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Maesbury Castle small multivallate hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in St Cuthbert Out, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2224 / 51°13'20"N

Longitude: -2.5598 / 2°33'35"W

OS Eastings: 361000.259191

OS Northings: 147170.895068

OS Grid: ST610471

Mapcode National: GBR MS.3793

Mapcode Global: VH89T.LJ2R

Entry Name: Maesbury Castle small multivallate hillfort

Scheduled Date: 19 December 1929

Last Amended: 31 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015494

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29033

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: St Cuthbert Out

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a small multivallate hillfort with defences enclosing
the summit of a round hilltop, on the southern side of the Mendip Hills. The
site commands views to the north, west and south.
The earthworks are oval in plan, with two lines of ramparts enclosing an inner
area of 2.8ha. The two ramparts are not always concentric, and there is a gap
between them, particularly at the western entrance. The inner rampart consists
of a bank 1.5m-3m high and external ditch 2m-2.5m deep, with a small
counterscarp bank 0.3m-1.2m high on the outside of the ditch mainly visible
on the north and south west sides. Along the south west side the main bank and
ditch are separated by a berm of flat ground. The outer rampart is much
smaller in scale, and consists of a bank 0.3m-1.2m high and external ditch
0.2m-2m deep, with a counterscarp bank most notable on the north west side but
traceable elsewhere. Along the south west, however, only a break of slope and
outer ditch, or a terrace where the ditch has been levelled by ploughing,
are visible. Along the north side the counterscarp bank of the inner circuit
and the main bank of the outer rampart form twin banks either side of the
space between. The inner ditch along this northern side is often water-filled.
There are two opposing entrances to the interior of the fort, one to the WNW
and one to the ESE. That to the ESE is a broad gap and causeway through the
ramparts, though the south side of the ramparts have been partly levelled in
more recent times. Traces of an outwork bank and ditch covering this entrance
have been recorded previously. The ground has been disturbed by the creation
of a golf course, but a low linear bank can be discerned for a length of 22m,
standing 0.4m high and up to 11m wide. The WNW entrance is of a more complex
nature, perhaps representing several phases.
More recently the outer ditch has been utilised as a field boundary, with a
hedge or hedge-bank running around the entire circuit. The remaining width of
ditch and counterscarp bank outside this has been degraded by ploughing in the
past. A gap in the outer rampart on the north is thought to be a recent
attempt to drain the water from the ditch here.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fences and fenceposts, though the ground
beneath these 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.

Maesbury survives well with waterlogged deposits along the north providing
conditions for the preservation of archaeological evidence relating to the
environment in which the monument was constructed.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burrow, I, Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in Somerset, (1981)
Tratman, E K, 'Proc. University of Bristol Spelaeological Society' in Maesbury Castle, Somerset, , Vol. 8(3), (1958), 172-8
Cottrell, T, An Enhancement of Maesbury Castle, 1996, Unpublished MA project, incl. survey
plus measured plan, OSAD, Antiquity No. ST64NW 6, (1966)

Source: Historic England

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