Late Saxon urban area E of Castle Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 85853 22876


Part of the Anglo-Saxon centre at Castle Hill, Shaftesbury.

Reasons for Designation

Anglo-Saxon centres, usually known as burhs, are defended urban areas that are characterised by a planned, ordered layout, sometimes including a regular grid of streets. They date mainly from the late ninth century AD, as King Alfred's response to the threat of Danish invasion. There are some earlier, eighth century examples in the kingdom of Mercia. They include large towns covering around 58ha, and smaller forts ranging in size from 1ha-9.5ha. Their defences are usually either restored Roman town walls or newly built earthen ramparts. Documentary evidence suggests that mints and markets were established in most of the larger centres. Many of the larger fortified centres now lie beneath modern cities or towns, but strong traces of their layout usually survive in the modern street plan. Most original buildings, including churches, dwellings and outbuildings, were simple timber structures, traces of which may survive in the form of fragile below ground features such as post holes, sill-beam slots and pits. Other contemporary features include water supply and drainage systems, burgage plot boundaries, middens and street furniture. A few of the smaller burghal forts were short-lived and have remained largely undisturbed by subsequent development since their abandonment. Fortified centres are a rare monument type with around 90 identified examples across southern, eastern and central England. The greatest concentration lies within the late Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, and they cluster in areas with favoured royal residences such as Somerset and Wiltshire. They are a comparatively well documented monument class, with 35 fortified centres of Wessex listed in the Burghal Hidage, a document which dates to the early tenth century AD. They are one of the earliest groups of planned medieval towns in Western Europe. The part of the Anglo-Saxon centre at Castle Hill, Shaftesbury will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction, development, longevity, layout, extent, defence, domestic arrangements, political, social and economic significance, trade and overall landscape context of the burh.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 February 2016. This 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 part of an Anglo-Saxon centre situated on the northern summit of the prominent Castle Hill within the modern settlement of Shaftesbury. The part of the burh survives as entirely buried structures, features and deposits with no visible surface remains. The Saxon burh of Shaftesbury (Sceaftesbyrig) is believed to date to before the establishment of the nunnery (871-877). It was situated on the steep-sided promontory spur. It was recorded in the Burghal Hidage with an assessment of 700 hides indicating a wall length of 2,888 ft (880.2m) and was probably one of Alfred's "de novo" burhs. Research carried out on Charter 655, dated AD 958 (a grant of King Eadwig) suggests that the lands referred to in the charter correspond closely with those bounded by St Peter's parish which might indicate the original extent of the burh. It is classified as a major burh, was seen as a suitable refuge for the nuns of Wilton during the reign of Ethelred II and was a middle-ranking mint from the reign of Athelstan onwards.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DO 838
Legacy System:


PastScape 206558


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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