Ruborough Camp large univallate hillfort
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1007670
Date first listed: 19-Jan-1962
Date of most recent amendment: 25-Feb-1994
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: 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.
Legacy System number: 24005
Legacy System: RSM
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