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Univallate hillfort 250m south and a bowl barrow 300m south east of Castle Dykes Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Farthingstone, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.2017 / 52°12'6"N

Longitude: -1.098 / 1°5'52"W

OS Eastings: 461740.012909

OS Northings: 256325.26321

OS Grid: SP617563

Mapcode National: GBR 9V1.Z26

Mapcode Global: VHCVL.XXDK

Entry Name: Univallate hillfort 250m south and a bowl barrow 300m south east of Castle Dykes Farm

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 16 April 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018857

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21627

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Farthingstone

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Farthingstone St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The monument lies south and south east of Castle Dykes Farm and includes the
earthwork and buried remains of a univallate hillfort and the buried remains
of a Bronze Age barrow within two areas of protection.
The hillfort occupies a prominent position on the summit of a narrow ridge and
the ground falls away fairly steeply to the south and north, and drops gently
towards the west, east and north west. Although the hillfort has been reduced
by ploughing, its defences, which take the form of an inner bank, a ditch and
a counterscarp bank, remain visible in places. A late 19th century plan of the
site provides evidence for the form of the hillfort at this time and shows a
sub-rectangular enclosure with an internal area of approximately 2.4ha. Most
of the counterscarp bank has been lowered by ploughing but remains visible as
a low earthwork along the west side of the hillfort. The defensive ditch,
although largely infilled, can be traced on the west, north west and east
sides of the enclosure, approximately 5m wide. Elsewhere it will survive as a
buried feature. The extent of the southern boundary, and the form that it
took, is not known because it is overlaid by a minor road and is thus not
included in the scheduling.
An early 19th century description of the western inner bank and an excavation
across the northern defences in 1959 both provide evidence that the inner bank
takes the form of a stone-faced rampart which was possibly of box construction
(two parallel outer walls packed with earth and small stones). The inner bank
has also been affected by ploughing but remains visible along much of the west
and east sides of the hillfort as very low earth banks marked by
concentrations of small stones and red soil, whilst the northern bank survives
as a fairly substantial earthwork within an existing hedge boundary. There is
no surface evidence for the original access to the interior of the hillfort; a
causeway was noted across the northern boundary ditch in the 1950s but there
is no corresponding break in the inner bank. Quantities of burnt ironstone,
iron slag and charcoal were recovered from the core of inner bank during the
excavation and have since been regularly recorded at the site following
ploughing. It has been suggested that the presence of iron slag may indicate
that iron working was taking place here, or within the vicinity, possibly
during the Iron Age.
Approximately 25m to the east of the hillfort are the buried remains of a bowl
barrow which lies within a separate area of protection. The barrow has been
reduced by ploughing, and the earthwork remains are no longer visible on the
ground surface. However, cropmarks generated by the fill of the barrow's
buried ditch regularly appear and were recorded on aerial photographs taken in
1970. The barrow ditch defines a circular area measuring approximately 25m in
Approximately 350m to the north of the hillfort are the earthwork remains of a
motte and bailey castle which is the subject of a separate scheduling. All
fence posts 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

Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and
surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions.
They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used
between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for
earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the
ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on
such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with
display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of
redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen.
The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of
slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may
survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and
between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or
two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned
ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the
passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by
outworks. 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. Large
univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded
nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the
chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is
marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further
examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north.
Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in
their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual
components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their
importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron
Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed
to be of national importance.

Archaeological excavation has demonstrated that, despite ploughing, the
hillfort 250m south of Castle Dykes Farm survives well and represents a good
example of this class of monument. The interior will retain structural and
artefactual information for the occupation of the site, whilst the ditch and
surviving sections of the associated bank will provide evidence relating to
the hillfort's construction. Additionally, the recovery of fragments of
smelting slag from within the defensive bank is believed to provide evidence
for early iron smelting in Britain.
Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments
dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age. They were
constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered
single or multiple burials. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows
recorded nationally, occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying
prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern
landscape, and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a
monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and
social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities.
Despite the damage caused by ploughing, the bowl barrow 300m south east of
Castle Dykes Farm will retain significant archaeological information. The area
within the barrow's encircling ditch will contain buried deposits relating to
funerary activities, including burials. The fill of the buried ditch will
retain artefactual evidence both for the date of construction and the duration
of the monument's use.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Knight, D, An Iron Age Hillfort at Castle Yard, Northamptonshire, (1985)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Northamptonshire III, (1981), 86-7

Source: Historic England

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