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Boltby Scar promontory fort and two round barrows

A Scheduled Monument in Boltby, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.264 / 54°15'50"N

Longitude: -1.2245 / 1°13'28"W

OS Eastings: 450610.918192

OS Northings: 485643.782097

OS Grid: SE506856

Mapcode National: GBR MMW4.P7

Mapcode Global: WHD8K.5350

Entry Name: Boltby Scar promontory fort and two round barrows

Scheduled Date: 1 December 1938

Last Amended: 2 August 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013086

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26932

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Boltby

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes an Iron age promontory fort and two round barrows
situated in a prominent position on the west edge of Hambleton Down.
The fort has a well defined rampart and ditch, and occupies a slight westward
projection of the escarpment. The rampart and ditch describe an arc across the
spur linking the almost vertical cliff face. The eastern section of the
monument lies within arable land and the ramparts here have been reduced by
agricultural activity but are still visible on aerial photographs and as a
slight uneveness of the ground surface. Prior to the levelling of the
earthworks in this field in 1961 there was an earthwork bank and ditch with an
entranceway at the east. Between the cliff and the western boundary of the
field which lies east of the cliff edge a total length of about 55m of
earthworks is preserved, 15m at the south and 40m at the north. To the north
the surviving rampart is 4m wide and 1m high, and the ditch is 3m wide and 1m
deep. In the southern section the rampart is preserved as a low bank with an
external ditch 3.5m wide and 0.8m deep. Excavations through the ramparts
revealed a partial stone construction and rubble upcast from the ditch. Two
gold basket shaped earrings were also found. There is a rectangular platform,
20m long and 12m wide, with a surrounding ditch enclosed within the ramparts
near the scarp edge. This was originally regarded as a barrow although it is
no longer considered to be so; however its purpose remains obscure. Two round
barrows are enclosed within the rampart, both in the eastern area now given
over to arable. One barrow has a mound, round in shape, 15m in diameter and
1.5m high. This mound was surrounded by a ditch up to 3m wide which has become
filled in over the years and is no longer visible as an earthwork.
Antiquarian excavations in antiquity have left a large hole 2.5m across and
1.5m deep in the centre of the mound. The second barrow has been much reduced
by agricultural activity and is no longer visible as an earthwork. In the
1930s the barrow mound was 6m in diameter when it was excavated to reveal a
cremation burial. The fort is associated with a system of late prehistoric
linear earthworks which extend for 9km along the western escarpment of the
Hambleton Hills, dividing the landscape into discrete units.
There are a number of promontory forts along the northern and western
escarpment of the Hambleton Hills. They were local foci and provide evidence
of the consolidation of settlement and social organisation in the late
prehistoric period. As such they can be contrasted with the more dispersed hut
circle settlements also found on the North York Moors and which are of a
broadly contemporary date.
The wall and fence crossing the monument are excluded from the scheduling
although the ground beneath 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

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally
defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more
earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it
from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by
steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings
defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches
formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected
along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an
entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively
for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone-
walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings
used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally
Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth
century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with
other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status,
probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest
that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display
as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded
examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of
the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all
examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally

Despite partial reduction by ploughing this promontory fort survives
reasonably well and will retain significant information about its date, form
and function. This fort is one of a series of similar sites along the western
escarpment of the Hambleton Hills. Together they form a network of small
defended settlements in commanding positions, designed to protect their
inhabitants and perhaps defend larger land holdings. They also have importance
in demonstrating the prestige of their builders. They thus provide evidence of
the nature and stability of settlement and society in the late prehistoric
period. Unusually this example is clearly associated with a system of linear
earthworks and will contribute to the analysis of how the wider landscape was
Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to
the Late Bronze Age. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds,
sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Often occupying
prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the landscape and
they provide important information about the diversity of beliefs and social
organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. The two barrows within the
fort remain identifiable and will retain information on their original form
and the burials placed within them. They predate the promontory fort and
demonstrate the changing use of the area over time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Spratt, D A, 'The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Cleave Dyke System, , Vol. VOL 54, (1984), 33-54
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. BAR 104, (1992), 116
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. BAR 104, (1990), 116
Pacitto, FMW report, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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