Later Iron Age enclosure, Ilchester Mead


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


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South Somerset (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 52011 22044


Late Iron Age defended enclosure 580m north east of Mead Farm.

Reasons for Designation

The size and form of Iron Age enclosed settlements vary considerably from single farmsteads up to large semi-urban oppida. The Latin term `oppidum' usually refers to a town, although in the context of the Roman invasions of Britain, its use in the writings of Julius Caesar and Suetonius encompassed a wider range of fortified settlements and native strongholds. In archaeological terminology ‘oppida' is used to describe a settlement phenomenon of the later Iron Age – areas of farmsteads, field systems and nucleated settlements of various kinds covering wide areas bounded by substantial earthworks. Such sites are considered to have been tribal capitals or focal places for communities between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, serving as centres of trade, manufacture and social prominence. They all share the common characteristic of boundaries defined by massive linear banks and ditches, sometimes intermittent and positioned to include natural barriers such as rivers and marshes. The enclosed areas vary, some are marked out by curvilinear boundaries, others by more rectilinear patterns. Activities within the enclosed areas may vary considerably and, given that Iron Age society in southern England was not homogeneous, there is no reason to suppose that all oppida exhibited the same status or served identical purposes. In addition to farmsteads, areas of nucleated settlement and related field systems, other known features of the enclosures include storage pits and wells, areas set aside for burials (sometimes extremely elaborate), temple complexes and areas of pottery manufacture, metal working and the minting of coins. Some, particularly those positioned in coastal or estuarine locations, provide evidence of widespread trade in the form of imported goods, notably Gallo-Belgic pottery, from the continental mainland and the Western Roman Empire. Late Iron Age defended enclosures reflect the development of complex social organisation and increased permanence of settlement in the late Iron Age. They also provide some of the most valuable evidence for the impact of Roman conquest and government on native society. They are a very rare and relatively poorly understood monument type and important for our understanding of the period. Despite cultivation and drainage the Late Iron Age defended enclosure 580m north east of Mead Farm survives comparatively well and is a rare and important monument. It will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, function, longevity, settlement, social organisation, territorial significance, agricultural practices, trade, industrial activity, domestic arrangements and overall landscape context.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 3 September 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.

This monument includes a major Late Iron Age defended enclosure situated on the flood plain of the Bearley Brook immediately south of the current settlement of Ilchester. The Iron Age defended enclosure is irregular in shape, covers an area of approximately 16ha and is defined in part by an up to 0.3m high and 40m wide rampart bank, a wide berm and 10m wide outer ditch which survives differentially and partially by the Bearley Brook which may run in a relict channel of the River Yeo prior to its canalisation in the Romano British period. The enclosure is tentatively defined as an oppida although the exact nature of its interior is not definitely known. Partial excavations mainly concentrated on the defences have demonstrated a fairly short period of occupation in the Late Iron Age with a pottery assemblage similar to that of Hamdon Hill and also included finds of animal bone and evidence for metallurgy. They also revealed the Iron Age deposits are sealed by thick layers of alluvium and topsoil containing medieval and Romano British finds. The interior is frequently waterlogged with excellent potential preservation for a wide range of organic remains. This important Late Iron Age defended enclosure is thought to have pre-dated the Romano British town of Ilchester and may in part explain the location of the latter.


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

Legacy System number:
SO 512
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-918309


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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