Reasons for Designation
A palisaded hilltop enclosure is a small defended site of domestic function
dating to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age (c.550-440 BC). Their
distribution is largely restricted to north-eastern England, the Borders and
southern Scotland. They are generally located on spurs, promontories or
hilltops covering areas of less then 0.4ha. The boundaries of these sites are
marked by single or double rock-cut trenches which originally formed the
settings for substantial palisades. Remains of circular buildings are found
within the palisaded areas, along with evidence for fenced stock enclosures.
Palisaded sites are the earliest type of defended settlements recorded in the
area and are thought to be a product of increasingly unsettled social
conditions in the later prehistoric period. They imply an extensive use of
timber, confirmation that large areas were heavily wooded at this time.
Although the palisades at individual sites may have undergone several phases
of replacement or refurbishment it is thought that the tradition of building
this type of site spanned only around 150 years. After this the use of earthen
banks and ditches to form the defensive perimeter became more common.
Excavation has demonstrated that at several sites the earthen defences were
preceded by timber palisades.
Palisaded enclosures are a rare monument type with fewer than 200 known
examples. They are an important element of the later prehistoric settlement
pattern and are important for any study of the developing use of defended
settlements during the later prehistoric period. All identified surviving
examples are believed to be nationally important.
Although not visible as earthworks, the monument at Staple Howe has been
recorded by partial excavation and was one of the first of such sites to be
identified. Further evidence of the structure of the palisade defences and of
dwellings and other structures within the enclosure survives below the
surface. Despite the fact that numerous burial sites and linear earthworks of
the Bronze and Iron Age periods have been identified on the Wolds, indicating
a large population in the area in prehistoric times, few settlement sites are
known. Staple Howe, which is the only positively identified site of its type
on the north edge of the Wolds, is therefore of considerable importance for
our understanding of settlement in the area during the Late Bronze and Early
The monument includes a Late Bronze/Early Iron Age palisaded hilltop enclosure
situated on a natural chalky knoll half way down the northern scarp of the
Wolds in Knapton Plantation. Separated from the main ridge of the Wold by a
deep ravine, the steep-sided knoll rises to 115m above sea level and is a
naturally defensive spot with commanding views over the Vale of Pickering and
the Carrs. The Wolds are known to be rich in prehistoric remains, including
Bronze and Iron Age linear earthworks and Early Bronze Age burial mounds.
Although the exposed and practically soil-less hilltop bears no visible traces
of the prehistoric settlement, the below-ground remains of the palisade
defences and some internal structures were identified during T C M Brewster's
excavations in the 1950s. Subsequent to the excavations, concrete markers
were inserted into the backfilled foundation pits of these structures to
indicate their position and a footpath was constructed up the west side of the
knoll to assist visitors' access.
Brewster's excavations revealed that the earliest defences comprised a
relatively lightly-built stockade near the top of the knoll and with three
minor entrances in addition to a main gateway on the south side. This
palisade was later replaced with a stronger one, located further down the
slope, on a line approximating to the 111m contour. The later defences were
remodelled on at least one occasion and comprised a stout timber revetment
packed behind with chalk. The southern entrance was maintained throughout the
life of the settlement but, presumably to increase the security of the
enclosure, only one entrance existed in the later phase. The internal
structures included the post-holes, hearths and floor surfaces of three huts,
and the foundations of a rectangular timber granary, raised on stilts. Among
the finds from the site were bronze razors of the 'Hallstatt C' type, objects
of jet, bone and antler, Bronze and Iron Age pottery, clay spindle whorls and
loom weights. Fragmentary human remains were also found.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.