Belsar's Hill ringwork


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Belsar's Hill ringwork
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Sep-2019 at 10:53:11.


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

South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 42290 70260

Reasons for Designation

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60 with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period.

Belsar's Hill is a very well preserved example of a medieval ringwork incorporated into a later medieval field system. The ringwork is well documented historically and, unusually, provides evidence of earlier use in the Prehistoric period as a fortified Iron Age site. The later medieval cultivation earthworks, which overlie the site, are an important source of information on the dating of the ringwork and will have sealed below ground remains of the interior. The remains of the field system and medieval trackway indicate the complex and changing patterns of land use in rural East Anglia throughout the medieval period.


Belsar's Hill is a medieval ringwork, constructed on top of a Prehistoric enclosure and with associated remains of part of a medieval field system. The ringwork is an oval, measuring about 265m by 220m. The defences consist of an outer ditch, 10-15m wide and up to 1.5m deep, with an internal bank. Although generally dry, the ditch bottom is damp and carries a small stream along its south-east arm. The bank is up to 4m high on the north east side, falling to around 2m on the west, and is very slight on the south east side. A green lane runs across the monument on a north easterly alignment and where it crosses the perimeter of the ringwork the line of the bank and ditch can be traced as undulations about 1m deep. An entrance is located at the north east, adjacent to the lane, where there is a gap in the defences and the ditch is splayed outwards. A straight bank, 40m long and 0.5m high, flanks the east side of the entrance. A second entrance is marked by a causeway on the north side. Following the abandonment of the fortification, both the interior and exterior were incorporated into a field system. Evidence for this medieval farming activity is identified by the presence of ridges-and-furrows, both inside and outside the ringwork, which respect the perimeter of the defences and the line of the green lane. The green lane is itself a medieval trackway, bounded on each side by a low bank or headland. The track forms part of the medieval road to Ely, the `Aldreth Causeway', and the ringwork is considered to have been built as a temporary camp by William the Conqueror during the assault on that town. It is considered that the ringwork was adapted from the remains of an earlier Iron Age camp.

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


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Taylor, A, Castles of Cambridgeshire, (1990)
'C.A.C. Annual Report, 1984-5' in C.A.C. Annual Report, 1984-5, (1985)
Evans, C., CAU Excavation Report:- Arbury Banks, (1990)
Ordnance Survey , Ordnance Survey Record,
Paterson, H., EH record: file AA 40613/01, AM 107, (1983)
Taylor, A, (1991)


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.

End of official listing

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