Small multivallate hillfort on Drakelow Hill, 250m west of Solcum Farm

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1010721
Date first listed:
10-Oct-1995
Date of most recent amendment:
04-Jun-2019
Location Description:
Drakelow Hill, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, NGR: SO 82183 80884

Map

Ordnance survey map of Small multivallate hillfort on Drakelow Hill, 250m west of Solcum Farm
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Location

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

Location Description:
Drakelow Hill, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, NGR: SO 82183 80884
County:
Worcestershire
District:
Wyre Forest (District Authority)
Parish:
Wolverley and Cookley
National Grid Reference:
SO 82183 80884

Summary

An Iron Age settlement of the small multivallate hillfort type. It is likely to be of post-C4 date but with evidence of earlier occupation or use, and survives with earthworks in the form of substantial ramparts.

Reasons for Designation

The small multivallate hillfort on Drakelow Hill, 250m west of Solcum Farm is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period: small multivallate hillforts are highly representative of the Iron Age and very significant for giving us a better understanding of the nature of settlement and social organisation during this period; * Survival: Drakelow Hill is an important Iron Age hillfort settlement which survives well in the form of substantial earthwork remains, despite ploughing over many years, and is a good surviving example of this class of hillfort; * Potential: archaeological material will survive within the interior of the site as indicated by the find of part of an Iron Age rotary quern. Environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which the site was constructed will survive on the old land surface sealed beneath the banks and in the ditch fill. There is the potential for deposits that will contain important archaeological information relating to the phasing of the settlement, the methods of construction and the lifestyles of its inhabitants. The discovery of Roman and pre-Roman remains offers the opportunity to study the continuity of settlement in this location over a long time span and enhances the significance of the monument; * Group value: the monument is part of a wider archaeological landscape of Iron Age settlements with earlier origins on Kinver Edge. Such hillforts, when considered in relationship to adjacent monuments, such as the univallate hillfort at the northern end of Kinver Edge, provide important information concerning the settlement pattern, social structure and economy of the area during the Iron Age.

History

From about 400 BC and through the Iron Age period, ‘developed’ hillforts with bivallate and multivallate earthworks, forming several lines of defences, were constructed. Known as small multivallate hillforts they are fortified enclosures of varying shape responding to the contours of the land they occupied, and generally between 1 and 5 hectares in size. Located on hilltops, small multivallate hillforts are defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. They are generally regarded as settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis and their construction may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Most small multivallate hillforts are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west.

The small multivallate hillfort on Drakelow Hill, 250m west of Solcum Farm is a clearly identifiable example of this type of Iron Age settlement, despite some historic ploughing to the hilltop. Its date of construction is uncertain although the archaeological finds and features identified during limited investigation on the site broadly support a mid-Iron Age date (post-C4 BC). There appears to have been pre-and post-Iron Age activity on the hilltop.

In June 1941 tunnel excavation work into the sandstone hill began as part of the construction of an underground aircraft factory for the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP). The consulting engineers on the project were Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners. It formed part of the ‘shadow factories’ scheme, initially devised in 1935, to help transfer technology from the motor car industry to aircraft construction. By 1940 the programme also aimed to secure the country’s industrial capabilities in the face of enemy attack as part of a dispersal scheme. The damage to Rover’s Helen Street works in Coventry by the bombing of 14 November 1940 precipitated a search for dispersed factory accommodation and six months later Rover was encouraged by MAP to consider the proposed underground factory at Drakelow for part of their production. However, Rover was less than enthusiastic, especially as completion of construction and fitting out was considerably delayed, and declined to use the entire site, with parts eventually being used by the RAF for storage. However, Rover production was underway by May 1943 and the site became officially known as Rover Number 1D Shadow Factory. Changes to the types of aircraft engines being developed, and technical problems, meant that the Drakelow factory struggled to operate efficiently although production continued until 1955. The site was then transferred to the Ministry of Supply.

In the late 1950s the Home Office converted part of the underground factory to a Regional Seat of Government (RSG9) as part of the civil planning in the event of a nuclear attack. The site remained in this use as the national response tactics changed and evolved through the Cold War, and the facility was adapted accordingly. In the mid-1990s the majority of the fittings in the former factory and Cold War facility were removed and the site was sold into private ownership. Ancillary buildings and structures on the wider site related to the shadow factory have since been removed.

The monument above has been ploughed and a radio mast and brick buildings in a fenced off area were built on the hillfort in the C20.

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the monument includes the remains of a small multivallate hillfort with an internal area of approximately 2 hectares situated on a small but steep sided promontory at the southern end of Kinver Edge. There are substantial earthwork ramparts to the monument.

The hillfort is part of the wider archaeological landscape that includes the similar hillfort at the northern end of Kinver Edge, and provides important information concerning the settlement pattern, social structure and economy of the area during the Iron Age.

DETAILS: the hillfort has earthwork ramparts that include two substantial cross-banks which curve north west to south east across the neck of the spur to terminate at either end on precipitous natural slopes; these form the east side of the hillfort. Around the remaining three sides of the promontory the site relies solely on the natural steepness of the hill for defence.

The overall dimensions of the hillfort are 230m east to west by 160m north to south. The ramparts have been considerably reduced in height and spread by the action of ploughing over the years so that today the uphill, more southerly bank stands 0.5m high on its uphill side, 1.7m on its downhill side and is spread to 28m wide. Below this bank is a 21m wide berm which merges with the lower bank to fall 1.7m to the natural hillslope. In their original form there would have been two banks with a ditch between. The lower half of a rotary quern, belonging to the Iron Age period and used for grinding grain to make flour, has been found on the site along with several undated but potential Iron Age features near the summit, a single fragment of Iron Age pottery and residual Roman and prehistoric finds.

To the west of the monument is a C20 radio mast and brick building on a concrete base in a fenced enclosure.

EXCLUSIONS: the fence around the radar/ radio installations and the structures and ground within it are totally excluded from the scheduling. All metalled surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included to a depth of 10.9 metres. The underlying tunnel complex that was dug below the monument in 1941-1943 as part of a Ministry of Aircraft Production factory on the site is excluded. The maximum height of the tunnels above ground level at the foot of the hill is 5.89 metres.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number:
19144
Legacy System:
RSM

Sources

Books and journals
McCamley, N J, Secret Underground Cities, (2000), 219-226
McCamley, N, Subterranean Britain: Second World War Secret Bunkers, (2014), 190-197
Websites
Drakelow Tunnels: Rover No.1D Shadow Factory - Drakelow, accessed 03/04/2019 from https://www.drakelow-tunnels.co.uk/rover-shadow-factory.php
Subterranea Britannica - Site Records: Drakelow, accessed 02/04/2019 from http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/d/drakelow/
Other
Archaeological Watching Brief at Drakelow Hillfort, Wolverley and Cookley, Worcestershire (Report 893), Worcester: Worcestershire County Council Archaeological Service, 2001

Legal

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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