Castlesteads small multivallate hillfort on The Helm


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.

South Lakeland (District Authority)
South Lakeland (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 53078 88749

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.

Castlesteads small multivallate hillfort is exceptionally small and demonstrates the variety in form of this class of monument. It survives well, remains largely unencumbered by modern development, and will retain evidence of the activities undertaken within the site and the methods utilised in its defence.


The monument includes Castlesteads small multivallate hillfort, located on the summit of The Helm. The ground falls steeply to the east and west of the monument and gradually to the north and south. It includes an enclosure measuring approximately 39m long by 17m wide at the southern end, widening to 25m wide at the northern end. Within the enclosure are three artificially levelled areas interpreted as being hut platforms. The smallest lies towards the southern end and measures c.3m square, the largest lies at the centre and measures c.15m by 3m, and the third lies close to the north western corner and measures c.11.5m by 3.5m. To the north the enclosure is defended by two earth and stone banks both measuring up to 2m high from the outside and separated by a ditch 8.5m wide. Abutting the north western part of the outside of the outer bank is a semicircular levelled area 17m in diameter. To the east of this, just beyond the outer bank, there are faint traces of a shallow ditch c.3m wide. To the south the enclosure is defended by a single earth and stone bank 6.5m wide by 1m high. A short distance to the north and south of the defensive earthworks there are two rock-cut basins interpreted as wells or dew-ponds to provide the monument's inhabitants with water. A survey of the monument undertaken in the early years of the 20th century noted faint traces of the defensive earthwork running along the east and west sides of the site, indicating that it had originally been completely enclosed. This earthwork has since eroded down the steep hillslope. A tumbled drystone wall and a post and wire fence crossing the monument are excluded from the scheduling, the ground beneath these features, however, is included. Also included within the scheduling is an Ordnance Survey triangulation station located within the hillfort's enclosure.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Three More Ancient Castles of Kendal, , Vol. VIII, (1908), 108-12


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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