Ancient Monuments

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West Hills multivallate hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in Rothbury, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3129 / 55°18'46"N

Longitude: -1.9417 / 1°56'30"W

OS Eastings: 403795.066832

OS Northings: 602086.28523

OS Grid: NU037020

Mapcode National: GBR G7W0.D9

Mapcode Global: WHB0Q.4QMG

Entry Name: West Hills multivallate hillfort

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1932

Last Amended: 6 October 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011291

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20880

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Rothbury

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a hillfort of Iron Age date situated on the outermost
edge of a hill spur commanding extensive views south and west over the Coquet
valley. The hillfort, roughly circular in shape, measures 50m in diameter
within multiple ramparts and a medial ditch; it has total dimensions of 130m
east-west by 140m north-south. There is a well preserved inner rampart
standing up to 1.5m high and surrounded by a flat, broad berm ranging from 6m
to 16m across. Beyond this there is a double rampart constructed of earth and
stone separated by a ditch 12m across. On the north and east sides the double
rampart survives to a height of 1.5 metres above the deeply hollowed ditch but
it becomes less pronounced towards the southern end of the site. There are
three gaps through the ramparts on the east side of the hillfort, two of which
measure 33m across and appear to be associated with staggered entrances and
corresponding gaps through the inner rampart: they represent the sites of
original entrances. The ramparts have been totally flattened on the north-west
side by cultivation at some time in the past; those on the west side are
denuded by cultivation but can still be detected as slight earthworks. There
are no visible traces of the houses and yards within the interior but they
survive as buried features. The hillfort is truncated at its north-western
corner by a field boundary, beyond which no trace of it survives. Excluded
from the scheduling are the field walls which run alongside the track which
dissects the hillfort on its west side, all old gateposts and the concrete
drainage feature situated at the southern end of the site but the ground
beneath all 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

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 potential are believed to be of
national importance.

The hillfort at West Hills survives reasonably well with little sign of major
disturbance. It is one of several hillforts overlooking the River Coquet and
it will contribute to any study of later prehistoric settlement and activity
along this river valley.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
MacLaughlan, H, Additional Notes on Roman Roads in Northumberland, (1867), 82-83
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland, (1965)
No. 2250,

Source: Historic England

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