Ancient Monuments

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Promontory fort on Barrow Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Milborne Port, Somerset

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Latitude: 50.9847 / 50°59'4"N

Longitude: -2.4702 / 2°28'12"W

OS Eastings: 367089.516217

OS Northings: 120695.401901

OS Grid: ST670206

Mapcode National: GBR MW.LCYZ

Mapcode Global: FRA 56QH.TQN

Entry Name: Promontory fort on Barrow Hill

Scheduled Date: 1 November 1934

Last Amended: 24 September 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016738

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32183

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Milborne Port

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a promontory fort, considered to be of Iron Age date,
which occupies the south western end of Barrow Hill. Three sides of the fort
are elevated above a valley formed by the river which rises at Bradley Head,
some 800m to the north west. The defences on the north, west, and south side,
follow the natural steep contours of the hill and gradually taper to a narrow
spur at the south west. These steep slopes may originally have been fortified
by wooden pallisades but there are no surviving remains to confirm this. The
ground levels out towards the east and the defence on this side of the fort is
formed by a substantial cross-spur rampart, running broadly from north west to
south east for approximately 270m, effectively isolating the south western end
of the hill. The rampart survives to a height of approximately 6m and is
flanked on its outer, eastern side by a berm and quarry ditch. The ditch is an
average 0.4m deep and the ditch and berm together are about 30m wide. At the
lower end of the rampart a gap of 4.5m wide almost certainly represents the
original entrance formed by a causewayed approach, approximately 40m long,
across the ditch and berm and into the fort. The combination of natural and
artificial defences define a level interior of approximately 8ha.
Although an exact date for the construction and occupation of the fort has yet
to be established, its similarity in terms of position and construction to
other promontory forts, reliably dated to the Iron Age, would suggest a
comparable date. However, the theory that the site was an unfinished burh
related to the Anglo Saxon mint settlement at nearby Milborne Port, or that it
was utilised during the medieval period, should not be discounted.
All fence posts, gate posts, telegraph poles and water troughs, together with
the shepherd's hut which is located within the fort on the north eastern edge
and the rectangular stone feature loctated on the edge of the stream on the
south side, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath
these features is included.

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

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

The promontory fort on Barrow Hill is a good example of this type of hillfort,
being naturally defended on three sides and artificially fortified on the
fourth side by an earthwork rampart. It will provide valuable information
relating to the monument, the lives of its inhabitants, and the landscape in
which they lived.

Source: Historic England


54262, BAR, (1984)

Source: Historic England

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