Multivallate hillfort at Berth Hill

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009771

Date first listed: 30-Nov-1925

Date of most recent amendment: 03-Feb-1995

Map

Ordnance survey map of Multivallate hillfort at Berth Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

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

County: Staffordshire

District: Newcastle-under-Lyme (District Authority)

Parish: Maer

National Grid Reference: SJ 78754 39076

Summary

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

Reasons for Designation

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between 5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection of the power struggle between competing elites. Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts, oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered, for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens. Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture occurred on many sites. Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere. In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of national importance.

The hillfort at Berth Hill survives well and represents a good example of this class of monument. Despite partial excavation, buried features and artefactual evidence associated with the occupation and development of the hillfort will survive within the defensive ramparts and the site's interior. These internal structures and the defensive ditch will retain environmental evidence relating to the economy of the site's inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived. The earthwork and other remains of a 19th century ornamental landscape garden centred on the hillfort provide unusual information reflecting the contemporary preoccupation with archaeological sites and antiquity.

History

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

Details

The monument occupies a prominent sandstone outcrop on the south east periphery of Maer Hills, approximately 600m north west of Maer Hall, and includes the earthwork and buried remains of a multivallate Iron Age hillfort and the earthwork remains of a 19th century ornamental landscape garden. The hillfort has an irregular plan governed largely by the outline of the hill upon which it is located. The defensive earthworks enclose a central area of approximately 3.75ha and include an inner rampart and ditch, beyond which, in some sections, is a second rampart. The two ramparts have both been formed by a re-definition of the natural hillslope; the inner by a combination of cutting back into and building out over the hillside and the outer purely by a process of dumping. The flat-topped, inner rampart which measures up to 15m wide and rises to a height of 0.8m internally, is constructed of earth and stone. The rampart is a complex structure which retains evidence of a complex history of development. To the north, where the natural hillslope is less steep, there is an outer rampart, 10m wide and 1m high. A ditch, up to 10m wide, has been formed beyond the inner rampart. This earthwork is, in effect, a terracing and steepening of the natural hillslope. A low, discontinuous bank is visible, in parts, running along the outer lip of this terrace. Access into the interior of the hillfort is by means of causeways in the central part of the south west side and at the north end of the east defences. The former is a 2m-3m wide inturned or funnel entrance which was originally approached from the north west along a steep embanked causeway built along a gully. The second entrance is marked by a break in the inner rampart, although this area has been damaged by quarrying. A break in the north defences of the site is thought to be modern in date and is approached by a track which cuts through the outer defences at the north east corner of the site and climbs diagonally up the face of the hill. The west side of this entrance is revetted by a dry-stone wall which is thought to belong to the 19th century phase of the site's history when it was incorporated in a landscaped garden. No internal earthworks associated with the hillfort's occupation are visible, but the buried remains of structures will survive beneath the ground surface. A spring exists within the east part of the interior from which, during the 19th century, water was piped to Maer Hall and the village of Maer by a member of the Wedgewood family. An aqueduct which transported the water from the spring remains visible terraced into the east side of the hill and has damaged a section of the inner rampart in this area. This 19th century feature provides evidence for later alterations to the hillfort's east defences and is included in the scheduling. During the 19th century the hillfort's defences, particularly in the north and east parts of the site, were partly modified to create a series of garden walkways set within an ornamental landscape centred on the remains of the hillfort. In the north part of the site, a zig-zag pathway is visible leading to a small platform within the hillfort's defences. This platform is thought to have been created during the 19th century as a viewing area. A small grotto, carved with the date 1824, has been cut into the rock face in the north west part of the site and is thought to be associated with this phase in the site's history. These ornamental features are interesting evidence for the 19th century reuse of the site and are included in the scheduling. All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 21569

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
'Keele Archaeology Group Newsletter' in Hillfort at Berth Hill, , Vol. 6, (1966), 1
Challis, A J, Harding, D, 'BAR 20, Part 2' in Later Prehistory from the Trent to the Tyne, , Vol. 20, (1975), 45
Simms, B B, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Investigations of the Hillfort and Camp at Berth Hill, , Vol. 66, (1932), 91-100
Other
RCHME, SJ73NE7 : Berth Hill IA hillfort, (1974)

End of official listing