Boltby Scar promontory fort and two round barrows


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Boltby Scar promontory fort and two round barrows
© 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.

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SE 50615 85648

Reasons for Designation

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone- walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally important.

Despite partial reduction by ploughing this promontory fort survives reasonably well and will retain significant information about its date, form and function. This fort is one of a series of similar sites along the western escarpment of the Hambleton Hills. Together they form a network of small defended settlements in commanding positions, designed to protect their inhabitants and perhaps defend larger land holdings. They also have importance in demonstrating the prestige of their builders. They thus provide evidence of the nature and stability of settlement and society in the late prehistoric period. Unusually this example is clearly associated with a system of linear earthworks and will contribute to the analysis of how the wider landscape was subdivided. Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the landscape and they provide important information about the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. The two barrows within the fort remain identifiable and will retain information on their original form and the burials placed within them. They predate the promontory fort and demonstrate the changing use of the area over time.


The monument includes an Iron age promontory fort and two round barrows situated in a prominent position on the west edge of Hambleton Down. The fort has a well defined rampart and ditch, and occupies a slight westward projection of the escarpment. The rampart and ditch describe an arc across the spur linking the almost vertical cliff face. The eastern section of the monument lies within arable land and the ramparts here have been reduced by agricultural activity but are still visible on aerial photographs and as a slight uneveness of the ground surface. Prior to the levelling of the earthworks in this field in 1961 there was an earthwork bank and ditch with an entranceway at the east. Between the cliff and the western boundary of the field which lies east of the cliff edge a total length of about 55m of earthworks is preserved, 15m at the south and 40m at the north. To the north the surviving rampart is 4m wide and 1m high, and the ditch is 3m wide and 1m deep. In the southern section the rampart is preserved as a low bank with an external ditch 3.5m wide and 0.8m deep. Excavations through the ramparts revealed a partial stone construction and rubble upcast from the ditch. Two gold basket shaped earrings were also found. There is a rectangular platform, 20m long and 12m wide, with a surrounding ditch enclosed within the ramparts near the scarp edge. This was originally regarded as a barrow although it is no longer considered to be so; however its purpose remains obscure. Two round barrows are enclosed within the rampart, both in the eastern area now given over to arable. One barrow has a mound, round in shape, 15m in diameter and 1.5m high. This mound was surrounded by a ditch up to 3m wide which has become filled in over the years and is no longer visible as an earthwork. Antiquarian excavations in antiquity have left a large hole 2.5m across and 1.5m deep in the centre of the mound. The second barrow has been much reduced by agricultural activity and is no longer visible as an earthwork. In the 1930s the barrow mound was 6m in diameter when it was excavated to reveal a cremation burial. The fort is associated with a system of late prehistoric linear earthworks which extend for 9km along the western escarpment of the Hambleton Hills, dividing the landscape into discrete units. There are a number of promontory forts along the northern and western escarpment of the Hambleton Hills. They were local foci and provide evidence of the consolidation of settlement and social organisation in the late prehistoric period. As such they can be contrasted with the more dispersed hut circle settlements also found on the North York Moors and which are of a broadly contemporary date. The wall and fence crossing the monument are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
Spratt, D A, 'The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Cleave Dyke System, , Vol. VOL 54, (1984), 33-54
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. BAR 104, (1992), 116
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. BAR 104, (1990), 116
Pacitto, FMW report, (1985)


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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