Dolebury Camp: a large univallate hillfort and associated and later earthworks on Dolebury Warren
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1008184
Date first listed: 19-Dec-1929
Date of most recent amendment: 16-Feb-1994
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 45120 58958
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.
The large univallate hillfort on Dolebury Warren survives particularly well and contains archaeological and environmental information relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. This is the central and largest of three well preserved hillfort sites which occupy the carboniferous limestone ridges on the north-western fringe of the Mendip Hills. Together these sites will provide a detailed insight into the Iron Age societies or the area, their economy and political structure. The site was re-used as a rabbit warren in the medieval or post-medieval period.
The monument includes Dolebury Camp, a large univallate hillfort and
associated and later earthworks, on Dolebury Warren, a carboniferous limestone
ridge on the edge of the Mendip Hills, overlooking the Somerset Levels.
The hillfort has a sloping sub-rectangular interior 487.5m east-west by 200m
north-south. The eastern end of the fort is c.60m higher than the west and
the interior contains at least four medieval pillow mounds aligned north-south
and ranging from 50m to 150m in length and 0.5m high.
Surrounding the enclosed area is a single rampart comprising an inner bank
c.4m high and c.12m wide. This is bounded by a terrace c.5m wide on the south
side of the fort where there is a scarp slope, and elsewhere by an outer ditch
c.10m wide and c.1m deep with a counterscarp beyond.
The main entrance to the fort is located at the western end. Additional
earthworks, immediately beyond the western entrance, may be of later date and
include a hollow way linking the entrance with Dolebury Bottom immediately to
To the north-east of the hillfort is a series of outworks visible as earthwork
banks and depressions. The depressions are likely to represent rakes or
quarries. Beyond them is a slight linear bank c.0.3m high and c.1m wide with
an accompanying ditch c.1.2m wide and c.0.3m deep which runs north and then
west for a total of c.550m. This earthwork is interpreted as an outwork of
the hillfort, possibly unfinished, and encloses an area likely to contain
evidence for contemporary settlement and land-use.
Finds from the site demonstrate an extensive period of occupation, and include
Palaeolithic flintwork, Bronze Age pottery, a bronze spearhead and Roman coins
and pottery. In the post medieval period a series of pillow mounds were
constructed within the fort representing a rabbit warren. It was this that
gave Dolebury Warren its name.
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: 22823
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Hollinrake, C, N, , The Archaeology of Dolebury Warren, (1985)
Details of finds from the site, Details of finds from the site (Dolebury 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