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The Burgs Hillfort

Case study: Bayston Hill, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire (West Midlands)

List entry number: 1003016

The Burgs scheduled monument at risk, before
The Burgs in 2007 showing the dense vegetation in the southern part of the hillfort (on the right of the picture) obscuring the ditches and ramparts. © Shropshire Council

Background and history

The Burgs is an Iron Age hillfort (800 BC to 43 AD). It is situated on a natural hill on the southern fringes of Shrewsbury. It survives as an earthwork of approximately two hectares. Most of its circuit is defended by ramparts and ditches.

Relatively small hillforts with multiple ramparts like the Burgs are common in the Marches but are rare nationally. These hillforts are thought to have been high status, permanently occupied, Iron Age settlements.

The building of houses has damaged the Burgs' southern and western defences. Quarrying has altered its eastern defences.

Small-scale archaeological investigations took place when houses were built close to the ramparts in the 1960s and 1970s. These found evidence that the ramparts were possibly of timber-framed stone-revetted construction.

The hillfort is owned by a number of different people. Most of the northern part is held by a farmer and is under grass. The southern part is owned separately. For the past 20 years, vegetation has obscured this section of the hillfort and prevented grazing. This area became a 'no-go' zone prone to anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping. Many local people were not aware of the presence or significance of the site.

The Burgs scheduled monument at risk, after
The Burgs in 2015. Vegetation clearance creating additional sustainable grazing land and retaining specimen trees, has revealed the full extent of the hillfort. As grass cover re-establishes itself the earthworks will become clearer.

Is it at risk?

The Burgs was on the Register from 2009 but has been removed this year. In 2014 Historic England started working with the owner of the southern section under a Management Agreement. An ecological survey gave the go-ahead for the vegetation to be cleared. Special arrangements were necessary to allow the contractor to manoeuvre his machinery onto the site without damaging the monument. Scrub and tree cover has been removed, selected mature trees have been retained for wildlife.

Removal of scrub has transformed the appearance of the hillfort.

What's the current situation?

Following the erection of sheep fencing the site is now being grazed intermittently throughout the year. Grazing promotes thick grass cover which discourages growth of vegetation with harmful root systems. This, coupled with annual weed and bramble control, will allow sustainable management of the site.

The removal of vegetation from the enclosure and the ramparts has revealed this impressive hillfort in its entire extent. The ramparts, ditches, extensive inner platform and views over the surrounding landscape have been exposed.

As a result, local people have shown great interest in the monument. Bayston Hill Parish Council is interested in funding the erection of a site information board. The parish would also like to discuss a permissive access route with the owner. The farmer is delighted to have regained his land for sheep grazing and the future of the site seems secure.

Once again, the Burgs has become intelligible as both an archaeological site and as a local landmark.

 

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