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Promontory fort on Dorstone Hill

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Promontory fort on Dorstone Hill

List entry Number: 1014544

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: County of Herefordshire

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Dorstone

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 02-Jul-1996

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 27512

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 afforestation the promontory fort on Dorstone Hill is a well preserved example of a rare class of monument. The earthen bank will retain details of its method of construction, including post holes for palisades or internal revetments, and also for a gate or increased defences at the entrance. The ditch fills will preserve environmental evidence for activities at the fort during its occupation and for land use in the surrounding area. Excavation has shown the importance of the hilltop for occupation since Neolithic times, and the ground surface sealed beneath the bank will retain further evidence for land use immediately prior to the fort's construction. Within the enclosure evidence for domestic activities will survive in the form of post holes for houses and other structures, hearths, and storage pits. This information will contribute to our understanding of the function and longevity of this monument class.

Evidence that the hilltop was a focus of activity from the Neolithic through to Romano-British times increases interest in the monument itself, which forms part of the wider picture of prehistoric occupation and land use in the county. As such it can contribute to our understanding of the Iron Age demography and social organisation of the area.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a small promontory fort, occupying a spur of land just below the summit of Dorstone Hill. The spur overlooks a ridge which extends south eastwards, north east of the Dore Valley.

The fort is roughly triangular in plan, its south and north east sides being defined by the naturally steep scarp slopes of the ridge. Along the north east side the slope has been artifically steeped to enhance the defences. The third side is formed by an earthen bank and external ditch, which extends for c.55m, creating an enclosure of c.0.2ha. The bank is c.5m wide at the base and varies in height, rising to a maximum of c.2m above the bottom of the ditch. Material for the bank's construction will have been quarried from this ditch, which averages 2.5m wide and, although now partly infilled, remains to a depth of 0.5m in some areas. Both bank and ditch are best preserved towards the centre of their length. Roughly one third of the way from their southern end, they are interrupted by a break in the bank and causeway across the ditch, c.5m wide. This probably represents the original entrance to the fort. At the southern end the bank turns eastward along the edge of the scarp for several metres before merging with a natural gully. In the north east the bank terminates c.5m before the scarp: the ditch here has been incorporated into a later field boundary which continues northwards. Surface evidence for the causeway across the ditch and the terminals of the bank and ditch has been somewhat obscured by the creation of a track, which enters the enclosure along the north east and south west edges of the hilltop.

In its prominent position Dorstone hillfort would have been easily defended and commands impressive views in all directions. It sits between two Neolithic burial monuments (Arthur's Stone 1.25km to the north west, and Cross Lodge long barrow 700m to the south east, both the subject of separate schedulings), both of which would have been visible to the hillfort's builders before the establishment of the dense plantation woodland. The hilltop itself has produced finds of flints and pottery indicating occupation from Neolithic through to Romano-British times.

The boundary fence along the foot of the bank is excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath it is included.

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.

Selected Sources

Other
held on SMR, Kay, RE, Promontory fort, Dorstone Hill, Herefordshire, (1966)

National Grid Reference: SO 32709 42151

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Nov-2017 at 12:21:33.

End of official listing