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Castle Ring, a multivallate hillfort and medieval hunting lodge

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: Castle Ring, a multivallate hillfort and medieval hunting lodge

List entry Number: 1014687

Location

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

County: Staffordshire

District: Cannock Chase

District Type: District Authority

Parish:

County: Staffordshire

District: Cannock Chase

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Cannock Wood

County: Staffordshire

District: Lichfield

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Longdon

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 30-Nov-1925

Date of most recent amendment: 01-Aug-1996

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 21635

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

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between 5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection of the power struggle between competing elites. Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts, oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered, for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens. Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture occurred on many sites. Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere. In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of national importance.

Castle Ring survives well and represents a good example of this class of monument. Its commanding position dominates the local landscape, providing not only defence, but also displaying the status of its inhabitants. The ramparts and ditches will retain archaeological information on the construction of the hillfort, in particular, the partly silted ditches will retain environmental evidence relating to the economy of the site's inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived. The geophysical survey in the western third of the interior has demonstrated that the site retains buried features and structures which will provide information not only on the site's occupation during the Iron Age but also on its reuse in the medieval period. Part excavation during the late 19th century has indicated that the remains of the medieval building and its associated buried structures in the north western corner of the hillfort's interior will retain information on the function of this building and for the wealth and social status of its inhabitants. The reuse of the hillfort following the construction of the hunting lodge is matter of interest since it illustrates the resumption of high-status occupation at the site. Furthermore, as a feature of the park of Beaudesert, the hunting lodge itself provides evidence for the leisure activities of the nobility during the medieval period. The site is located within a public amenity area.

History

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

Details

The monument is situated at the south eastern edge of Cannock Chase and includes the earthwork and buried remains of an Iron Age hillfort and the ruins and buried remains of a small medieval building identified as part of a hunting lodge. Castle Ring occupies the summit of a small hill which forms the highest point on the Chase. The hillfort is an irregular pentagon in plan and its multiple defences enclose an area of c.3.6ha. For the majority of their circuit these defences include a sequence of banks and ditches usually three banks with two ditches in between them. On the east side of the hillfort, where the approach to the site is over more level terrain, the central bank is more substantial, the outer line of defences projects outwards and an additional length of ditch and counterscarp banking has been added. The five sides of the main, inner rampart are remarkably straight, ranging in length from 65m along the east side to 220m along the north. The height of the inner bank varies from 3.5m to 5m above the silted bottom of the ditch and is most substantial on the north and west sides. It has a uniform broad flat-top which is thought to have been created when the bank was in use as a walkway from which to view the landscape in the 18th or early 19th century. Two other paths, one running across the hillfort interior and the other skirting the northern defences are believed to be contemporary with this walk and were laid out as carriage rides from the lodge of Beaudesert Hall, the 16th century home of the Paget family which is situated approximately 1km to the north east of Castle Ring. The outer ditch is less steep in profile than the inner. Its northern section is thought to have been infilled and used as an 18th century carriage drive which has also cut into, and sharpened, the counterscarp bank along its southern side. This infilled section of ditch will survive as a buried feature and is included in the scheduling. Traces of the counterscarp bank are visible on both sides of the outer ditch for the remainder of its circuit, but the western and south western sections of this external bank have been slightly eroded by the encroachment of modern tree planting. The original entrance into the hillfort's interior lies at the junction of the northern and eastern ramparts. The inner bank is inturned for some 15m into the interior and guard chambers will survive as buried features. The break in the south western defences is not an original feature and is thought to have been created when the carriage drives were laid out. No earthworks associated with the occupation of the hillfort are visible in the interior but a geophysical survey of the western third of the interior identified a series of circular areas, 10m-12m in diameter, which have been interpreted as circular huts and will survive as buried features. In the north western corner of the interior are the earthworks and excavated remains of a small building which sits on a relatively level shelf dominating the remainder of the enclosure. The building is rectangular in plan measuring 20.6m by 11.5m and a chamfered plinth is visible in places allowing the width of the walls to be estimated at 1.4m. At least two internal cells are discernible, defined by in-situ stone and by low scarps. A sandstone lined drain is visible in the south western corner of the southern room and the position of its door is marked by a single jamb, whilst in the central part of the larger room is a chamfered sandstone pillar base. The building was partly excavated in the mid 19th century by William Molyneux, a local historian, and fragments of pottery, flint and metal objects were also recovered. The remains indicate a medieval building of high social status and the wide foundation walls, and documentary references to a winding stair, suggest that originally there was a first floor chamber above the two lower cells. It is unlikely that this building stood in isolation and ancillary structures are believed to survive as buried features particularly on the level shelf along the western side of the hillfort. Cannock, in the royal forest, was visited by both William II and Henry I, and the existence of a hunting lodge is confirmed in the reign of Henry II with the payment of a penny a day to its keeper. The abandonment of the lodge at Cannock appears to have occurred early in Henry II's reign and in 1189 the manors of Cannock and Rugeley were granted to the Bishop of Lichfield. The first reference to any building by the bishops at Beaudesert is in an account of 1304-5 which refers to a hall and stables, but it is unclear whether the expenditure was on the buildings within Castle Ring or on the episcopal manor house later to become Beaudesert Hall. The modern steps across the hillfort's southern defences are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Molyneux, W, 'Archaeological Journal' in Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 20, (1863), 198
Other
RCHME, SK 01 SW 1, (1994)
RCHME, SK 01 SW 2, (1994)

National Grid Reference: SK 04434 12827

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 25-Nov-2017 at 04:05:16.

End of official listing