Caer Caradoc large multivallate hillfort, associated causeway and Caractacus' Cave on the summit of Caer Caradoc Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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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 national importance.

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.

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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.

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