Maiden Castle promontory fort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008844

Date first listed: 14-Dec-1926

Date of most recent amendment: 01-Jul-1994


Ordnance survey map of Maiden Castle promontory fort
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This copy shows the entry on 14-Dec-2018 at 14:59:13.


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

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: NZ 28297 41697


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

Reasons for Designation

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone- walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally important.

Maiden Castle is well preserved and retains significant archaeological remains. Defended prehistoric settlements are uncommon in County Durham and this monument will add to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric settlement and activity in the area.


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


Maiden Castle Iron Age hillfort is situated astride a precipitous promontory above the River Wear, protected on all but the western side by steep natural slopes. Orientated east-west, the fort measures a maximum of 180m by 75m and is protected on the western side, where natural defence is weak, by an earthen rampart with an external ditch. The rampart is visible as a scarp 3m high and is separated from the ditch by a broad berm. Slight traces of a counterscarp bank are visible inside the rampart towards its southern end. An original entrance is thought to lie at the northern end of the western side where there is a break in the ditch. Limited excavation of part of the western rampart in 1956 revealed that it was originally constructed of clay, revetted with cobbles and capped with a wooden palisade. At a later date the inner side of the rampart was removed and a stone revetting wall was built and subsequently wooden stakes were added to the wall in order to strengthen it; these stakes were burnt when the fort was later abandoned. A medieval mason's mark was discovered on one of the stones which formed the later stone revetment wall, implying some form of reuse of the prehistoric hillfort during the medieval period.

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: 25011

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Thomas, N, Guide to Prehistoric England, (1960), 111
Jarrett, M G, 'Trans Durham and Northumberland A and AS 11' in , (1956), 124-27
NZ 28 SE 38,

End of official listing