White Sheet camp
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1005690
Date first listed: 10-Mar-1925
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish: Stourton with Gasper
National Grid Reference: ST 80425 34601
Large multivallate hillfort called White Sheet Castle containing two bowl barrows and a beacon.
Reasons for Designation
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. Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between 5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection of the power struggle between competing elites. Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts, oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered, for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fence lines, hearths and ovens. Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture occurred on many sites. Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere. They are rare and important for understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period. Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. A cluster of at least 395 examples has been identified on Cranborne Chase. Some of these have been levelled by ploughing but remain visible from the air as ring ditches. Buried remains will nevertheless survive at these sites, both within the ditch fills and associated with the central burial pit. Bowl barrows are particularly representative of their period, whilst their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type will provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and constitute a significant component of the archaeology of Cranborne Chase. Beacons were fires deliberately lit to give a warning, by means of smoke by day and flame by night, of the approach of hostile forces. They were always sited in prominent positions, usually as part of a group, chain or line which together made up a comprehensive early warning system covering most of the country. Beacons were extensively used during the medieval period. Their use was formalised by 1325 and although some were used later, for example at the time of Monmouth's Rebellion in 1685 or during the Napoleonic wars, the system was in decay by the mid-17th century. Beacons were initially bonfires of wood or furze, but later barrels of pitch or iron fire baskets mounted on poles were used. The poles were occasionally set on earthen mounds. Access to the fire basket was by way of rungs set in the pole, or by a stone ladder set against the beacon. More unusual beacon types include stone enclosures and towers, mainly found in the north and south west of England. Some beacon sites utilised existing buildings such as church towers. Beacons were built throughout England, with the greatest density along the south coast and the border with Scotland. Although approximately 500 are recorded nationally, few survive in the form of visible remains. Many sites are only known from place-name evidence. Given the rarity of recorded examples, all positively identified beacons with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of importance. The large multivallate hillfort called White Sheet Castle containing two bowl barrows and a beacon survive well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, development, date, function, interrelationships and relative chronologies, territorial, strategic and social significance, in the case of the barrows their ritual and funerary practices, for the hillfort trade, agricultural practices, domestic arrangements and industrial and commercial activity and for all their landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 25 June 2015. 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. As such they do not yet have the full descriptions of their modernised counterparts available. Please contact us if you would like further information.
This monument includes a large multivallate hillfort with two bowl barrows and a beacon situated on the summit of a prominent south facing spur of White Sheet Hill at the top of a very steep scarp slope overlooking a dry valley. The hillfort survives as roughly oval enclosure defined by three widely spaced ramparts with ditches to the north and east and by a single ditch and slight rampart to the west and south where the steep natural scarps are augmented. The inner enclosure is approximately 2ha, the medial enclosed area 0.6ha and the outer 0.9ha and all three areas contain large quantities of circular platforms measuring up to 12m in diameter which indicate a proliferation of dense settlement throughout the entire interior. The hillfort is thought to be multi-phased, to have started as a single univallate enclosure and to have expanded and become more complex through time. There is a complex entrance which has double portals. The ramparts appear to have been constructed as a series of shorter lengths of bank and ditch which were eventually amalgamated. There is also strong evidence of internal quarry scoops surrounding the interior side of the defences. To the south west two bowl barrows were incorporated into the defences and these survive as circular mounds of 10m and 12.5m in diameter, standing from 0.8m up to 1m high, surrounded by visible quarry ditches from which the construction material was derived of up to 3.5m wide and 0.6m deep. One barrow mound has a central hollow. Almost central to the inner enclosure is a circular feature which survives as a ring bank measuring 15m in diameter, 4m wide and 0.5m high surrounded by an outer ditch of 2m wide and 0.4m deep these surround a slightly dished interior with a small central mound of 6m in diameter and 0.2m high which has a central hollow. A beacon is shown at this position on Saxton’s map of 1576. Although this feature has been interpreted as a disc barrow, possible pond barrow, tree ring or a beacon its exact date and function is not known but the beacon appears very likely given the prominent location and early map depiction. Other features investigated by Colt Hoare as potential barrows were found not to be sepulchral but formed part of the hillfort defences. Iron Age pottery and animal bone have also been recovered within the hillfort as stray surface finds.
Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity and are the subject of separate schedulings.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: WI 118
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
PastScape 207206, 207260, 207263 and 207383
Wiltshire HER ST83SW201, ST83SW628, ST83SW629, ST83SW630 and ST83SW660
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