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A complex of Iron Age and Romano-British settlement on Berwick Down centred 700m south east of Ashcombe Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Berwick St. John, Wiltshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.9767 / 50°58'36"N

Longitude: -2.086 / 2°5'9"W

OS Eastings: 394056.35892

OS Northings: 119701.374779

OS Grid: ST940197

Mapcode National: GBR 2ZC.MFS

Mapcode Global: FRA 66JJ.F57

Entry Name: A complex of Iron Age and Romano-British settlement on Berwick Down centred 700m south east of Ashcombe Farm

Scheduled Date: 18 May 1951

Last Amended: 11 August 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020964

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35382

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Berwick St. John

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Tollard Royal St Peter ad Vincula

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument lies in three separate areas of protection. It includes a
Late Iron Age farmstead in a kite-shaped enclosure, a circular enclosure
overlain by Romano-British house platforms and a road, a settlement of
unenclosed pits and at least one round house, three cross dykes, and a
Bronze Age bowl barrow, located on a promontory in an area of about 14ha.
Most of the earthworks were surveyed by the Royal Commission on Historical
Monuments for England in 1965, the two northern cross dykes being recorded
by the Ordnance Survey in 1974. H S Thomas made a plan of the earthworks
of the Iron Age farmstead in 1913 for Heywood Sumner. A trial excavation
of this site was carried out by Greenfield in 1962 and was followed by
full excavation by Wainwright in 1965; both were carried out for the
Ministry of Public Buildings and Works.
The Iron Age farmstead lies at the southern end of the monument within a
kite-shaped enclosure, about 0.4ha in size, defined by a ditch and an
internal bank with an entrance, 6.7m wide, in the south western corner.
The excavation exposed a V-shaped ditch with an average width of 1.83m and
depth of 0.76m. The bank, recorded by Toms in 1913 as being only 0.3m
high, was no longer visible in 1965 and the excavators concluded that it
had never been very substantial. The enclosure contained one round house,
8.23m in diameter, 34 storage pits and three or four granaries, as well as
a large open area which may have been used to keep stock. The crouched
burial of an adult male, wearing a shale bracelet, was found in a shallow
oval pit close to the outer north western edge of the enclosure. An arc of
bank and ditch surrounds the enclosure on the southern, downhill, side at
a distance of about 46m. On the southern side the ditch overlies an
earlier lynchet of a field system where it was V-shaped in profile, 2.29m
wide and 1.07m deep, with a drainage channel at the bottom. On the western
side it was found to be shallow and rounded in profile, 0.5m deep and
1.42m wide with the suggestion of an inner bank about 6.26m wide, much
reduced in height by ploughing at the time of excavation. The pottery,
bronze and iron objects found at the site suggest a short-lived occupation
in the first half of the first century AD, predating the Roman conquest. A
circular pit lying near the western edge of the outer enclosure ditch,
previously recorded as having a bank on its southern side, is possibly a
quarry of relatively recent origin. The site has been reduced in height by
ploughing and is now visible only on aerial photographs.
About 100m to the north west a circular enclosure, about 0.94ha in size,
is visible as an earthwork with banks up to 0.5m high. The enclosure ditch
is about 1.5m wide, and on the western side there is a bank on both sides
of it. This site is unexcavated but surface finds suggest that it was
abandoned in the Romano-British period as a contemporary road bisects it
and the eastern side was overlain by rectangular platforms of
Romano-British form. About 80m to the north is a concentration of pits,
covering an area of about 1ha, visible as nettle-filled depressions, up to
3m in diameter and 0.3m deep, with two possible round houses, defined by
penannular gullies. The site is divided into three parts by slight banks
and ditches, running east-west, and the eastern edge is defined by a
scarp, up to 0.4m high, which gradually fades to the north into a small
field plot. The western extent of the site cannot now be clearly defined
because the earthworks have been reduced in height by years of ploughing.
The site is unexcavated, but towards the northern edge the earthworks
appear to be cut by a cross dyke, and this might suggest a date in the
earlier part of Iron Age.
To the north of this settlement two cross dykes, 260m apart, are visible.
The northern one has a bank, 7m wide and 1m high, with a ditch, 7m wide
and 1m deep, on its northern side, extending for about 128m across the
ridge, and continuing westwards as a ditch a further 74m to the bottom of
the combe. Towards the eastern end the dyke has been truncated and
disturbed by later trackways, including the modern by-way, where it curves
slightly to the south, ending at the top of the combe. The southerly cross
dyke, cutting through settlement features, is visible as a bank, 7m wide
and 1m high, with a ditch on its southern side, 5m wide and about 0.75m
deep, extending for about 170m across the ridge. A third cross dyke lies
in a separate area of protection about 650m to the south. It is visible
extending part way across the ridge for 150m, ending in the east near the
top of a steep combe. The dyke has a bank, now visible as a lynchet, up to
0.9m high from the south, and about 8m wide, with a possible ditch on the
downhill, southern, side visible as a slight depression in places, up to
5m wide.
A Bronze Age bowl barrow lies near the southern edge of the outer ditch of
the kite-shaped enclosure. It has been reduced in height by ploughing and
is now only visible on aerial photographs but, when recorded by the
Ordnance Survey in 1954, it had a mound 11.5m in diameter and 1m high,
surrounded by a quarry ditch, about 2m wide, from which material was
quarried for its construction, and possibly an outer bank. It lay within a
field system, extending across the southern part of the promontory. This
has been levelled by ploughing and is also only visible on aerial
photographs.
Two rectangular depressions with banks on their southern edges, visible as
slight earthworks and clearly visible on aerial photographs, lie in the
south western corner of the monument and are probably relatively recent
chalk quarries. The northern one, roughly 45m square, truncates the outer
earthwork surrounding the kite-shaped enclosure and both have been
degraded by ploughing over the years.
All fence and gate posts, water troughs and telegraph poles are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is
included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number,
density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare
combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the
largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known
cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of
henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important
remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and
linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the
Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of
archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase.
Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times,
and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from
associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique
archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over
the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work
on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward
Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology.
Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century
and to the present day.
Later Iron Age and Romano-British occupation occurred widely across
Cranborne Chase and included a range of settlement types. The surviving
remains comprise farmsteads, hamlets, villages and hillforts, which
together demonstrate an important sequence of settlement. The
non-defensive enclosed farm or homestead represents the smallest and most
simple of these types. There are over 50 recorded examples within the area
which are thought to date to this later Iron Age and Romano-British
period. Most early examples are characterised by a curvilinear enclosure
with round buildings, although these are sometimes superseded by
rectilinear or triangular shaped enclosures with rectilinear buildings. On
Cranborne Chase, many examples were occupied over an extended period and
some grew in size and complexity.

Prior to this, by the end of the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age,
settlements in Cranborne Chase were wholly or partially contained within
ditched enclosures of varying form and size. Open settlements are not
clearly visible from the air and very few sites are known.
Cross dykes are features which are well-known in Wessex and a good number
survive well on Cranborne Chase. Their construction spans the millennium
from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been reused later. They
were probably used as territorial boundary markers, demarcating land
allotment within communities.
Barrows are especially representative of the Bronze Age period and are a
characteristic feature in the landscape of Cranborne Chase.
The complex of settlement at Berwick Down provides a largely
well-preserved and undisturbed sequence of occupation from the Bronze Age
to the Romano-British period, in which, unusually, the focus of settlement
appears to have shifted and developed in character with each phase of
occupation. The visible earthworks include a rare survival of an open
settlement, probably dating to the earlier Iron Age, which is unusual in
the settlement pattern of Cranborne Chase at this period. The full
excavation of the later Iron Age settlement has provided information which
enhances our knowledge of this class of settlement type and its place in
the development of this site. The cross dykes provide an unusual
clustering and a rare association with settlement features. All the sites
demonstrate a significant sequence of development throughout the later
prehistoric and Romano-British periods and contain archaeological deposits
offering an understanding of the economic and social activities as well as
the contemporary environment within the area during the period of
occupation.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Sumner, H, The Ancient Earthworks of Cranborne Chase, (1913), 44
Wainwright, G J, 'Proceedings of the Prehsitoric Society' in The Excavation Of A Durotrigian Farmstead, (1968), 102-147
Wainwright, G J, 'Proceedings of the Prehsitoric Society' in The Excavation Of A Durotrigian Farmstead, (1968), 102-147

Source: Historic England

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