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Nesscliffe Hill Camp: a small multivallate hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in Great Ness, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.7723 / 52°46'20"N

Longitude: -2.9106 / 2°54'38"W

OS Eastings: 338664.196401

OS Northings: 319796.51145

OS Grid: SJ386197

Mapcode National: GBR 79.YFHH

Mapcode Global: WH8BC.8L82

Entry Name: Nesscliffe Hill Camp: a small multivallate hillfort

Scheduled Date: 25 April 1946

Last Amended: 18 September 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020285

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34911

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Great Ness

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Great Ness St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a small multivallate
hillfort, situated on the northern part of the summit of Nesscliffe Hill. From
this location there are extensive views to the north and west of the north
Shropshire plain, and the hills of the Welsh borderland beyond.
The overall dimensions of the hillfort are 185m north-south by 310m east-west.
Its size would suggest that it was occupied by a large community where certain
centralised economic and social activities were practised. The defences of the
hillfort enclose an area of approximately 2.8ha, and encompass ground which
rises to the north west and an isolated knoll to the east. To the south and
east the earthwork defences of the hillfort consist of two ramparts each
bounded by external ditches. The ditch between the ramparts is still clearly
visible, while the outer ditch, which has been mostly been infilled, survives
as a buried feature about 8m wide. To the north east, where the ground is
steeper, a single rampart with an external ditch was constructed. This ditch
has also been largely infilled, and it too survives as a buried feature about
8m wide. On the north western side the hillfort is defined by a sheer
sandstone cliff. The original entranceway into the fort lies close to the
north eastern corner, and marks the division between the univallate defences
to the north and the bivallate defences to the south.
At a later date the hillfort was extensively altered, with the interior being
divided into two distinct areas. Around the higher ground to the west sizeable
defences, consisting of two ramparts separated by a ditch, were constructed,
and included the incorporation and enlargement of the existing hillfort
defences to the south west. This newly created enclosure, with an internal
area of approximately 1ha, appears to have served as the principal focus of
the settlement. The area to the east, defined by the existing hillfort
defences, seems to have acted as a subsidiary enclosure. Access into the main
enclosure was via a narrow entrance passage, 2.5m wide, defined on either side
by the inturned ends of the inner rampart. At several places near the entrance
the vertical faces of the rock-cut ditch can be seen.
Between 1953 and 1955 a small-scale archaeological excavation was conducted
within the main enclosure, adjacent to the south eastern section of the inner
rampart. It was found that the edge of the rampart here was revetted with
loose sandstone blocks. The excavation also revealed a single layer of
occupation from which came a quantity of Roman artefacts, including sherds of
pottery (mainly bowls and jars dating from the second to the fourth century
AD) and several coins. In 1956 a trench was dug across one of the inturned
ramparts defining the entrance passage to the main enclosure. No artefacts
were found to date these defences.
The surfaces of the woodland tracks, all fence and gate posts, the waymarker
posts, the stile, the information board located close to the entrance of the
main enclosure, and the water cistern situated close to the inner rampart of
the outer enclosure 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.

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 Nesscliffe Hill is a fine example of this
class of monument, refortified later in the Iron Age. Within the two
enclosures significant buried deposits, structural features, artefactual and
organic remains are expected to survive, which have the potential to
illustrate many aspects of Iron Age life. The limited archaeological
excavation undertaken within the interior has demonstrated that the site
continued to be occupied during the Roman period, and that well-preserved
buried deposits, containing a wealth of artefactual material, from this period
have survived. The defences of the hillfort will retain evidence of their
construction and their later modification. 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
surrounding land before the hillfort was constructed and during its
The monument is accessible to the public and has considerable educational

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hume, C R, Jones, G W, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Excavations on Nesscliff Hill, , Vol. 56, (1960), 129-32

Source: Historic England

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