Maesbury Castle small multivallate hillfort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015494

Date first listed: 19-Dec-1929

Date of most recent amendment: 31-Jan-1997


Ordnance survey map of Maesbury Castle small multivallate hillfort
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: Mendip (District Authority)

Parish: Croscombe

County: Somerset

District: Mendip (District Authority)

Parish: St. Cuthbert Out

National Grid Reference: ST 60994 47168


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

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They 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. Recent interpretations suggest that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Maesbury survives well with waterlogged deposits along the north providing conditions for the preservation of archaeological evidence relating to the environment in which the monument was constructed.


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


The monument includes a small multivallate hillfort with defences enclosing the summit of a round hilltop, on the southern side of the Mendip Hills. The site commands views to the north, west and south. The earthworks are oval in plan, with two lines of ramparts enclosing an inner area of 2.8ha. The two ramparts are not always concentric, and there is a gap between them, particularly at the western entrance. The inner rampart consists of a bank 1.5m-3m high and external ditch 2m-2.5m deep, with a small counterscarp bank 0.3m-1.2m high on the outside of the ditch mainly visible on the north and south west sides. Along the south west side the main bank and ditch are separated by a berm of flat ground. The outer rampart is much smaller in scale, and consists of a bank 0.3m-1.2m high and external ditch 0.2m-2m deep, with a counterscarp bank most notable on the north west side but traceable elsewhere. Along the south west, however, only a break of slope and outer ditch, or a terrace where the ditch has been levelled by ploughing, are visible. Along the north side the counterscarp bank of the inner circuit and the main bank of the outer rampart form twin banks either side of the space between. The inner ditch along this northern side is often water-filled. There are two opposing entrances to the interior of the fort, one to the WNW and one to the ESE. That to the ESE is a broad gap and causeway through the ramparts, though the south side of the ramparts have been partly levelled in more recent times. Traces of an outwork bank and ditch covering this entrance have been recorded previously. The ground has been disturbed by the creation of a golf course, but a low linear bank can be discerned for a length of 22m, standing 0.4m high and up to 11m wide. The WNW entrance is of a more complex nature, perhaps representing several phases. More recently the outer ditch has been utilised as a field boundary, with a hedge or hedge-bank running around the entire circuit. The remaining width of ditch and counterscarp bank outside this has been degraded by ploughing in the past. A gap in the outer rampart on the north is thought to be a recent attempt to drain the water from the ditch here. Excluded from the scheduling are all fences and fenceposts, though the ground beneath these 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.

Legacy System number: 29033

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Burrow, I, Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in Somerset, (1981)
Tratman, E K, 'Proc. University of Bristol Spelaeological Society' in Maesbury Castle, Somerset, , Vol. 8(3), (1958), 172-8
Cottrell, T, An Enhancement of Maesbury Castle, 1996, Unpublished MA project, incl. survey
plus measured plan, OSAD, Antiquity No. ST64NW 6, (1966)

End of official listing