Bury Ditches, a small multivallate hillfort on the summit of Sunnyhill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010320

Date first listed: 13-Jan-1932

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Jan-1995


Ordnance survey map of Bury Ditches, a small multivallate hillfort on the summit of Sunnyhill
© 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.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Lydbury North

National Grid Reference: SO 32738 83738


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

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Bury Ditches small multivallate hillfort is a fine example of its class. The defences are particularly well preserved and the two entrances show many details of design which are not commonly found in such good condition. The ramparts will contain archaeological evidence relating to methods of construction employed in creating the defences and to the occupation of the site. The interior of the enclosure will also contain archaeological deposits and structures relating to the occupation of the site. Evidence important to an understanding of the environment in which the site was constructed and the economy of its inhabitants will survive sealed on the old land surface beneath the ramparts.


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


The monument includes Bury Ditches, a small multivallate hillfort situated on Sunnyhill, a small but steep sided hill at the north west end of Clunton Hill. The hillfort is positioned strategically on the summit of the hill to overlook falling ground on all sides. It is roughly oval in plan with maximum dimensions of 374m south west to north east by 260m transversely with an enclosed area of 3.3ha. The defences are designed to take maximum advantage of the topography and include an elaborate system of earthwork ramparts and ditches which appear to represent several episodes of construction. Around the south and south east sides of the hill where the natural hillslope is at its most precipitous, forming a natural barrier to any approach from this direction, the man-made defences are at their simplest, being formed by two ramparts only. They are at their most massive south of the east entrance, where both banks rise 4.4m on their outer faces and 1.9m on their inner. The inner of the two ramparts maintains these dimensions throughout its length. The outer fades in its middle section before being reinstated towards the west entrance to an outer height of 2m and an inner one of 1m. Around the northern and north western side of the hill, where the natural slopes are less steep and access to the hilltop is easier, the artificial defences are made more elaborate. Here, four and in places, five, successive banks with intervening ditches create a formidable set of defences. The innermost of these, lying on the upper slope of the hill and separated from the lower ramparts by a berm up to 12m wide, was probably the last rampart to be built; it rises 1.8m on its inner face and 3.6m on its outer. The remaining ramparts step down the hillslope, averaging 2m in height on their inner faces and 4m on their outer. Towards the western entrance the third and fourth ramparts merge into one single bank, reducing the defences to three ramparts and an outer ditch. All of the defences show very steep profiles with little collapse, indicating a high stone content in their construction. This is confirmed where the inner fabric is exposed by erosion. There are two original entrances positioned at the south east and west corners of the hillfort, both being particularly well defined and undisturbed. The eastern is a fine example of an inturned entrance formed by a deep inturning of the inner southern rampart and the two inner northern ramparts to form a narrow passage 70m long and 2m wide. Such inturned entrances were developed to ensure that any approach to the interior of the fort could be overlooked from above. The western entrance uses a different design to achieve the same result. Here the outer ramparts from the north wrap around and overlap those from the south to form a deeply funnelled entrance running between the banks for 90m. Both of these entrances are sophisticated structures, probably originally guarded by gatehouses and seemingly representing the final state of development of the hillfort. The interior of the enclosure has been afforested in the past, though it is now clear of trees. Several scooped hollows against the inner slope of the inner rampart in the north of the site may represent the sites of buildings or other structures connected with the occupation of the site. All modern boundary features, the guide post in the eastern quarter of the site and toposcope in the northern quarter, are excluded from the scheduling, though the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


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

Legacy System number: 19168

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing