Bury Castle, an Iron Age defended settlement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008808

Date first listed: 04-Apr-1949

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Aug-1994


Ordnance survey map of Bury Castle, an Iron Age defended settlement
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Nov-2018 at 09:27:40.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset (District Authority)

Parish: Selworthy

National Park: EXMOOR

National Grid Reference: SS 91744 47171


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Bury Castle survives as a good and well-preserved example of its class, with an associated cross-ridge work which is a feature of several broadly contemporary monuments in the region.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a small enclosure representing an Iron Age defended settlement with an additional cross-ridge defence on the uphill west side, situated on the tip of a spur. The site lies above a steep drop on two sides, but occupies only part of the width of the spur, leaving a gentler approach to the south west. The enclosure is sub-rectangular in plan with slightly curving sides and rounded corners. The long axis lies north east to south west. It has an internal area of 0.21ha, enclosed by univallate earthworks. The defences are greatest on the upper sides, consisting of a bank up to 2m high and outer ditch up to 2m deep, forming an external face 1.7m high. On the lower sides use is made of the natural slope which has been scarped to form a bank 0.2m high above a drop of 1.8m, with a slight outer terrace. The earthworks have a steep, well preserved profile. The most likely original entrance is in the centre of the north eastern side where there is a disturbed area consisting of a gap in the rampart and a mound of stone extending out from the interior of the enclosure, truncating the ditch which turns out along it. This may represent a tumbled out-turned entrance or collapsed gatehouse. Uphill from this there is a counterscarp bank outside the ditch. The present entrance on the south west appears to have been created by a modern trackway over the ramparts. Uphill, 32m above the enclosure, is a cross-ridge work with two arms meeting at a shallow point on the crest of the ridge. The north east arm, 45m long, runs parallel to the top side of the enclosure, and the second arm runs south from this for 45m. It is formed of a bank c.2m high and external ditch c.2m deep, of similar proportions to the upper side of the enclosure, forming an external face 2.5m high. On the north east this work runs to the edge of the hill and turns briefly towards the enclosure as a scarp and terrace. A length of natural scarp completes the gap between the two. On the south, however, the work ends well short of the edge of the hill, suggesting that approach was intended from this direction. There is a gap through the cross-work immediately south of the apex, consisting of a shallowing of the ditch and lowering of the bank, but this appears to be modern. The cross-work may have defined an outer enclosure, but a more likely purpose was to provide better visibility both from and of the site along the uphill approach. Such cross-works covering the otherwise blind approach to a defended site are a feature of several sites in the region. The outer edge of the cross-work ditch has been reused as the course of a later field enclosure bank, and it has been faced with dry stone walling. Redundant field banks are present around the site and date from the post-medieval or early modern period. Excluded from the scheduling are the interpretation signs, though the ground beneath is included.

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: 24025

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing