West Hills multivallate hillfort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011291

Date first listed: 26-Nov-1932

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Oct-1993


Ordnance survey map of West Hills multivallate hillfort
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Rothbury

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Thropton

National Grid Reference: NU 03793 02088

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of national importance.

The hillfort at West Hills survives reasonably well with little sign of major disturbance. It is one of several hillforts overlooking the River Coquet and it will contribute to any study of later prehistoric settlement and activity along this river valley.


The monument includes a hillfort of Iron Age date situated on the outermost edge of a hill spur commanding extensive views south and west over the Coquet valley. The hillfort, roughly circular in shape, measures 50m in diameter within multiple ramparts and a medial ditch; it has total dimensions of 130m east-west by 140m north-south. There is a well preserved inner rampart standing up to 1.5m high and surrounded by a flat, broad berm ranging from 6m to 16m across. Beyond this there is a double rampart constructed of earth and stone separated by a ditch 12m across. On the north and east sides the double rampart survives to a height of 1.5 metres above the deeply hollowed ditch but it becomes less pronounced towards the southern end of the site. There are three gaps through the ramparts on the east side of the hillfort, two of which measure 33m across and appear to be associated with staggered entrances and corresponding gaps through the inner rampart: they represent the sites of original entrances. The ramparts have been totally flattened on the north-west side by cultivation at some time in the past; those on the west side are denuded by cultivation but can still be detected as slight earthworks. There are no visible traces of the houses and yards within the interior but they survive as buried features. The hillfort is truncated at its north-western corner by a field boundary, beyond which no trace of it survives. Excluded from the scheduling are the field walls which run alongside the track which dissects the hillfort on its west side, all old gateposts and the concrete drainage feature situated at the southern end of the site but the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 20880

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
MacLaughlan, H, Additional Notes on Roman Roads in Northumberland, (1867), 82-83
Jobey, G, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland, (1965)
No. 2250,

End of official listing