King's Castle enclosures, Iron Age defended settlement


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of King's Castle enclosures, Iron Age defended settlement
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
St. Cuthbert Out
National Grid Reference:
ST 56882 45641

Reasons for Designation

During the Iron Age a variety of different types of settlement were constructed and occupied in south-western England. At the top of the settlement hierarchy were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these a group of smaller sites, known as defended settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others in less prominent positions. They are generally smaller than the hillforts, sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction. Univallate sites have a single bank and ditch, multivallate sites more than one. At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Where excavated, evidence of stone- or timber-built houses has been found within the enclosures, which, in contrast to the hillfort sites, would have been occupied by small communities, perhaps no more than a single family group. Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element of the settlement pattern, particularly in the upland areas of south-western England, and are integral to any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during this period. All well-preserved examples are likely to be identified as nationally important.

King's Castle survives as a good example of its class, and represents an unusual variation. It is associated with broadly contemporary field systems along the ridge to the east.


The monument includes an Iron Age defended settlement formed of two connected enclosures separated by a partly open area. The site occupies the flat crest of an elongated hill which forms the western end of a ridge outlying the Mendip Hills. The site includes a well-defined enclosure on the west tip of the hill, a larger less well-defined secondary enclosure on the east, and a similar sized area of land between the two, open-sided to the north. The main enclosure is of sub-circular plan with a rampart 0.7m high and external ditch 0.5m deep across the ridge, which become a rampart up to 0.5m high enclosing the tip of the hill behind, with internal quarry ditches on the north and south. The area enclosed is 0.38ha. The entrance to the interior consists of a simple causeway and gap 4.5m wide on the top of the ridge on the east. Facing this enclosure about half-way along the ridge is a cross-ridge work with a bank 0.4m high and a ditch 0.5m deep on its west. This has an entrance on the top of the ridge, consisting of a simple causeway and gap 3m wide. To the north of this entrance there is a low counterscarp bank outside the ditch and a shallow ditch behind the main bank. Behind this cross-work to the east is the secondary enclosure of 0.64ha. This consists, along the north and south sides, of a terrace or double scarp, up to 4m broad and 0.7m deep on the south east though shallower on the north and absent for a short stretch behind the cross-bank on the south. At the far end of the southern side the terrace gradually becomes a ditch 0.3m deep with external bank 0.5m high, turning in to form part of the eastern end of the enclosure. The same happens on the north side though the features are less well pronounced and the change more abrupt. The two banks join at a staggered junction at which the southern bank turns east to run along the ridge of the hill for 40m. There is no apparent gap at this end of the earthworks. The hill becomes constricted to a neck at this point beyond which the hilltop opens out again, and there are further earthworks of a field system and cross-work which are broadly contemporary with the site, though for the purposes of scheduling are treated as a separately. The terrace defining the southern side of the enclosure continues westwards beyond the cross-work towards the main enclosure, creating an open sided space between the two, delimited on the north side by the natural scarp of the hill. A trackway 6m broad, terraced into the hillside, leads up into this area, entering it on the north west under the lee of the main enclosure. The interior of the site is uneven in places, due partly to later small scale limestone digging or prospecting pits, but possible hut circles are present within both enclosures. There is also a more modern small rectangular drystone ruin in the east ditch of the main enclosure. A ruined wall of drystone boulders runs up along the centre of the approach trackway and along the northern edge of the site.

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.

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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.

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