Ancient Monuments

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Small multivallate hillfort on Swarthy Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Crosscanonby, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.749 / 54°44'56"N

Longitude: -3.4475 / 3°26'50"W

OS Eastings: 306928.194091

OS Northings: 540295.100872

OS Grid: NY069402

Mapcode National: GBR 4FCJ.FD

Mapcode Global: WH6Z9.0WMR

Entry Name: Small multivallate hillfort on Swarthy Hill

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1965

Last Amended: 21 February 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014914

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27727

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Crosscanonby

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Cross Canonby St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the buried remains of an Iron Age small multivallate
hillfort located on the summit and south east slope of Swarthy Hill. The site
is visble as crop marks on aerial photographs which clearly show much of the
hillfort's infilled triple defensive ditch system on all sides except the
north west where erosion of the cliff edge has resulted in the loss of this
part of the monument. The hillfort measures approximately 140m south west-
north east by 80m north west-south east, and there are two narrow entrances
across the outer ditch which are visible on the aerial photographs on the
south east side. Limited excavations by Bewley in 1988 and 1989 found the
outer and middle ditches to measure c.3m wide by 0.8m deep while the inner
ditch was found to be a more substantail feature measuring c.5m wide by 1.3m
deep. Traces of clay and turf found slumped into the ditches suggested to the
excavator that the hillfort was also defended by ramparts which were
originally situated on the inner edge of each ditch.
All post and wire fences are excluded from the scheduling but the ground
beneath them is included.

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

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 remains are believed to be of
national importance.

The small mulitvallate hillfort on Swarthy Hill is a rare example of this
class of monument in Cumbria. Despite the lack of any visible earthworks and
the loss of the north western side of the monument to cliff erosion, a
combination of aerial photographs and limited excavations show that the triple
ditch system which defended the monument survives well. Further evidence of
the monument's defences and the nature of the settlement within the hillfort's
interior will survive.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bewley, R H, Excavation on Two sites in the Solway Plain: Ewanrigg & Swarthy Hill, (1994), 37-47
Manchester University, , Settlement on Swarthy Hill
Manchester University, , Settlement on Swarthy Hill
AP No. CCC 2019m, 24, Cumbria County Council, Settlement on Swarthy Hill,
AP No. CCC 2019m, 25, Cumbria County Council, Settlement on Swarthy Hill,
AP No. DL 017, St Joseph, Settlement on Swarthy Hill, (1949)

Source: Historic England

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