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Bury Walls: a large multivallate hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in Weston-under-Redcastle, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.8435 / 52°50'36"N

Longitude: -2.6302 / 2°37'48"W

OS Eastings: 357652.412926

OS Northings: 327514.391914

OS Grid: SJ576275

Mapcode National: GBR 7N.SX77

Mapcode Global: WH9C7.KSRH

Entry Name: Bury Walls: a large multivallate hillfort

Scheduled Date: 17 December 1929

Last Amended: 11 December 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020284

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34910

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Weston-under-Redcastle

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Weston under Redcastle

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the earthwork, standing structural and buried remains of
a large multivallate hillfort, occupying a well-defined promontory which forms
part of the southern escarpment of an imposing sandstone ridge. From this
location there are extensive views over the north Shropshire plain to the
south. The overall dimensions of the hillfort are 380m east-west by 520m
north-south. The defensive circuit encompasses a natural spring and encloses
an area of approximately 8ha. The size of the hillfort indicates that it was
the settlement of a very large community where certain centralised economic
and social activities were practiced. The defensive strength of the hillfort
is enhanced by its topographic location, where the surrounding ground slopes
steeply in all directions except to the north. In relation to the natural
topography, much of the circuit consists of a single, but sizeable, rampart,
which is defined on its northern side by a ditch, an outer rampart and an
external ditch. The eastern end of this outermost ditch is now visible as a
shallow depression, having been partially infilled, and the corresponding
length of outer rampart has been reduced in height by ploughing. To the west
an elongated pond has been created within the outermost ditch. Along its
southern side, revetting the lower part of the the external face of the outer
bank, is a drystone wall of probable 18th century date. It is included in the
From within the interior of the hillfort the height of the rampart varies
considerably from 1.8m to 7.8m. On the northern side the fall from the top of
this rampart to the base of the adjacent ditch is about 14.5m. Along the
eastern side of the fort, on the external face of this rampart, the remains of
low, stone-built, internal revetment walls, are partially visible. A cutting
made through the top of this rampart in 1981 demonstrated that deposits of
earth were overlain by dumps of stone.
The principal entrance to the fort is near the north east corner, where the
ends of the inner rampart turn inwards to form an entrance passage about 5m
wide. A limited archaeological excavation of the entrance in 1930 found that
the bedrock at its base was cut by a series of cart ruts. The area immediately
to the north of the entrance was also partially examined and the remains of
possible hearths, associated with a fragment of a quern stone and an iron
object, were discovered.
At the north western corner of the fort there is a break in the inner rampart
corresponding with a narrow causeway at the top of the natural escarpment.
These appear to be original features and are likely to have acted as a
subsidiary entrance or postern.
Outside the south western corner of the fort a natural spur has been enhanced
by the construction of a steep-sided bank, about 45m long. This feature
appears to have been an integral part of the hillfort defences, serving as an
external lookout platform.
In 1999 and 2000 the hillfort was the subject of intensive archaeological
investigation, which included geophysical surveys to detect buried features
and a topographical survey. This investigation revealed that over the northern
part of the interior a series of large concentric terraces had been created.
The material excavated during this operation appears to have been used to
construct the defences. Except for a well-defined scarp to the south of the
principal entrance, little is now visible at ground level of these terraces.
The geophysical surveys of the site have indicated that the terraces, together
with other remains, including internal boundaries, roadways and circular
structures, all survive well as buried features.
As part of the programme of archaeological work carried out in 1930 the
remains of stone structures were uncovered near the middle of the interior of
the fort. The principal building discovered consisted of a rectangular room,
4.6m by 8.75m internally, with a smaller partly paved room, possibly a
vestibule or annex, to the north. The rubble-built walls of this building are
between 0.8m and 1.45m thick. The remains of other adjoining walls were also
revealed, and in the soil surrounding these structures quantities of gypsum
lime plaster and oyster shells were found. When the remains of these buildings
were discovered it was thought they were medieval, but more recent research
indicates that they are almost certainly Roman. The nature of their
construction and architectural form, and comparison with other similar
structures located within hillforts, suggest that the remains are probably
part of a Romano-Celtic temple. The long history of Roman artefacts having
been found within the hillfort (the most recent include sherds of pottery and
Valentinianic coins (AD 364-78)) further support this identification.
A ditch, 3m to 5m wide, runs across the northern part of the interior, to the
north of the stone building, and is orientated ENE-WSW. It survives as a
buried feature and was detected during the geophysical survey of the site. A
possible entrance causeway, about 2m wide, was detected near the south western
end. This ditch is clearly later than the construction of the hillfort as it
cuts through the remains of the terraces. It is possible that the ditch is
contemporary with the Roman buildings, serving as a boundary to define an area
(a temenos, or sacred precint) around them.
All fences and gate posts, the concrete lined pond, and the surface of the
farm track are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all
these features is included.

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

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between
5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of
concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron
Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC
and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of
permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection
of the power struggle between competing elites.
Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have
ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances
although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may
comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts,
oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally
include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or
circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered,
for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as
raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain
evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include
platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens.
Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial
activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture
occurred on many sites.
Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded
nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh
Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere.
In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in
understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of
national importance.

Bury Walls is a fine example of a large multivallate hillfort, despite the
partial modification of the outermost defences on the northern side. In
Shropshire a very small number of hillforts of this class are known. Limited
excavation and intensive field surveys have demonstrated that significant
buried deposits and structural features survive at Bury Walls. The potential
also exists here for the preservation of organic remains and a wide range of
contemporary artefacts. Together these remains will provide a valuable insight
into the activities and lifestyles of the inhabitants.
From the earthwork and standing structural remains of defences it is apparent
that they retain important information about their construction. In addition,
organic remains surviving in the buried ground surfaces beneath the ramparts
and within the ditches will provide valuable evidence about the local
environment and the use of the surrounding land before the fort was
constructed and during its occupation.
Romano-Celtic temples were built to meet the spiritual needs of the
communities they served by venerating the god or spirit considered to dwell in
a particular place. The temple building was regarded as a treasure house of
its deity and priests rather than a congregational building. Religious
activities, including private worship, communal gatherings, sanctuary and
healing, took place outside.
Romano-Celtic temples included the temple building and a sacred precint or
temenos. The temple building invariably faced due east and was the focus of
the site, although it did not necessarily occupy a central position in the
temenos. It comprised a cella, or inner temple chamber, an ambulatory or
walkway around the cella, and sometimes annexes or antechambers. The buildings
were constructed in a variety of materials, including stone, cob and timber,
and walls were often plastered and painted both internally and externally.
Some temenoi enclosed other buildings, often substantial and built in
materials and styles similar to the temple; these are generally interpreted as
preists' houses, shops or guest houses.
Romano-Celtic temples were built and used throughout the Roman period from the
mid-first century AD to the late fourth/early fifth century AD, with
individual examples being used for relatively long periods of time. They were
widespread throughout southern and eastern England, although there are no
known examples in the far south west.
The Roman buildings within Bury Walls hillfort, which are believed to have
formed part of a Romano-Celtic temple, demonstrate the continued importance of
the hillfort during the Roman period, apparently acting as a major focus of
religious activity. The partial excavation of these buildings has indicated
the nature of the structural remains and has shown that associated artefacts
and organic remains are likely to survive. The dating of the buildings has
been aided by the chance discovery of artefacts from within the hillfort, and
the geophysical surveys of the site have confirmed the existence of a ditch
which may have defined the temenos.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Murdie, R E et al, Geophyical Surveys at Bury Walls, 1999-2000, (2000)
Murdie, R E et al, Geophyical Surveys at Bury Walls, 1999-2000, (2000)
Morris, J A, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Bury Walls, Hawkstone, (1931), 85-89
Morris, J A, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Bury Walls, Hawkstone, (1931), 85-89
photo in possession of Mr Burden, Burden, J, A photogragh of the cutting made through the rampart in 1981, (1981)
Title: Plan of Bury Walls Camp near Hodnet, Shropshire
Source Date: 1931

Title: Plan of Bury Walls Camp near Hodnet, Shropshire
Source Date: 1931

White, R, (2000)

Source: Historic England

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