Portfield hillfort


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Portfield hillfort
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Ribble Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 74581 35499

Reasons for Designation

Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes, generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth - fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally. Although on a national scale the number is low, in Devon they comprise one of the major classes of hillfort. In other areas where the distribution is relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different classes occur within the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern England, the Welsh Marches, central and southern England. In view of the rarity of slight univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which survive comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Small multivallate hillforts 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. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or a rampart and ditch with counterscarp banks. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances and the interior generally consists of settlement evidence similar to that found in slight univallate hillforts. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. In view of their rarity and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance. Portfield hillfort is a rare example in north west England of a slight univallate hillfort which was subsequently modified at a later date into a small multivallate hillfort. Limited excavations undertaken between the 1950s and 1970s found artefactual evidence which demonstrates that the area occupied by the monument was used from Neolithic times to medieval times, and further evidence of the nature of the settlement at the hillfort will exist.


The monument includes Portfield hillfort, also known as Planes Wood Camp. It is situated on a south facing promontory on the eastern side of the valley of the River Calder and includes a flat enclosure which was defended by banks and ditches on all sides except the west where the steeply sloping valley side afforded sufficient protection. The enclosure measures a maximum of approximately 165m north west - south east by 110m north east - south west and appears so flat as to suggest it has been artifically levelled. The defences have been considerably mutilated in modern times but survive best at the monument's north west corner adjacent to the steep declivity to the west; they consist of an inner bank or rampart up to 1.5m high outside which is a berm or levelled area 6m wide. Beyond this berm is a ditch up to 6m wide, then a second earthen bank 4m wide, then another ditch with a third earthen bank beyond. Elsewhere this defensive system may not have been as comprehensive and a single scarp, part natural and part artifical, may have sufficed, indeed an early 20th century survey of the monument depicts an earthwork a short distance down the hillslope on the monument's southern side. Limited excavation undertaken in 1957, at the time a trench for a water pipeline was dug across the monument, found evidence for an earlier defensive rampart on the northern side of the monument and indicated that the hillfort was originally defended by a single rampart then subsequently extended slightly and provided with more complex defences. As such it was originally constructed as a slight univallate hillfort then later modified into a small multivallate hillfort. A cobbled pavement which comprised the entrance through the northern defences was located during this excavation and, in a layer of stones over this pavement, pottery dated to the second century AD was found. In 1966, during the laying of a third pipeline across the site, workmen discovered a hoard of nine Bronze Age artefacts consisting of a gold bracelet, a gold `tress or lock' ring, and a number of bronze objects including socketed axe heads. Further limited excavations in the 1960s and 1970s found pottery dating to the medieval and Roman periods, and flint and chert objects dated to the Bronze Age and Neolithic period (c.1800-700 BC and 3400-1800 BC respectively). Thus the site shows evidence of human activity and occupation from Neolithic times through to the present day. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These comprise all modern field boundaries and gateposts, the western extension to the property known as Llamedos, all outbuildings and stables, all garden walls and fences, and the surface of a farmyard, 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.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Lancashire: Volume IV, (1911), 34
Farrer, W, Brownbill, J (eds), The Victoria History of the County, (1911), 34
Coombes, G, 'British Archaeological Reports' in British Archaeological Reports, (1972), 34
Coombes, G, 'British Archaeological Reports' in British Archaeological Reports, (1972), 34
Forde-Johnson, J, 'Trans Lancs & Chesh Antiq Soc.' in Iron Age Hillforts in Lancashire & Cheshire, , Vol. 72, (1962), 26-7
Green, J M, 'Whalley and District Historical and Archaeological Society' in Where Rivers Meet, , Vol. 2 No.1, (1989), 13-21
Raymond,F., MPP Single Mon Class Description - Slight Univallate Hillforts, (1988)
Raymond,F., MPP Single Mon Class Descriptions - Small Multivallate Hillforts, (1989)


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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