Ruborough Camp large univallate hillfort


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 22795 33529

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 often include round-houses as well as small rectangular and square structures supported by four to six postholes and interpreted as raised granaries. When excavated, the interior areas exhibit a high density of features, including post- and stakeholes, gullies, floors, pits, hearths and roads. 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 potential are believed to be of national importance.

Ruborough Camp survives well and will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. The site is unusual as it has a cross-ridge outwork defining a second unfinished phase of construction.


The monument includes a large univallate hillfort situated on a triangular promontory of land in the eastern Quantock Hills. The fort is rectilinear with rounded corners, the shape being determined by the natural contours of the hill. The earthworks enclose 1.8ha, with a further 1.8ha defined on the western uphill side by an outer line of defences. Around the main fort the defences include a rampart, most massive against the higher land (up to 3.4m high) but absent along much of the steep south-east side, a ditch outside this forming a drop of up to 6m, and a counterscarp bank up to 1.5m high beyond the ditch. The main entrance to the fort faces downhill on the eastern tip of the earthworks, where a hollow way runs up the spine of the hill and through a short inturned passageway. A notable mounding of the southern rampart end here may represent a guard tower. There is a second entrance gap on the west through the uphill rampart, with a slight causeway across the ditch. The extension to the west of the fort is defined most notably by a cross-ridge work, with an incomplete rampart separated by a berm from an outer ditch. To the south this outwork is linked to the main fort by an extension of the counterscarp bank, and on the north a later hedge-bank in the equivalent location may have reused a similar feature. A start seems to have been made on extending the ditch likewise, but this continues for no further than 15m. This all suggests that the outer area is a later and unfinished addition. Across the south of the outwork ditch are three causeways, one with a corresponding gap in the rampart, which is perhaps an original entrance. A writer in 1890 mentioned that 'a subterranean passage, 100 yards long, now filled in, gave the occupants of the camp access to a spring of water on the side of the hill'. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

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Books and journals
Burrow, I (.), Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in Somerset, (1981), 218-9
Ref. Grinsell, L.V. 1976 p100, Ruborough Camp 10228, (1982)


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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