Promontory fort on Burton Point 550m south west of Burton Point Farm
- 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.
- Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SJ 30336 73568
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
The promontory fort on Burton Point survives well despite the quarry and trackway which have both cut into it. It is similar to Iron Age forts found on the rocky coasts of Cornwall, Wales and the Isle of Man and is the only example of this type in this area of England. Unusually, it may also have served as a high status homestead during the post Roman period. Few such sites have been identified in this area.
The monument includes a promontory fort formed by a single bank and external
ditch which cuts off a small promontory known as Burton Point overlooking the
estuary of the River Dee on the south west coast of the Wirral.
Presently the settlement looks out over marshland and a crossing of the
estuary to Basingwerk on the opposite bank of the estuary. Before the 18th
century the east bank of the tidal estuary came up to the Point, and the rocks
below the fort show signs of the erosion by wave action that resulted. To the
north of the enclosure the rock has been extensively quarried for the hard
sandstone underneath. This may have happened on the south side also resulting
in the destruction of part of the enclosed area in this sector.
The single rampart stands up to 5m high and is 12m wide at the base. It curves
around to form a 50 degree angle for 68m and encloses a triangular tip of the
promontory. The external ditch is 2m deep. Both ends of the defences have been
truncated by erosion and quarrying. A trackway has been pushed through the
defences on the south east side leading down to the present quarry floor below
the fort. This is 6m wide and has further degraded the earthworks. The area
enclosed by the rampart is 0.9ha in extent and is sufficient for a single
The fort seems at first sight to be one of a number of promontory forts in the
county dating to the Iron Age. However the small size of this monument and the
coastal situation seem more akin to the cliff forts of the coast of Wales and
the Isle of Man. Some of the latter were the farmsteads of Scandanavian local
dignitaries, although the type dates from the Iron Age through to the early
Close to the fort a cemetery including the remains of 50 or 60 burials of an
unknown date was excavated in 1878. These were without grave goods and might
have been of an early Christian date. They may also have been the remains of
the boat crew of 41 drowned in 1637 and recorded in the parish register. At
present there is no evidence that they were associated with the occupation of
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Bu'lock, J D, Pre Conquest Cheshire, (1972)
Longley, D, Prehistoric Sites in Cheshire, (1979), 41
Sulley, P, The Hundred of Wirral, (1889), 170
Ordnance Survey , Ordnance Survey Record Card, (1994)
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