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Large multivallate hillfort and associated earthworks at South Cadbury

A Scheduled Monument in South Cadbury and Sutton Montis, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.0243 / 51°1'27"N

Longitude: -2.5314 / 2°31'52"W

OS Eastings: 362829.005403

OS Northings: 125124.473994

OS Grid: ST628251

Mapcode National: GBR MT.HNH9

Mapcode Global: FRA 56LD.TXJ

Entry Name: Large multivallate hillfort and associated earthworks at South Cadbury

Scheduled Date: 3 March 1922

Last Amended: 26 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011980

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22904

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: South Cadbury and Sutton Montis

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Details

The monument includes a large multivallate hillfort and associated features on
and around Cadbury Hill, a dome shaped limestone outcrop, with views to the
north, south and west.

The hillfort, which is commonly known as Cadbury Castle, is sometimes also
referred to as `Cadbury Camelot'. Camelot is, however, a legendary reference
to the capital of King Arthur and there is no evidence that the name was
equated with Cadbury Hill prior to the 16th century, when the tradition is
likely to have been invented.

The hillfort, which has a sub-rectangular shaped interior with maximum
dimensions of 325m from east to west and 290m from north to south, occupies a
total area of just over 7ha. This is known from excavation to contain a
variety of features relating to the occupation of the hilltop over an
extensive period.

Surrounding the hilltop are a set of multiple ramparts which vary from 110m
to 75m in total width. The number of banks and ditches around the periphery
varies, although in general there are four banks and three ditches which can
have the appearance of terraces at intermittent points around the circuit. On
the eastern side only two ramparts now survive, although breaks in slope lower
down the hill are likely to represent the remains of the outer ramparts which
were later modified into lynchets and have since been partially overlain by
hill-wash.

Lynchets occur to the north and south of the hillfort and survive to a height
of c.0.8m-1.2m. These represent the remains of the field system which
developed during the Iron Age and later periods. There are three breaks in the
ramparts representing entrances, which occur within the south western, eastern
and north eastern areas. It is uncertain whether all are original. The eastern
entrance, which is the smallest example, does not lead in the direction of any
known medieval settlement, suggesting that it is original. The two larger
examples, however, enable access to the hilltop from North Cadbury in the
north east and Sutton Montis in the south west; both settlements were recorded
by the Domesday Survey and it is likely that these entrances were certainly in
use throughout the medieval period.

Partial excavations were first conducted at the site by St George Gray in
1913, when a number of trenches were laid within the area of the south western
entrance. A more detailed programme of field investigation was initiated by
Leslie Alcock between 1966-70, when approximately 6% of the interior was
investigated. Most recently, a detailed plan of the archaeological features
has been prepared by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments (England).
These investigations suggest that the site was occupied intermittently over
an extended period. The earliest artefacts include over 700 pieces of
Mesolithic flintwork, comprising blades, microliths, flakes and cores,
recovered from the surface of the hillfort in about 1890.

Excavations identified Early Neolithic pits which contained human and animal
bones near to the centre of the hilltop. Analysis of the bones produced two
radiocarbon dates of 3500 and 3300 BC. Sherds of Windmill Hill type pottery,
leaf shaped arrowheads and stone axes from the same period have also been
identified. Later Neolithic material, including petit tranchet arrowheads and
a large sherd of pottery, have also been recovered. The evidence from these
periods is currently too limited to enable a precise interpretation of the
nature of the activity on the hilltop.

Early Bronze Age material, including a barbed and tanged arrowhead, an early
cast bronze axe and a pit containing pottery and bones, has also been
identified. During the Later Bronze Age, occupation of the hilltop involved
the construction of structures associated with ovens. Current evidence
suggests that this evidence represents a farming community with a pastoral
based economy. Material from this period includes Deverel-Rimbury type
pottery, a fragment of a bucket base, spearheads and socketed knives. There
was no evidence for the construction of any defences on the hilltop at this
time.

The earliest Iron Age occupation of the hilltop has been dated to around 700
BC and is reflected in the presence of ceramic jars and two bronze
razors.

The hilltop was first enclosed by a single rampart between c.600-400 BC and
finds of fine bowls and finger ornamented jars from this period have been
made. Between 400-200 BC the rampart is known to have been rebuilt at least
twice and several round structures are confirmed within the interior. From
c.200-100 BC the outer banks were added to the ramparts and a wider range of
pottery including decorated material was introduced. Iron currency bars and a
variety of metal work was also present.

During the Roman period it is uncertain to what purpose the hillfort was put.
It may have been largely unoccupied for a time, although excavations have
revealed traces of a structure which has been interpreted as a porched shrine.
Finds of Roman masonry and material such as tesserae within the later defences
also suggest that there were some Roman structures within the interior.
The occupation of the hillfort continued during the fifth and sixth centuries
AD and this is reflected in the presence of Gaulish pottery, red bowls
imported from the Mediterranean, two iron knives and a silver buckle. A timber
built structure with dimensions of 19m by 10m has been dated to this period
and interpreted as an early medieval feasting hall.

In about AD 1010, Ethelred the Unready is known to have set up a new mint at
`Cadanbyrig'. This is generally considered to have been at South Cadbury and
excavations have demonstrated that a mortared wall was constructed around the
perimeter of the hillfort at this time, suggesting that the site was of some
strategic importance.

Many of the artefacts recovered from the site are now held at Taunton Museum.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fence posts, gates and walls relating to
the field boundaries, although the underlying ground is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between
5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of
concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron
Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC
and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of
permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection
of the power struggle between competing elites.
Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have
ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances
although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may
comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts,
oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally
include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or
circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered,
for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as
raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain
evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include
platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens.
Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial
activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture
occurred on many sites.
Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded
nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh
Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere.
In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in
understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of
national importance.

The large multivallate hillfort at South Cadbury survives as a well known and
outstanding example of its class. It is known from partial excavation to
contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the hillfort and
to earlier and later use of the hilltop.
The monument is one of a small but discrete group of hillforts situated
within the area around the Somerset Levels. The area surrounding the hillfort
includes a well preserved field system situated on the slopes of the hill.
Historical documents and place name evidence suggest that the royal mint
established by Ethelred the Unready at Cadanbyrig in AD 1010 is likely to have
been in the proximity of South Cadbury. Partial excavation at the site has
demonstrated that the hilltop was re-fortified during this period and that it
continued to be of considerable strategic importance.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 174-5
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 176
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 177
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 176
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 178
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 177
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 178
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 113-4
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 70-71
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 112
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 197
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 195
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 195
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 195
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 198
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 200
Alcock, L, By South Cadbury is that Camelot.. excavations at Cadbury Castle, (1972), 198
Riley, H, South Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Somerset a new earthwork survey, (1993), 4
Riley, H, South Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Somerset a new earthwork survey, (1993), 1
Riley, H, South Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Somerset a new earthwork survey, (1993), 4
Riley, H, South Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Somerset a new earthwork survey, (1993), 2
Riley, H, South Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Somerset a new earthwork survey, (1993), 1
Riley, H, South Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Somerset a new earthwork survey, (1993), 3
Other
Detail development of site AD 200-100,
Detail early IA occupation,
Detail first defences,
Detail secondary defences,
Mention enclosure of hilltop,
Mention excavations by Alcock,
Mention excavations by St George Gray,
Mention mint at Cadanbyrig,
Mention of finds held at Taunton,
Name of the site,
Recent survey by RCHME,

Source: Historic England

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