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Promontory fort on Dorstone Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Dorstone, Herefordshire,

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0736 / 52°4'24"N

Longitude: -2.9831 / 2°58'59"W

OS Eastings: 332716.573045

OS Northings: 242145.217173

OS Grid: SO327421

Mapcode National: GBR F7.CDPL

Mapcode Global: VH782.74TQ

Entry Name: Promontory fort on Dorstone Hill

Scheduled Date: 2 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014544

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27512

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Dorstone

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Dorstone

Church of England Diocese: Hereford

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a small promontory
fort, occupying a spur of land just below the summit of Dorstone Hill. The
spur overlooks a ridge which extends south eastwards, north east of the Dore
Valley.

The fort is roughly triangular in plan, its south and north east sides
being defined by the naturally steep scarp slopes of the ridge. Along the
north east side the slope has been artifically steeped to enhance the
defences. The third side is formed by an earthen bank and external ditch,
which extends for c.55m, creating an enclosure of c.0.2ha. The bank is c.5m
wide at the base and varies in height, rising to a maximum of c.2m above the
bottom of the ditch. Material for the bank's construction will have been
quarried from this ditch, which averages 2.5m wide and, although now partly
infilled, remains to a depth of 0.5m in some areas. Both bank and ditch are
best preserved towards the centre of their length. Roughly one third of the
way from their southern end, they are interrupted by a break in the bank and
causeway across the ditch, c.5m wide. This probably represents the original
entrance to the fort. At the southern end the bank turns eastward along the
edge of the scarp for several metres before merging with a natural gully. In
the north east the bank terminates c.5m before the scarp: the ditch here has
been incorporated into a later field boundary which continues northwards.
Surface evidence for the causeway across the ditch and the terminals of the
bank and ditch has been somewhat obscured by the creation of a track, which
enters the enclosure along the north east and south west edges of the hilltop.

In its prominent position Dorstone hillfort would have been easily defended
and commands impressive views in all directions. It sits between two Neolithic
burial monuments (Arthur's Stone 1.25km to the north west, and Cross Lodge
long barrow 700m to the south east, both the subject of separate schedulings),
both of which would have been visible to the hillfort's builders before the
establishment of the dense plantation woodland. The hilltop itself has
produced finds of flints and pottery indicating occupation from Neolithic
through to Romano-British times.

The boundary fence along the foot of the bank is excluded from the scheduling,
but the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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

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
important.

Despite afforestation the promontory fort on Dorstone Hill is a well preserved
example of a rare class of monument. The earthen bank will retain details of
its method of construction, including post holes for palisades or internal
revetments, and also for a gate or increased defences at the entrance. The
ditch fills will preserve environmental evidence for activities at the fort
during its occupation and for land use in the surrounding area. Excavation has
shown the importance of the hilltop for occupation since Neolithic times, and
the ground surface sealed beneath the bank will retain further evidence for
land use immediately prior to the fort's construction. Within the enclosure
evidence for domestic activities will survive in the form of post holes for
houses and other structures, hearths, and storage pits. This information will
contribute to our understanding of the function and longevity of this monument
class.

Evidence that the hilltop was a focus of activity from the Neolithic through
to Romano-British times increases interest in the monument itself, which forms
part of the wider picture of prehistoric occupation and land use in the
county. As such it can contribute to our understanding of the Iron Age
demography and social organisation of the area.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
held on SMR, Kay, RE, Promontory fort, Dorstone Hill, Herefordshire, (1966)

Source: Historic England

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