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Elworthy Barrows hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in Brompton Ralph, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0952 / 51°5'42"N

Longitude: -3.3289 / 3°19'43"W

OS Eastings: 307040.594843

OS Northings: 133721.12659

OS Grid: ST070337

Mapcode National: GBR LQ.CBGR

Mapcode Global: FRA 36X7.8XR

Entry Name: Elworthy Barrows hillfort

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 24 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020724

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35318

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Brompton Ralph

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes Elworthy Barrows, a univallate hillfort located just
below the summit of a broad ridge which extends along the Brendon Hills area
of Exmoor.
The hillfort, which is believed to be unfinished and of Iron Age date, is
approximately circular in plan and lies on open ground which slopes
gradually to the south and south east. An area of about 3.5ha is defined
by an earthwork bank and outer ditch. The construction of the hillfort on
the north side is less advanced than the remainder of its circuit and is
formed in this sector by a low and uneven earthen bank with a narrow break
in its length and flanked along its north side by a series of shallow
quarry ditches. The low bank is thought to represent the material
excavated from the quarry ditches that was retained for the future
construction of a rampart which was never completed. A small deep pond
which is located adjacent to the north east corner is probably the result
of past quarrying activities. The east side of the hillfort is defined by
a bank with a berm and shallow outer ditch which together provide an
overall width of 22m. A gap formed by two banks which curve inwards to
form a narrow inturned entrance passage is located in the east side just
to the south of the centre.
The construction of the southern circuit of the hillfort is considered to
have been fully completed. It is formed by a bank with a maximum height of
6m and an outer ditch up to 4.5m wide with traces of a low outer bank
which gradually levels out. The profile of the inner bank and ditch on the
extreme south side has been disturbed by a 19th century field bank. A gap
in the bank on the south west side is believed to be original and it has
been suggested that this may have been left open deliberately as an
intended entrance. The bank to the north west of the entrance is
approximately 3m high above the interior of the hillfort and its outer
face is about 9m high above the base of the ditch. Elworthy Barrows has
been described as a fortified settlement, one of several of similar date
recorded in the region and this may account for its location in a position
which offers no natural defences.

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.

Elworthy Barrows hillfort survives in good condition and is one of a
number of prehistoric monuments which occupy prominent positions on or
near a well defined course along the Brendon Hills, known as the Brendon
Hills Ridgeway. It is a fine example of an unfinished hillfort and is
additionally important as it provides a rare insight into, and valuable
information about the construction methods and design of hillforts. It is
one of a group of hillforts which have been defined as fortified
settlements located in this region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jesson, E, Hill, D, The Iron Age and its Hill Forts, (1971), 25-27
Oxford Archaeological Unit, , 'Oxford Archaeological Unit' in Elworthy Barrows hillfort, (1996)
ST 03 SE 1, National Monuments Record,

Source: Historic England

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