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Slight univallate hillfort and two bowl barrows on Mam Tor

A Scheduled Monument in Castleton, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.3502 / 53°21'0"N

Longitude: -1.8096 / 1°48'34"W

OS Eastings: 412773.694654

OS Northings: 383721.45138

OS Grid: SK127837

Mapcode National: GBR HYTP.1R

Mapcode Global: WHCCL.51KZ

Entry Name: Slight univallate hillfort and two bowl barrows on Mam Tor

Scheduled Date: 2 October 1936

Last Amended: 15 October 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011206

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23284

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Castleton

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Edale Holy and Undivided Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Derby


Mam Tor is a steep-sided hogsback ridge of alternating sandstone and shale
situated at the junction of the northern gritstone moors and the limestone
plateau of Derbyshire. The monument includes the slight univallate hillfort
occupying the summit of the ridge and the two bowl barrows within the interior
of the hillfort.
The fort comprises a tongue-shaped area of c.6ha enclosed by a single line of
defensive earthworks including a rampart, berm, ditch and counterscarp bank.
On the west side, the earthworks exhibit two modern breaches but formerly
extended in an unbroken line from south-west to north-east for c.400m. On the
east side, they extend roughly north to south for c.300m, meeting the western
circuit on the north side of the hillfort at an inturned entrance. On the
south side, both circuits end above sheer cliff faces which are themselves
linked by a straight section of earthworks c.200m long. A second inturned
entrance lies at the western end of this section. The rampart follows the 480m
contour round the edge of the tor but the interior of the hillfort rises for a
further 38m to the central ridge. On either side of the ridge, the remains of
hut platforms can be seen cut into the west and east-facing slopes. Partial
excavations of the eastern defences and nine of the hut platforms were carried
out by the University of Manchester between 1965 and 1969.
The defences were examined by cutting two trenches across the width of the
earthworks. The first, taken from the inside of the rampart to the outside of
the counterscarp bank, lay 36m south of the north entrance and the second,
taken across the rampart only, lay 57m south of that. The first showed that,
at this point, the rampart had been built on a level platform cut into the
slope, following the line of a turf marker bank. It survived to a height of 3m
above the old land surface and was 5.4m wide. It was of box-rampart
construction, created from successive layers of various materials including
soil, clay mixed with stones, and rubble. To the rear, a slight retaining wall
was built on natural shale and had further material dumped behind it. To the
fore, the existence of a stronger retaining wall was indicated by a number of
large in situ stones and several smaller stones which had rolled downhill and
were found in the ditch fill. The rampart had been heightened at some stage,
as indicated by the existence of at least one intermediate line of turf within
the layers of earth and stones. In contrast, the second trench showed no
evidence of the rampart being heightened further south. Although retained by
walls and of similar construction to the more northerly section, it was
slighter and had not been built on a previously levelled platform. It is
assumed that the steepness of the hillside at this point precluded the need
for more massive defences whereas, round the northern entrance, not only is
the slope more gentle and therefore less defensible, the earthworks would have
appeared less imposing to people approaching the hillfort.
In front of the rampart, above the ditch which is now largely silted up, is a
sloping berm or terrace. Where the trench cut across, this was found to be
c.7.5m wide and the ditch to be 2.4m wide across the top. The ditch had a
roughly U-shaped profile and was 1.6m-1.8m deep. The counterscarp bank was
c.2m wide and 1m high and constructed of soil dumped on the old land surface
then covered with rubble. Although the ditch is relatively slight, the
gradient of the hillside is such that the effective height of the defences,
from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the rampart, is c.9m. In addition,
the circuit may also have included a timber palisade. During the excavation of
the second trench, a circular posthole indicative of a palisade was found in
front of the revetment wall, but it could not be determined whether the
feature was contemporary with the earthwork defences or earlier.
All of the excavated hut platforms exhibited similar features. A level surface
had been created by digging into the side of the hill to form the site of a
circular hut with walls either of turf or stone. Internal features included
hearths, postholes and stakeholes, storage pits and gullies. A variety of
small finds were recovered, including whetstones, fragments of shale
bracelets, and large quantities of pot sherds. The latter indicated a single
phase of occupation during the early first millenium BC which was confirmed by
radiocarbon dating of charcoal from two of the huts. Earlier finds included
flint tools and a Neolithic polished stone axe, indicative of possible
settlement in the third millenium BC, prior to the construction of the
hillfort. In addition, a fragment of a socketed bronze axe was found in one of
the huts. This item has been dated typologically to c.600BC and indicates the
possible use of the hillfort in the final phase of the Bronze Age, five
hundred years after the other excavated huts were inhabited.
The above excavations were confined to the northern third of the hillfort. Of
the two bowl barrows located in the southern third, one was said by Thomas
Bateman to have been partially excavated by persons unknown in the early
19th century when human bones, prehistoric pottery and a bronze flat axe
were found. It is not certain whether the other barrow has been excavated or
which of the barrows is the excavated example. The best preserved of the
barrows lies behind the south-west entrance into the hillfort and, due to its
location, may have been re-used as the site of a look-out or guard-post when
the hillfort was constructed. It is a roughly circular steep-sided mound with
a diameter of 20.5m by 19.5m and a height of c.2m. The other barrow, which
lies 80m to the north-east at the highest point of the ridge, was damaged
during World War II when it was partially levelled to create a searchlight
emplacement. It is now the site of a trig point.
The trig point and all National Trust fittings and fixtures are excluded from
the scheduling although the ground underneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes,
generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and
defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively
small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth -
fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for between 150 and 200 years
prior to their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have
generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places
of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a
rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access
to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple
gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation
indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate
features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few
examples. Internal features include square or rectangular buildings supported
by four to six postholes and interpreted as raised granaries, timber or stone
round houses, large storage pits and hearths as well as scattered postholes,
stakeholes and gullies. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150
examples recorded nationally. Although on a national scale the number is low,
in Devon they comprise one of the major classes of hillfort. In other areas
where the distribution is relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the
Cotswolds and the Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different
classes occur within the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern
England, the Welsh Marches, central and southern England. In view of the
rarity of slight univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding
the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which
survive comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further
archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The hillfort on Mam Tor is a well-preserved example of a slight univallate
hillfort. Although the earthwork defences are somewhat disturbed by land
slippage, and the interior and north entrance by visitor erosion, substantial
areas are intact and include the south entrance and the main occupation areas.
The use of the tor as a focus for prehistoric burials, illustrated by the two
bowl barrows at the south end of the monument, demonstrates that human
activity on the tor was of considerable antiquity by the time the hillfort was
constructed. Bowl barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late
Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age (c.2400-1500BC) and were constructed as
hemispherical mounds of rubble or earth covering single or multiple burials.
Sometimes ditched, they occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and
often acted as foci for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar,
though differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and
a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows
recorded nationally, with many more having already been destroyed. Their
considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide
important evidence on burial practices and social organisation among early
prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period
and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of
protection. The examples on Mam Tor survive reasonably well and retain
significant archaeological remains. The re-use of one of the barrows as a
World War II searchlight emplacement is also of interest, though it will have
considerably reduced the likelihood of archaeological evidence surviving well.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barnatt, J, The Peak District Barrow Survey (1989), (1989)
Barnatt, J, The Peak District Barrow Survey (1989), (1989)
Barnatt, J, The Peak District Barrow Survey (1989), (1989)
Bateman, T, Vestiges of the Antiquities of Derbyshire, (1849), 9, 124
Burgess, C B, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Some Decorated Socketed Axes in Canon Greenwell's Collection, , Vol. 42, (1969), 267-272
Coombs, D G, Thompson, F H, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavation of the Hill Fort of Mam Tor, Derbyshire 1965-69, , Vol. 99, (1979), 7-51
Coombs, D G, 'Hillforts, Later Prehistoric Earthworks in Britain and Ireland' in Excavations at Mam Tor, Derbyshire 1965-69, (1976), 147-52
Coombs, D G, 'Hillforts, Later Prehistoric Earthworks in Britain and Ireland' in Excavations at Mam Tor, Derbyshire 1965-69, (1976), 414-20

Source: Historic England

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