcode National: GBR L62.4F8

Mapcode Global: VHHJP.F4KW

Entry Name: Belsar's Hill ringwork

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 20 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010368

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20418

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Willingham

Built-Up Area: Willingham

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Willingham

Church of England Diocese: Ely


Belsar's Hill is a medieval ringwork, constructed on top of a Prehistoric
enclosure and with associated remains of part of a medieval field system. The
ringwork is an oval, measuring about 265m by 220m. The defences consist of an
outer ditch, 10-15m wide and up to 1.5m deep, with an internal bank. Although
generally dry, the ditch bottom is damp and carries a small stream along its
south-east arm. The bank is up to 4m high on the north east side, falling to
around 2m on the west, and is very slight on the south east side. A green
lane runs across the monument on a north easterly alignment and where it
crosses the perimeter of the ringwork the line of the bank and ditch can be
traced as undulations about 1m deep. An entrance is located at the north
east, adjacent to the lane, where there is a gap in the defences and the ditch
is splayed outwards. A straight bank, 40m long and 0.5m high, flanks the east
side of the entrance. A second entrance is marked by a causeway on the north
Following the abandonment of the fortification, both the interior and exterior
were incorporated into a field system. Evidence for this medieval farming
activity is identified by the presence of ridges-and-furrows, both inside and
outside the ringwork, which respect the perimeter of the defences and the line
of the green lane. The green lane is itself a medieval trackway, bounded on
each side by a low bank or headland. The track forms part of the medieval
road to Ely, the `Aldreth Causeway', and the ringwork is considered to have
been built as a temporary camp by William the Conqueror during the assault on
that town. It is considered that the ringwork was adapted from the remains of
an earlier Iron Age camp.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.

Belsar's Hill is a very well preserved example of a medieval ringwork
incorporated into a later medieval field system. The ringwork is well
documented historically and, unusually, provides evidence of earlier use in
the Prehistoric period as a fortified Iron Age site. The later medieval
cultivation earthworks, which overlie the site, are an important source of
information on the dating of the ringwork and will have sealed below ground
remains of the interior. The remains of the field system and medieval
trackway indicate the complex and changing patterns of land use in rural East
Anglia throughout the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Taylor, A, Castles of Cambridgeshire, (1990)
'C.A.C. Annual Report, 1984-5' in C.A.C. Annual Report, 1984-5, (1985)
Evans, C., CAU Excavation Report:- Arbury Banks, (1990)
Ordnance Survey , Ordnance Survey Record,
Paterson, H., EH record: file AA 40613/01, AM 107, (1983)
Taylor, A, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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