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Castle Ring, a multivallate hillfort and medieval hunting lodge

A Scheduled Monument in Cannock Wood, Staffordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.7132 / 52°42'47"N

Longitude: -1.9359 / 1°56'9"W

OS Eastings: 404428.125627

OS Northings: 312834.495477

OS Grid: SK044128

Mapcode National: GBR 3BS.WY1

Mapcode Global: WHBFH.72DC

Entry Name: Castle Ring, a multivallate hillfort and medieval hunting lodge

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Last Amended: 1 August 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014687

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21635

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Cannock Wood

Built-Up Area: Cannock Wood

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Gentleshaw Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield

Details

The monument is situated at the south eastern edge of Cannock Chase and
includes the earthwork and buried remains of an Iron Age hillfort and the
ruins and buried remains of a small medieval building identified as part of a
hunting lodge.
Castle Ring occupies the summit of a small hill which forms the highest point
on the Chase. The hillfort is an irregular pentagon in plan and its multiple
defences enclose an area of c.3.6ha. For the majority of their circuit these
defences include a sequence of banks and ditches usually three banks with two
ditches in between them. On the east side of the hillfort, where the approach
to the site is over more level terrain, the central bank is more substantial,
the outer line of defences projects outwards and an additional length of ditch
and counterscarp banking has been added.
The five sides of the main, inner rampart are remarkably straight, ranging in
length from 65m along the east side to 220m along the north. The height of the
inner bank varies from 3.5m to 5m above the silted bottom of the ditch and is
most substantial on the north and west sides. It has a uniform broad flat-top
which is thought to have been created when the bank was in use as a walkway
from which to view the landscape in the 18th or early 19th century. Two other
paths, one running across the hillfort interior and the other skirting the
northern defences are believed to be contemporary with this walk and were laid
out as carriage rides from the lodge of Beaudesert Hall, the 16th century home
of the Paget family which is situated approximately 1km to the north east of
Castle Ring.
The outer ditch is less steep in profile than the inner. Its northern section
is thought to have been infilled and used as an 18th century carriage drive
which has also cut into, and sharpened, the counterscarp bank along its
southern side. This infilled section of ditch will survive as a buried feature
and is included in the scheduling. Traces of the counterscarp bank are visible
on both sides of the outer ditch for the remainder of its circuit, but the
western and south western sections of this external bank have been slightly
eroded by the encroachment of modern tree planting.
The original entrance into the hillfort's interior lies at the junction of the
northern and eastern ramparts. The inner bank is inturned for some 15m into
the interior and guard chambers will survive as buried features. The break in
the south western defences is not an original feature and is thought to have
been created when the carriage drives were laid out. No earthworks associated
with the occupation of the hillfort are visible in the interior but a
geophysical survey of the western third of the interior identified a series of
circular areas, 10m-12m in diameter, which have been interpreted as circular
huts and will survive as buried features.
In the north western corner of the interior are the earthworks and excavated
remains of a small building which sits on a relatively level shelf dominating
the remainder of the enclosure. The building is rectangular in plan measuring
20.6m by 11.5m and a chamfered plinth is visible in places allowing the width
of the walls to be estimated at 1.4m. At least two internal cells are
discernible, defined by in-situ stone and by low scarps. A sandstone lined
drain is visible in the south western corner of the southern room and the
position of its door is marked by a single jamb, whilst in the central part of
the larger room is a chamfered sandstone pillar base. The building was
partly excavated in the mid 19th century by William Molyneux, a local
historian, and fragments of pottery, flint and metal objects were also
recovered. The remains indicate a medieval building of high social status and
the wide foundation walls, and documentary references to a winding stair,
suggest that originally there was a first floor chamber above the two lower
cells. It is unlikely that this building stood in isolation and ancillary
structures are believed to survive as buried features particularly on the
level shelf along the western side of the hillfort.
Cannock, in the royal forest, was visited by both William II and Henry I, and
the existence of a hunting lodge is confirmed in the reign of Henry II with
the payment of a penny a day to its keeper. The abandonment of the lodge at
Cannock appears to have occurred early in Henry II's reign and in 1189 the
manors of Cannock and Rugeley were granted to the Bishop of Lichfield. The
first reference to any building by the bishops at Beaudesert is in an account
of 1304-5 which refers to a hall and stables, but it is unclear whether the
expenditure was on the buildings within Castle Ring or on the episcopal manor
house later to become Beaudesert Hall.
The modern steps across the hillfort's southern defences are excluded from the
scheduling but the ground beneath these features 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.

Castle Ring survives well and represents a good example of this class of
monument. Its commanding position dominates the local landscape, providing not
only defence, but also displaying the status of its inhabitants. The ramparts
and ditches will retain archaeological information on the construction of the
hillfort, in particular, the partly silted ditches will retain environmental
evidence relating to the economy of the site's inhabitants and the landscape
in which they lived.
The geophysical survey in the western third of the interior has demonstrated
that the site retains buried features and structures which will provide
information not only on the site's occupation during the Iron Age but also on
its reuse in the medieval period. Part excavation during the late 19th
century has indicated that the remains of the medieval building and its
associated buried structures in the north western corner of the hillfort's
interior will retain information on the function of this building and for the
wealth and social status of its inhabitants. The reuse of the hillfort
following the construction of the hunting lodge is matter of interest since it
illustrates the resumption of high-status occupation at the site. Furthermore,
as a feature of the park of Beaudesert, the hunting lodge itself provides
evidence for the leisure activities of the nobility during the medieval
period.
The site is located within a public amenity area.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Molyneux, W, 'Archaeological Journal' in Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 20, (1863), 198
Other
RCHME, SK 01 SW 1, (1994)
RCHME, SK 01 SW 2, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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