Flower's Barrow: a small multivallate hillfort and associated outwork on Rings Hill


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.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
East Lulworth
Dorset (Unitary Authority)
Steeple with Tyneham
National Grid Reference:
SY 86455 80595

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Despite a third of the hillfort having been removed by coastal erosion, the small multivallate hillfort known as Flower's Barrow survives well and is a good example of its class. The monument is known from limited excavations to contain archaeological remains both within the ramparts and in the interior; environmental evidence will also survive relating to the economy of the site's inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.


The monument includes a small multivallate hillfort and an associated earthen outwork, situated on the cliff edge at the extreme western end of the Purbeck Hills. The ground around the hillfort falls away sharply to the west, north and south east, but only gently along the ridge to the east where, c.160m away, the associated outwork comprising an earthen bank and ditch is situated. The hillfort, the southern third of which has been removed by coastal erosion, has an internal area of c.2.64 ha. This was originally surrounded by two banks and associated ditches, each with a counterscarp beyond; these ramparts now only survive to the north, east and west giving the present extent of the hillfort a total area of 6.76ha. The original entrance to the interior of the hillfort is in its south east corner. Within the interior, a number of elliptical platforms can be seen, especially in the north east quadrant. These are thought to represent house platforms associated with the occupation of the site. The ramparts which define the interior, comprise inner and outer banks with associated ditches and a counterscarp beyond. The internal rampart is 1.5m above the floor of its inner quarry ditch, and 9m above the level of its external ditch. The outer bank is scarcely more than a scarp on the steep northern slope, but rises to 2.5m high on the level ground to the east. The counterscarp is 2m high. On the north side of the hillfort, the ramparts are all adjacent and run parallel with a maximum width of 60m. To the west and east, however, the two ramparts separate to create annexes containing level ground. The annexe on the east side of the hillfort also contains a linear earthwork which follows the alignment of the rampart. The total width of the ramparts and enclosed annexes in these areas extends to a maximum of 110m. It is possible that the areas were used for stock control. Beyond the hillfort to the east is an outwork comprising an earthen bank and ditch which runs parallel to the eastern rampart for a distance of c.90m. The bank survives to a height of c.0.75m while the ditch is c.1m deep and 5m across. This feature is believed to be associated with the hillfort's defences, acting as an additional rampart on the fort's more vulnerable eastern side. It may, however, have its origins as a Bronze Age cross-dyke which was subsequently reused to strengthen the defence of the hillfort. Limited excavations of the site produced, in the early 19th century, a human skeleton, said to be of abnormal length, from beneath the inner rampart, and in 1939, a pit within the entrance containing bone refuse, sling stones and 60 sherds of Iron age pottery. The post and wire fences and yellow painted wooden posts which demarcate the footpath, the wooden styles, the wooden and metal posts bearing warning notices, the post and wire protective fences, the antiquity stars signs, the stone marker in the eastern entrance, the wooden fire stand and the concrete structure to the south of the entrance between the inner and outer ditches are all excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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Books and journals
Pennie, J F, A Tale of Modern Genius, (1827)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , County of Dorset , (1970)
Pagination 44, Calkin, J B, (1948)


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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