Compton Dundon hillfort with Dundon Beacon, east of Dundon


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Compton Dundon hillfort with Dundon Beacon, east of Dundon
© 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.

South Somerset (District Authority)
Compton Dundon
National Grid Reference:
ST 48452 32209

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.

Despite quarrying operations, Compton Dundon hillfort survives well and will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the hillfort and the landscape in which it was constructed. Dundon Beacon, the stone quarry and the lynchet running north from it form part of the monument, and will provide evidence relating to its subsequent use.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort occupying the top of a hill which projects into and above the south east side of the Somerset Levels. The earthworks enclose the c.5ha of hill which is flat at the centre but rises at its north and south ends. The plan of the fort is determined by the natural contours of the hill. On the south east corner of the fort is a mound known as Dundon Beacon, and running north from this is a well defined lynchet.

In the centre of the hill an irregular linear trench, 17m wide and up to 5m deep, is orientated south west to north east across the interior of the fort and marks the site of quarrying operations.

The defences around the fort vary from little more than a scarp to a 2m high bank with a wide outer terrace, but on average consist of a bank 0.4m-1m high with an external scarp in places. There may have been an entrance on the east side but this has been obscured by the stone quarrying. At the north east end of the trench the quarry extends through the defences removing a large section of the rampart. The original ground surface survives across most of the fort.

The stone quarrying ceased in 1925 when stone was removed for the construction of Beacon House to the south of the hill. It had reached its presently visible extent by 1886, it must have been long established by that time.

Dundon Beacon at the south east corner of the fort is a mound on the highest part of the fort, c.3m high and c.18m in diameter with a flat oval top. There is a hollow to the west of the mound, 10m wide and 1.5m deep, which was one of the sources of material for the beacon's mound. This hollow continues as a shallow ditch 0.5m deep around the north side of the mound and cuts through the ramparts, indicating that Dundon Beacon is later than the ramparts of the fort.

Overlying the ditch is a sloping, flat topped, bank c.5m wide inclined towards the mound which would have given access to the mound from the interior of the fort. An excavation in c.1827 found an undated burial with tin rings and fragments of pottery. It has been suggested that the mound is a Norman motte constructed over a Bronze Age round barrow. The earthworks for the hillfort in the area of Dundon Beacon are c.2m high internally and appear to have been constructed from a 6m wide outer terrace. They are more substantial than the rest of the ramparts, and add weight to the suggestion of a Norman re-working of the defences in this area with the intention of creating a motte and bailey castle.

Lynchets extend around the western, eastern and northern sides of the hill; of these, the lynchet which runs north along the eastern side of the hill at the base of the rampart is in the best condition. It has a gently sloping terrace of up to 15m wide and a sharply defined steep scarp on the downhill side. The northern end of the lynchet runs into the area of quarry disturbance and its relationship to the rampart north of that point is uncertain. To the south it extends around the base of the Dundon Beacon mound and merges with the slope on the south east corner of the hillfort.

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
Bothamley, C H, 'A History of the County of Somerset (Victoria County History)' in Compton Dundon Hillfort, (1911), 490-1
Bothamley, C H, 'A History of the County of Somerset (Victoria County History)' in Compton Dundon Hillfort, (1911), 490
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of the Smerset Archaeological and Nat.Hist Society' in Somerset Barrows Part 1, , Vol. 113, (1969), 18, 28
Comment to Alan Preece, Hollinrake, N, (1993)
Result of field visit, Preece, A, (1994)
Survey Report, RCHME, Dundon Hill Camp, Somerset, (1994)
Survey Report, RCHME, Dundon Hill Camp, Somerset, (1994)
Survey Report, RCHME, Dundon Hill Camp, Somerset, (1994)
Survey report, RCHME, Dundon Hill Camp, Somerset, (1994)
Survey report, RCHME, Dundon Hill Camp, Somerset, (1994)
Survey report, RCHME, Dundon Hill Camp, Somerset, (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

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