Worlebury Camp: a large multivallate hillfort on Worlebury 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.
- North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 31282 62493
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
The large multivallate hillfort on Worlebury Hill is an outstanding example of its class. It survives well and is known from excavations to contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed and later reused. This example is unusual in terms of its location as hillforts on this scale are rarely situated on coastal promontories. This hillfort is one of a number of well preserved examples surviving in the area. Together, these will provide a detailed insight into Iron Age society in the area, its economy and the political and social structure of which it was a part.
The monument includes a large multivallate hillfort on Worlebury Hill, a
carboniferous limestone promontory orientated east to west and overlooking
Weston Bay to the south west, Sand Bay to the north east and an area of Levels
to the east.
The hillfort, known as Worlebury Camp, occupies the spur of Worlebury Hill and
has a level sub-rectangular interior with maximum dimensions of 690m from east
to west and 200m from north to south. In 1900 Dymand recorded the presence of
93 pits within the interior of the hillfort. These were found to contain human
and animal remains. Other finds including an Iron Age axehead, iron spearheads
and the beaded rim of a Glastonbury style pot were recovered by Warre during
his investigations conducted in the 1850s.
Surrounding the enclosed area are steep natural slopes to the south west and
west and cliffs with associated terracing to the north. In the southern area,
where the natural slopes are less steep, a single rampart defined the site.
This included a stone built bank which survives up to 8m wide and c.0.8m high.
The topography to the east is almost level with the hillfort and in order to
compensate for this a multivallate system of defences was developed. This
included a multiple set of ramparts of curvilinear form, comprising three
large stone-built banks with four smaller ramparts beyond. The inner bank is
the largest and is 10m wide and c.1.5m high. The six further banks become
progressively smaller and vary in size from 9m wide and c.1.2m high in the
west, to 2m wide and c.0.5m high in the east. All seven banks have external
ditches from which material was quarried during their construction. The two
innermost examples are 15m wide and c.1m deep, the remaining five become
progressively smaller to the east; these range between 10m wide and 0.8m deep
to 3m wide and c.0.5m deep. The maximum width of the ramparts at the eastern
end of the monument is 100m.
Neolithic flint arrowheads and flint axes recovered from the area suggest that
the hilltop was occupied before the Iron Age. There is also a fragment of a
rare cast bronze collar, dated to the Middle Bronze Age and which is likely to
represent a German import.
Following the period of Iron Age occupation and the construction of the
hillfort, further occupation of the hilltop can be attested during the
Romano-British period. During investigations at the site by Warre in the
1850s, a hoard of Roman coins dating to AD 450 were recovered along with a
quantity of Roman pottery, glass beads and fragments of bronze.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fence posts and benches although the
ground beneath all these features is included.
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
Lawson, A J, 'Proc Som Arch Nat Hist Soc' in An Imported Bronze Collar From Somerset, , Vol. 120, (1976), 109
Details of flintwork from the fort,
Details of pits recorded by Dymand,
Iron Age finds discovered by Warre,
Title: Plan of Worle Hill encampment Source Date: 1851 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Map of site
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