Iron Age large univallate hillfort called Bigbury Camp, 405m north-west of Merryweather.
Reasons for Designation
Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen. The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by outworks. 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. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north. Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.
Despite some development and disturbance in the past, the Iron Age large univallate hillfort called Bigbury Camp survives relatively well. It has been shown by partial excavation to contain significant archaeological remains relating to its construction, use and history.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 December 2014. 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.
The monument includes an Iron Age large univallate hillfort known as Bigbury Camp surviving as earthworks and below-ground remains. It is situated at the eastern end of a ridge, north of the River Great Stour at Hambledown.
The hillfort was originally a univallate hillfort but a northern annexe was later added with bivallate defences. The southern part of the hillfort has been partially destroyed by gravel digging but where earthworks survive they are denoted by a single bank and ditch. The northern annexe of the hillfort was added at a later date and is defended by a double bank and ditch. The earthworks follow an irregular curvilinear plan. It has been suggested that the annexe may have been used as a cattle compound although this is uncertain. There is an entrance in the eastern side of the hillfort.
The hillfort was partially excavated in 1933-4, 1962-3 and 1978-80. These excavations uncovered structural remains of a hut circle and evidence for the defences on the eastern side of the hillfort. North of the eastern entrance two large postholes were revealed, which may be the remains of a palisade. The finds included Iron Age pottery sherds, metalwork, a slingbolt of burnt clay and a slave gang chain approximately 5.4m long.