Banwell Camp: a large multivallate hillfort on Banwell Plain


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 40939 59002

Reasons for Designation

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, fencelines, 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. In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of national importance.

The large multivallate hillfort on Banwell Plain survives well and is known from partial excavation to contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. This is the western example of three hillforts occupying outcrops of carboniferous limestone on the north-western fringe of the Mendip Hills and together these will provide a detailed insight into the Iron Age societies of the area, their economy and political structure.


The monument includes a large multivallate hillfort situated on Banwell Plain, a carboniferous plateau overlooking the Somerset Levels. The hillfort has a sub-oval gently sloping interior with maximum dimensions of 250m from north to south and 400m from east to west enclosed by earthen ramparts. Within the interior are two smaller enclosures and a burial mound. Of the two enclosures, the smallest is c.7 acres in extent and occupies the eastern summit of the hill; it is defined by a bank c.0.5m high and c.1m across flanked by a shallow and intermittent external quarry ditch. A second enclosure c.15 acres in area is defined by an earthwork of similar proportions. It is thought that these features may represent the development of small Early Iron Age settlements into a progressively larger and defendable site. A mound central to the interior of the hillfort represents a barrow or burial site. This survives to a height of 0.5m and is c.8m across. Surrounding the mound is a ditch from which material was quarried during its construction. This has become largely filled-in over the years but survives as a slight earthwork c.1m wide and 0.5m deep. Partial excavation of the barrow in 1959 produced Iron Age pottery and associated flintwork suggesting that the barrow may be contemporary with the hillfort or with the two earlier settlement enclosures. Excavation also suggested that the barrow was later re-used as the site of a post-medieval building. The hillfort is defined by a rampart c.1.5m high and c.5m wide, surrounded by a ditch c.1m deep from which material was quarried during the construction of the bank. The ditch is flanked by sections of an external bank c.0.5m high on the northern, southern, and eastern sides of the site. This is likely to have been designed as a counter-scarp to further enhance the defences of the site at the points where it was most vulnerable. There are three entrances to the site but the original is most likely to be in the south-west. Partial excavations at the site in 1958 by J Hunt recovered Early Iron Age pottery from the inner rampart. Additional finds from the site include Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age flintwork and a bronze looped palstave. All fence posts relating to the field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling, although the underlying ground 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
Hunt, J, 'Search, the journal of the Banwell society of Archaeology' in Banwell Camp 1960 Excavations, (1962), 11
Hunt, J, 'Banwell Camp 1960 Excavations' in Excavation of a possible hut site (1960), (1962), 11
Hunt, J, 'Somerset and Dorset Notes Queries' in Excavations at Banwell Camp, , Vol. 27, (1961), 28-34
Details of finds from the site (Banwell Camp), Details of finds from the site (Banwell Camp),
Interpretation of building foundation, Interpretation of building foundation (Banwell Camp),
Mention of summer house, Mention of summer house (Banwell Camp),


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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