Ancient Monuments

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Welshbury hillfort and associated earthworks

A Scheduled Monument in Littledean, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.8368 / 51°50'12"N

Longitude: -2.4691 / 2°28'8"W

OS Eastings: 367775.575527

OS Northings: 215460.516427

OS Grid: SO677154

Mapcode National: GBR FX.VG4T

Mapcode Global: VH86Z.5317

Entry Name: Welshbury hillfort and associated earthworks

Scheduled Date: 23 October 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018158

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31186

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Littledean

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Flaxley St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The monument includes a univallate hillfort, subsequently strengthened by the
provision of extra ramparts on the southern and western sides, an earlier
field system associated with an area of unenclosed settlement and a cairn
situated on a narrow spur overlooking the Flaxley valley on the eastern
edge of the Forest of Dean. There are sharp slopes on the eastern and
northern sides of the hillfort but the gradient is much more gentle on the
southern and western approaches.
The hillfort has been superimposed over an earlier field system comprising
lynchets, some of which stand 4m-5m in height, which define both square and
rectangular fields. At the north the field system has been truncated by the
hillfort, although the lynchets can still be traced on the berms separating
the hillfort ramparts. A cluster of platforms lie within the field system and
probably represent an area of unenclosed settlement associated with the
pre-hillfort phase. Also likely to be of earlier date, are the remains of a
cairn situated within the hillfort at the highest point of the ridge.
The earliest phase of hillfort construction consisted, for much of the
circuit, of a single bank and ditch rampart enclosing a roughly trapezoidal
area which now forms the north eastern part of the hillfort complex.
Subsequent to this the outer ramparts were constructed, providing two
additional sets of widely spaced bank and ditch on the south and west sides.
It is possible that there was a lengthy time lapse between these two phases of
hillfort construction. The defences are most substantial on the southern,
more gentle, approach and less so on the north and east sides where the
natural slope is steeper. The most likely site for an entrance to the
hillfort is at the south eastern corner of the main enclosure which appears to
align with a routeway from the valley below. An annexe at the south east
corner, defined by two additional banks and ditches, seems to be later in date
than the main body of the hillfort. Within the interior of the hillfort a
small group of potential hut sites survive in the north eastern corner and it
is possible that a number of the other crescent shaped platforms, relating to
later charcoal burning, are re-used Iron Age features. It has been suggested
that a final phase of refurbishment to the defences may have occurred in the
early medieval period but the hillfort is unlikely to have remained in use
after the Roman occupation of the Forest of Dean, sometime after AD50 and may
not have been occupied during the intervening time. Later archaeological
features include a series of more than 60 charcoal burning platforms that are
most likely to be related to the Forest of Dean iron production industry of
the medieval period and the remains of a 19th century summer house sited to
the south of the south eastern corner of the defences.

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

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 final form of Welshbury hillfort is consistent with a `developed' hillfort
dating to the Middle Iron Age period from c.300 BC, although some elements of
the entrance constuction have been paralled with later Iron Age examples,
c.100 BC - 50 AD.
Welshbury hillfort and associated earthworks have been subject to a detailed
survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England which
has identified a sequence of landscape features dating from at least the
Bronze Age to the beginning of the Roman period. The earthworks represent a
well preserved later prehistoric landscape and will contain archaeological and
environmental information valuable to the understanding of the interrelation
of Bronze Age field systems and settlement with Iron Age hillforts and the
development and function of hillforts.
The site of the hillfort is covered with a naturally regenerated lime woodland
which is clearly of some antiquity and is a well preserved survivor of a
woodland type common in pre-Neolithic England.

Source: Historic England

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