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Pontesford Hill Camp: a small multivallate hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in Pontesbury, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.6445 / 52°38'40"N

Longitude: -2.8755 / 2°52'31"W

OS Eastings: 340858.310467

OS Northings: 305557.174198

OS Grid: SJ408055

Mapcode National: GBR BC.6GRJ

Mapcode Global: WH8BY.SSXJ

Entry Name: Pontesford Hill Camp: a small multivallate hillfort

Scheduled Date: 25 May 1934

Last Amended: 9 May 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019829

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33839

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Pontesbury

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Pontesbury

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a small multivallate
hillfort, situated on the northern spur of Pontesford Hill with a commanding
view of Rea Brook valley, the uplands to the west and the undulating lowlands
to the north. It lies 0.7km to the south of the multiple enclosure hillfort on
Earl's Hill, which is the subject of a separate scheduling.
Pontesford Hill Camp was constructed around a steeply-sided shelf. To the
south the surrounding ground rises steeply towards Earl's Hill.
The hillfort is oval in plan, with overall dimensions of 105m north west to
south east by 140m south west to north east. The defensive circuit defines an
area of about 0.3ha. Its size would suggest it was the settlement of a small
community, perhaps several related family groups or a single extended family
group. The earthwork defences of the hillfort consist of two principal
ramparts separated by a ditch. The outer faces of the ramparts survive as
steep scarps, which closely follow the contours of the hill. On the north west
side the outer rampart coincides with a rock outcrop. The ditch, which has
been largelly infilled, is discernible as a terrace or as a shallow
depression, but will survive as a buried feature. Around the north eastern
part of the circuit an outer ditch bounded by an external rampart provided an
additional line of defence. Outer defences were also constructed around the
southern half of the main circuit, on either side of entrance causeway into
the fort. These outer defences consist of a rampart partly defined by ditches.
Access to the interior of the hillfort was from the south west, where the
innermost rampart turns inwards to form an entrance passage about 3.5m wide.
The outer lines of defence on southern and south eastern sides have been
partially modified by the construction of a forest track. On the southern
side, to the east of the entrance causeway, this track follows the course of
the ditch separating the two principal ramparts. In 1963, following the
widening of the track, an archaeological investigation was undertaken to
examine the southern part of the outer defences, to the east of the entrance
causeway. A trench dug was through the middle rampart, and along the top post
holes were found, which marked the position of a palisade or fence. The
excavation also revealed a complex sequence of occupation, of at least three
phases, which pre-dated the hillfort. The earliest phase consisted of gullies
cutting into the natural clay subsoil, associated with flint artefacts, most
notably an early Neolithic scarper. The subsequent phases revealed were
undated and consisted of pebble surfaces in association with post-built
structures, together with a rubbish pit containing charcoal.
In the post-medieval period, the hillfort and the surrounding area was
subdivided by a network of woodland boundary banks. A low boundary bank cuts
across the southern part of the outer defences and originally may have
connected with the more prominent boundary bank, orientated north west to
south east, that runs across the hillfort. The more prominent boundary bank is
depicted on the Ordnance Survey `Old' Series map, published in 1833. Both
parts of these boundary banks are included in the scheduling in order to
preserve their relationship with the hillfort.
The surface of the track, the waymarker post and all fence posts are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is

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

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are
defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set
earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the
interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or
more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been
constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first
century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements
of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest
that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with
display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a
rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks
and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by
one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or
inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists
of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures
interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety
of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of
small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a
similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples
recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west
with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the
rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding
the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of
national importance.

The small multivallate hillfort on Pontesford Hill is a good example of this
class of monument. It is one of a group of broadly contemporary hillforts
constructed along the hills overlooking the Rea Brook valley. In common with
these other defended settlements, the hillfort on Pontesford Hill is
considered to contain significant buried deposits, structural features,
artefactual and organic remains, which have the potential to illustrate many
aspects of Iron Age life. The defences will retain evidence about their manner
of construction and any subsequent modification. The organic remains surviving
in the buried ground surfaces beneath the ramparts and within the ditches will
also provide important information about the local environment and the use of
the land before and after the hillfort was constructed.
The archaeological excavation carried out in 1963 not only provided
information about the construction of the defences, but also demonstrated the
nature and the degree of survival of the occupation deposits and the
associated structural features sealed beneath the outer part of the southern
hillfort defences.
The woodland boundary banks will retain information about their construction
and provide important evidence relating to woodland management and holding
patterns in this area in the post-medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barker, P, 'Prehistoric Man in Wales and the West' in An Emergency Excavation on Pontesford Hill Camp, 1963, (1972), 345-53

Source: Historic England

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