Hillfort, ridge and furrow, holy well and medieval chapel on Woodbury Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
Bere Regis
National Grid Reference:
SY 85655 94804

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 the presence of a farm and houses within the centre, the slight univallate hillfort at Woodbury Hill Camp survives comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. The hilltop continued to play a significant role during the medieval period, when a chapel site was established and an area immediately beyond the ramparts was farmed. The hilltop is referred to by Thomas Hardy as `Green Hill' where it was traditional for the annual sheep-fair to be held. Annual fairs are known to have continued at the site until the earlier part of this century.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort, an adjoining area of ridge and furrow, and, within the hillfort, a holy well and medieval chapel, all on Woodbury Hill, a prominent ridge overlooking the Piddle Valley to the south, the Bere Valley to the west and the Winterborne Valley to the north. The slight univallate hillfort, known as Woodbury Hill Camp, has an irregular shaped interior with maximum dimensions of 272m from east to west, 410m from north to south and occupies a total area of just over 5ha. The hillfort is enclosed by a single set of ramparts which include a bank 6m-12m wide and c.0.5m-5m high and an outer ditch 9m wide and c.1.5m deep. On the outer side of the ditch is a counter-scarp, abutting the steep natural slopes of the hilltop along the southern, south western and eastern sides. The counter-scarp includes a bank which has been reduced and partly spread across the ditch, creating the appearance of a terrace c.25m wide. To the north, the hilltop is linked to a northern ridge by a narrow strip of gently sloping ground. At this point, the hillfort defences also include a second rampart, situated 60m to the north of the main rampart, enclosing an additional area of c.0.5ha. The outer rampart is likely to represent an attempt to strengthen the defences within this vulnerable section. There are now five gaps in the ramparts, although only the southern and northern examples are thought to be original. Finds from the site include two Roman coins from the northern rampart. The hilltop has continued in occupation to the present day. A tithe map of 1844 shows many structures within the hillfort; 24 of these were demolished during the 19th century, causing spreads of brick, rubble and clay pipe across the hilltop. The central farm has survived and may have an early origin. There is the site of a medieval chapel on the south west side of the hilltop. This was present by the 15th century, but demolished by the 18th century, when only footings remained. A holy well, situated 25m to the south east of the chapel is thought to be associated with the chapel. An area of ridge and furrow, representing medieval cultivation, occupies a gently sloping area of ground outside of the hillfort on the north western side of the hilltop. This occupies an area traditionally associated with an annual sheep-fair known to have been held at the site until the early part of this century. Two houses situated on the western side of the hillfort, within the ditch, were demolished in 1981. During the construction of a barn in 1995, sherds of medieval pottery were recovered from the area of the north eastern rampart. Excluded from the scheduling are all farm buildings, silos and houses, along with all gates and fence posts which relate to the modern field boundaries, although the ground beneath these features 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.

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Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 485
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 485
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 485
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 485
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 485
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 485
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 485
Hutchins, J, The History and Antiquities of Dorset, (1774), 135
Hutchins, J, The History and Antiquities of Dorset, (1774), 135
Hutchins, J, The History and Antiquities of Dorset, (1774), 135
Hutchins, J, The History and Antiquities of Dorset, (1774), 135
Hutchins, J, The History and Antiquities of Dorset, (1774), 135
Wallis, S, Woodbury Hill, Bere Regis, (1995)
Mention demolition of houses, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention reduction of counter-scarp, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention tithe map of 1844, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Mapped depiction


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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