Ancient Monuments

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The Castles

A Scheduled Monument in Bathealton, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0119 / 51°0'43"N

Longitude: -3.345 / 3°20'41"W

OS Eastings: 305742.28094

OS Northings: 124478.937207

OS Grid: ST057244

Mapcode National: GBR LQ.JDDY

Mapcode Global: FRA 36WF.NPW

Entry Name: The Castles

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1965

Last Amended: 17 May 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019150

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32178

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Bathealton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a prehistoric slight univallate hillfort known as The
Castles which occupies the rounded summit of a red sandstone hill on the
eastern edge of Exmoor. The ground drops steeply down to the north towards a
valley of the River Tone and more gently to the west and south, gradually
levelling out to the east.
The hillfort is oval in plan and aligned from east to west. An area of 1.6ha
is enclosed by a bank with an external ditch and an additional, scarped bank
outside the ditch on the north side. The hillfort is fortified on the eastern
side with a steep bank 3m high and up to 9m wide. Less steep banks on the
south and west sides, where the countours of the hill provide a natural
defence, have an average width of 8m. A ditch, flanking the eastern side of
the hillfort, survives as a shallow depression 5m wide. The bank on the north
side of the hillfort is 7.5m wide. It is fronted by a ditch approximately 0.4m
deep and 8m wide with a counterscarp bank 6m wide. An entrance, approximately
10m wide, formed by a slight inturning of the banks located on the eastern
side is probably original. A second entrance located to the north of this,
formed by a simple break in the banks, is considered to be more recent. The
original profile of the banks on the east, south and west side has been
blurred by the addition of ancient hedge banks.
Several prehistoric surface finds from within the hillfort have been recorded
and these include a Neolithic arrowhead and a polished axe fragment.
The hut located close to the west bank of the hillfort and all post and wire
fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is included.
The well beneath the hut is totally excluded from the scheduling.

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 Castles hillfort is a good example of its class, surviving well with a
complete circuit of defences. It will provide valuable archaeological
information relating to the monument, the lives of its inhabitants, their
economy, and the landscape in which they lived.

Source: Historic England

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