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Iron Age fort 900m north east of Dale Hole Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in Holkham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.9671 / 52°58'1"N

Longitude: 0.7898 / 0°47'23"E

OS Eastings: 587447.470973

OS Northings: 344726.249654

OS Grid: TF874447

Mapcode National: GBR R5J.VYJ

Mapcode Global: WHKPD.3PC6

Entry Name: Iron Age fort 900m north east of Dale Hole Cottage

Scheduled Date: 4 December 1924

Last Amended: 27 April 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018014

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30531

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Holkham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Holkham St Withburga

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes an irregularly oval earthwork enclosure, occupying the
southern end of a sand and gravel spit which extends southwards from the
coastal dunes known as Holkham Meals and is surrounded on three sides by a
former tidal salt marsh.

The enclosure, which is identified as an Iron Age fort, has maximum overall
dimensions of approximately 375m north-south by 255m east-west, with an
internal area of approximately 2.5ha. It is bounded on the west side by a
steep natural scarp approximately 3m high above the level of the marsh, and on
the north, east and south sides by an earthen bank and outer ditch. On the
west and south sides, where the natural slope of the ground is more gentle,
there is also an outer counterscarp bank. The inner bank stands between 1m and
2m in height and the counterscarp bank between 0.4m and 1.4m. The ditch, which
has become partly infilled but remains open to a depth of up to 1m, is between
10m and 17m in width. A gap approximately 9m wide in the banks on the south
side is thought to mark an original entrance, and beyond the gap, to the south
and east, are slight earthworks which probably represent the remains of an
outwork protecting this entrance. Three other gaps through the inner bank on
the east side are associated with overflow channels from three roughly
circular, shallow ponds on the eastern side of the interior and are thought
not to be original features. The three ponds, together with a fourth situated
to the west of them, in the southern half of the interior, are also considered
to be of later date.

Finds recovered from the surface of the enclosure include two sherds of
pottery of Iron Age type.

The monument is one of two known forts which correspond to the description by
the Roman historian, Tacitus, of a site where a Roman force, under the command
of Ostorius Scapula, defeated a rebellious faction of the local tribe, the
Iceni, in AD 47. (Another possible site is Stonea Camp in Cambridgeshire,
occupying what was then an island in the fens.)

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes,
generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and
defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively
small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth -
fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to
their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have
generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places
of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a
rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access
to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple
gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation
indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate
features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few
examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large
storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and
square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often
represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight
univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally.
Although on a national scale the number is low, in Devon they comprise one of
the major classes of hillfort. In other areas where the distribution is
relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the
Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different classes occur within
the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern England, the Welsh
Marches, central and southern England. In view of the rarity of slight
univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the transition
between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which survive
comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further
archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The known examples of earthwork enclosures in Norfolk which correspond to the
hillforts of the upland regions of England are relatively few in number, and
most were constructed in low-lying, though naturally defensible locations. All
but one of them are located in the north western part of the county.
The enclosure 900m north east of Dale Hole Cottage has the characteristics of
a slight univallate hillfort and is a good example of this class of monument
in a lowland setting, although its siting in coastal marshland is unusual. The
earthworks survive well with the interior showing little evidence of later
disturbance, and the monument will contain much archaeological information
concerning the date, manner and form of construction of the enclosure and its
subsequent use. The possible identification with a fort mentioned by Tacitus
gives additional interest.

The monument has wider importance in relation to the other surviving Iron Age
forts in the area which include an enclosure of similar type at South Creake,
some 8.5km to the south, and a small multivallate enclosure at Warham, 7.75km
to the south east. As a group, these are a source of comparative information
of great value for the study of Iron Age settlement and society in this part
of East Anglia.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Clarke, R R, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Holkham Camp, Norfolk, , Vol. 2, (1936), 231-233
Davies, J, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Where Eagles Dare: the Iron Age of Norfolk, , Vol. 62, (1996), 63-92
Gregory, A, Davies, J, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Iron Age Forts of Norfolk, , Vol. 54, (1992), 63-65
Robinson, B, Gregory, T, 'Norfolk Origins' in Celtic Fire And Roman Rule, , Vol. 3, (1987), 23-25

Source: Historic England

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