Caer Caradoc large multivallate hillfort, associated causeway and Caractacus' Cave on the summit of Caer Caradoc Hill
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
- Church Stretton
- National Grid Reference:
- SO 47753 95155
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
Caer Caradoc large multivallate hillfort survives well and is a fine example of its class. The earthworks are unusual in the area in their incorporation of natural rock outcrops into the defences. The apparent `gangwork' nature of the ditch construction, which offers an insight into how labour was organised, is also an unusual feature of the monument. The eastern entrance, with its well engineered causeway surviving in good condition is another unusual feature of this site. All the earthwork elements of the site will contain archaeological information concerning their design and method of construction. They will also contain cultural material relating to the occupation of the site. The interior of the hillfort, which is undisturbed, will also contain valuable archaeological information relating to the occupation of the site. Environmental material relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed and the economy of its inhabitants will survive in the various ditch fills and sealed on the old land surfaces beneath the ramparts. From its position and strength, the hillfort must be considered as of pre-eminence in the area and, when considered in relation to other lesser structures of the same period which occur in the vicinity, the site contributes important information relating to the settlement pattern, economy and social organisation of the area during the Iron Age period.
The monument includes Caer Caradoc camp, a large multivallate hillfort with
associated causeway and Caractacus' Cave. Both the hillfort and cave are named
by tradition after the legendary first century AD Welsh chieftain Caractacus.
The hillfort is situated on the strategically strong summit of Caer Caradoc
Hill, a distinctive, steep-sided hill of volcanic origin rising to a height of
460m on the east side of Church Stretton valley. The hillfort lies orientated
along the spine of the hill and has overall dimensions of 450m south west to
north east by 160m transversely with a total enclosed area of 3ha. The
defences of the hillfort are designed to enhance the natural strength of the
hilltop position. They include inner and outer ramparts, separated by on
average 28m of falling ground and are well defined around most of the hilltop,
in places incorporating natural rock outcrops into the defensive circuit to
encircle the hill summit. The inner rampart represents the earliest phase of
the defences and is well defined around the north east, north and western
flanks of the hill. It has been constructed by cutting back into the natural
hillslope, so creating a steep outer face up to 8m high and a lower inner face
some 1.5m high. A shallow linear ditch averaging 7m wide and 0.8m deep runs
alongside the inner face of the bank, it is stepped along the line of the
ditch as a series of hollows. It appears to be the remains of the quarry ditch
for the inner bank, material being thrown downslope to form the bank. The
stepping may indicate how work was organised during the construction of the
rampart, each hollow being the work of a separate team. At its southern extent
the bank turns to the south east to cut across the neck of the hill and join
with a large basalt tor. From the north edge of this tor a short length of
bank curves to the north to form the south side of a simple inturned entrance
2.5m wide. A shallow oval platform set into the inner side of the bank, south
of the entrance, is believed to be the site of a guard chamber. The entrance
is approached by a well engineered causeway, 300m long and averaging 4m wide,
which climbs the hill from the north east.
To the north of the entrance the defences continue for 120m as a series of
well defined banks. These link the natural rock outcrops along the edge of the
precipitous east face of the hill to form a strong defensive wall. The natural
outcrops become less pronounced towards the north of the hill and a more
continuous inner rampart is established. The outer rampart also commences
here, running roughly parallel to the inner rampart around the north east,
north, west and south of the hillfort. Where it exists the outer rampart is
similar in form and construction to the inner; the natural hillslope has been
cut back to create an outer slope averaging 5m high with an inner slope 1.5m
high. A ditch averaging 6m wide and 0.8m deep runs along the inner face of the
bank, once again this is stepped in a series of pronounced linear hollows.
This would have served as a quarry ditch for the bank, the spoil being thrown
outwards. The scooping, here more pronounced than in the inner rampart, is
strongly indicative of a construction technique using a number of different
work gangs. There is no outer defence around the south east quarter of the
site where the natural topography makes it unecessary. The southern end of the
hillfort, where approach is possible along the more gentle southern end of the
ridge, is strengthened by a third outer bank. It curves for 80m across the
neck of the hill, joining the outcropping rock at the south east corner of the
site with the precipitous hillslope to the west. The bank stands up to 1.7m
high on its outer face and 1.5m high on its inner. The interior of the
hillfort, which comprises the narrow rocky summit of the hill, offers limited
scope for permanent occupation. However, a series of levelled platforms in the
south east quarter of the hillfort, north of the entrance, may represent the
site of buildings.
There is a clear emphasis on military considerations in the selection of the
site. The hilltop has difficult access and limited space for occupation but
does very effectively command the surrounding landscape. The construction of
the substantial earthworks on the hill would have required a considerable
effort of well organised labour. In the north west quarter of the hillfort,
adjacent to the inner face of the inner rampart (annotated on OS maps as a
well), is a small spring-fed pond. This water supply, within the defences of
the hillfort, may have encouraged the occupation of the site. In the
north western quarter of the monument, immediately adjacent to the outer
rampart, is the entrance to Caractacus' Cave, named by tradition after the
legendary Celtic warrior Caractacus or Caradoc. It has a keyhole-shaped
entrance 1.6m high and 1m wide and is 4.3m deep.
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Toghill, P, Geology in Shropshire, (1990), 24-26
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