Small multivallate hillfort, Romano-Celtic temple and medieval warren, 670m NNW of Croft Ambrey Cottage.
Reasons for Designation
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. 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, either 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. They are rare and of importance for understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period.
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 the treasure house of its deity and priests rather than as a congregational building and any religious activities, including private worship, communal gatherings, sanctuary and healing, took place outside. Romano-Celtic temples included the temple building and a surrounding sacred precinct or temenos which could be square, circular, rectangular or polygonal in ground plan. The temple building invariably faced due east and was the focus of the site, although it did not necessarily occupy the 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 of 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 those of the temple; these are generally interpreted as priests' 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 examples in the far south west and they are rare nationally with only about 150 sites recorded in England. They are rare and important for contributing to the complete picture of Roman religious practice, including its continuity from Iron Age practice.
A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction of rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries, which were intended to centralise the colony and make catching the animals easier, whether using nets, ferrets or dogs. The mounds vary in design although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. Earlier monuments such as burial mounds, boundary features and mottes were sometimes reused as breeding places. The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into the underlying subsoil or bedrock. A typical warren may contain between one and forty pillow mounds or rabbit buries and occupy an area up to c.600ha. Many warrens were enclosed by a bank, hedge or wall intended to contain and protect the stock. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining in the face of 19th and 20th century changes in agricultural practice, and the onset of myxomatosis. Warrens are found in all parts of England, the earliest examples lying in the southern part of the country. Approximately 1,000 - 2,000 examples are known nationally with concentrations in upland areas, on heath and in coastal zones. The profits from a successfully managed warren could, however, be considerable. Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement, deer parks, field systems and fishponds. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and ecclesiastical estates.
The small multivallate hillfort, Romano-Celtic temple and medieval warren 670m NNW of Croft Ambrey Cottage survive well and although much is already known will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the settlement of this hill and its territorial, strategic, agricultural, economic, ritual and political significance through time, the interrelationships between these monument classes and their overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 19 May 2015. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument includes a small multivallate hillfort with an annexe containing a Romano-Celtic temple and a medieval warren of up to five pillow mounds situated on the summit of a prominent steeply sloping spur overlooking Yatton Marsh and the valley of a tributary to Allcock’s Brook. The hillfort survives as a roughly triangular enclosure defined to the north by two scarps with a medial berm – possibly a buried ditch – to the west by three rampart banks and a larger internal ditch and to the south by three rampart banks with two medial ditches and a wide internal ditch which may have been used to store water. There were two complex entrances which through time had 20 successive gateposts and were further enhanced with guardrooms, corridors and bridges of which the south western was the principal entrance and the north eastern was complex and inturned. The enclosure originally covered approximately 2.2ha, but this increased through time to 3.6ha and eventually a southern rectangular annexe was added. This is defined by two slighter concentric banks.
The hillfort was excavated between 1960 and 1966 and was found to have been in use from the 6th century BC up to AD 48. It contained closely set rectangular buildings which had been rebuilt up to six times. The population of the hillfort was estimated at 500-900 individuals. Finds included metalwork such as iron tools, weapons, sickles, blades, nails and a spade, shale and glass objects, bone and antler artefacts, spindle whorls, loom and thatch weights, saddle and rotary querns, hammer stones and Iron Age pottery.
The annexe was found to contain a temple which was built over two phases. The first was a terrace with evidence for fire pits and stake holes with pottery including Samian found amongst the ashes from fires. This was replaced by a square mound defined by a drystone built kerb and seems to be a ceremonial centre or sanctuary based on other similar temples. Also within the hillfort and annexe are up to five rectangular pillow mounds with associated ditches which formed a warren. These vary in size from 9.1m up to 73m long from 6.4m up to 7.3m wide and up to 0.8m high.
The whole is contained within the Grade II* Registered Historic Park and Garden of ‘Croft Castle’ (1875).