Reasons for Designation
The fort at Norton survives as a good example of its class despite
agricultural use and alteration of the defences. The hollow ways approaching
it are rare on a site of this scale. Small excavations have shown that
deposits from the Neolithic to the Romano-British periods survive at the
site, and aerial photographs reveal that a concentration of enclosures and
settlement features is present beneath the ground.
Excavation has also shown that underlying the Iron Age deposits is a Middle
Bronze Age enclosure. Such enclosures are very rare with less than
ten examples known nationally, and these provide an important record of the
Such evidence as is available suggests that they were important sites located
on the boundary of several ecological zones, providing a contact point for
different socio-political groups. It seems likely that this role was carried
on into the Iron Age at Norton, as the site lay on the border between two main
Aerial photographs indicate a henge-type monument 1km to the north,
emphasising the continuity of this `central place' from Neolithic to Iron Age
times. Local folklore has it that Norton was a town of some importance before
nearby Taunton was in existence.
The monument includes a large univallate hillfort on a shallow knoll in an
undulating lowland vale, and three deep trackways leading to it. The site has
a commanding but not strong elevation, with views to the distant surrounding
Small excavations have shown that predating the hillfort is a smaller
enclosure of Middle Bronze Age date.
The hilltop, covering c.5.2ha, is encircled by a broad-topped bank having an
external face of up to 3m high, and averaging 1m high internally. The
excavations confirmed an external ditch which is still faintly visible in
places as a terrace or a shallow hollow. The ramparts have been eroded by
later agriculture, and along the south west only a scarp remains. Later field
banks run around the foot of the bank, and along the top of it in places. A
short stretch of outer bank on the west has been shown to belong to the
earlier Bronze Age phase.
The area enclosed forms an elongated circle, with the brow of the hill on the
west, and a small valley on the east, which perhaps at one time contained a
spring providing a water supply.
The interior of the fort is approached by three hollow ways up to 6m deep,
from the WSW, north, and south east, ending a short way inside the
ramparts. That from the WSW is broadest and deepest, and divides into two
below the rampart. There is now a steep face at the end of these ways into the
fort, but aerial photographs show that they originally extended into the
interior, and they have been partially blocked by agricultural levelling, and
possibly by the collapse of entranceworks such as bridges or gateways.
There are a number of other gaps in the ramparts, of which most are modern,
but excavation indicated that the entrance on the west, which appeared to be
on the site of an entrance to the previous Bronze Age enclosure, may have
continued in use in the initial hillfort. On the eastern side of the fort is
an opposite gap, now overgrown, and in its original form the fort may have had
a more usual arrangement of opposing east/west entrances.
Where the small valley crosses the defences on the east there is a broad gap,
closed by the later field bank, and it seems that this was an access into the
interior at some stage.
Small-scale excavations on the western edge of the hillfort have revealed
occupation phases from Neolithic to Romano-British. An Early Neolithic
presence is indicated by finds of flint scrapers, knives and pottery. Aerial
photographic evidence of a Neolithic henge 1km to the north hints at the area
being a ritual centre.
In the Middle Bronze Age, the top of the hill was enclosed by a ditch with an
external bank and perhaps also an internal bank. This Middle Bronze Age phase
is dated by pottery and a hoard of bronze axes and bracelets, and the site
appears to have been in permanent occupation.
The third phase was represented by Early Iron Age pottery of a type generally
found further east. The main hillfort was constructed in the later Iron Age,
as a defence for the inhabitants and their livestock. It seems likely that the
earlier importance of the site was continued, as the hillfort lay on the
border between the Durotriges tribe of the Dorset area and the Dumnonii of
Devon and Cornwall. The ditch was recut close to the time of the Roman
The sunken ways approaching the fort date from the Late Iron Age to early
Romano-British, and are unusual for a site of this size. The
nearest parallels occur on smaller sites in Cornwall where they are
interpreted as droveways for livestock into the fort.
Occupation continued in the early Roman period, with large amounts of
Romano-British pottery from items such as cooking pots, dishes, and storage
jars. Gullies, pits and hearths date from this period, and iron slag suggests
that smelting was taking place. Aerial photographs have shown a complex of
sub-square and circular enclosures beneath the ground within the interior of
the fort, which are Romano-British in form.
The site seems to have been abandoned by c.AD 100, as later Romano-British
finds are absent
In later history a legend of a dragon is associated with the fort, and such
legends may refer to an occupying West Saxon army, whose standard was a
dragon. Local folklore also has it that 'When Taunton was a furzey down,
Norton was a market town'.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and sign-boards, though the
ground beneath them is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.