Promontory fort at Roulston Scar


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Promontory fort at Roulston Scar
© 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.

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
Kilburn High and Low
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SE 51432 81529

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.

Roulston Scar is the largest of a series of promontory forts located along the west and north edges of the Hambleton Hills. They were local foci and provide evidence of the consolidation of settlement and social organisation in the late prehistoric period. As such they can be contrasted with the more dispersed hut circle settlements also found on the North York Moors and which are of a broadly contemporary date. This fort along with one other at Bolton Scar 4km to the north are also associated with an Iron Age boundary system known as the Cleave Dyke which divided the landscape into discrete blocks of land. It is thought that the northern rampart of Roulston fort may also have functioned as such a boundary division as it is on a similar alignment to an earthwork of the Cleave Dyke extending to the east. Roulston Scar promontory fort survives reasonably well and significant archaeological remains will be preserved both within the surviving ramparts and the interior of the fort. Together with its relationship to the Cleave Dyke the fort offers important scope for understanding the social and economic use of the landscape and its development through the prehistoric period.


The monument includes a prehistoric promontory fort with partly upstanding ramparts at Roulston Scar. The monument occupies a natural promontory at the south west of the Hambleton Hills. The fort lies on a projecting tongue of land, the west side of which is defined by a sheer cliff face and the south side by a steep slope. At the east side is a gill in a steep valley but the fort was defined on this side by a rampart extending along the top of the slope and crossing the neck of the promontory. The rampart along the north eastern side of the fort survives as a single earthen bank and ditch up to 15m wide. At the east side the rampart consists of a double bank and central ditch extending along the contour with the inner bank being some 2.5m above the outer bank. At the northern end the rampart has been levelled although remains of the ditch and flattened bank survive below the ground and are visible on aerial photographs. Excavations in 1969, prior to the rampart being levelled revealed a flat bottomed ditch 6m to 7m wide and evidence of timber box defences built into the bank to the south. At the south eastern end the rampart has been altered by afforestation but is still identifiable as a slight earthwork. To the south of the fort, and the west of the road, are a series of hollow ways leading into the fort interior. These are old access routes up onto the plateau, one of which became consolidated as the current road. Work undertaken at similar monuments elsewhere in the country has shown that the interior of such forts contained domestic and agricultural features, such as round houses, granaries, and stock enclosures. Remains of these features will be preserved as buried archaeological remains. The fort is associated with a prehistoric boundary system on the Hambleton Hills known as the Cleave Dyke. It is thought that the northern rampart of the fort also functioned as part of this boundary system. All the buildings and structures associated with the gliding club including signs and hard standings and the surface of the road are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included. The fuel tanks to the north west of the club house lie outside the area of protection.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
'Prehistoric Research Section Bulletinl; Yorkshire Hillforts' in Hillforts in Yorkshire, , Vol. No 27, (1990), 3
Spratt, D A, 'The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Cleave Dyke System, , Vol. VOL 54, (1992), 33-52
Meridian Films 61 72 154, (1972)


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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