Promontory fort on Barrow Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Promontory fort on Barrow Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Somerset (District Authority)
Milborne Port
National Grid Reference:
ST 67116 20755

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.

The promontory fort on Barrow Hill is a good example of this type of hillfort, being naturally defended on three sides and artificially fortified on the fourth side by an earthwork rampart. It will provide valuable information relating to the monument, the lives of its inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived.


The monument includes a promontory fort, considered to be of Iron Age date, which occupies the south western end of Barrow Hill. Three sides of the fort are elevated above a valley formed by the river which rises at Bradley Head, some 800m to the north west. The defences on the north, west, and south side, follow the natural steep contours of the hill and gradually taper to a narrow spur at the south west. These steep slopes may originally have been fortified by wooden pallisades but there are no surviving remains to confirm this. The ground levels out towards the east and the defence on this side of the fort is formed by a substantial cross-spur rampart, running broadly from north west to south east for approximately 270m, effectively isolating the south western end of the hill. The rampart survives to a height of approximately 6m and is flanked on its outer, eastern side by a berm and quarry ditch. The ditch is an average 0.4m deep and the ditch and berm together are about 30m wide. At the lower end of the rampart a gap of 4.5m wide almost certainly represents the original entrance formed by a causewayed approach, approximately 40m long, across the ditch and berm and into the fort. The combination of natural and artificial defences define a level interior of approximately 8ha. Although an exact date for the construction and occupation of the fort has yet to be established, its similarity in terms of position and construction to other promontory forts, reliably dated to the Iron Age, would suggest a comparable date. However, the theory that the site was an unfinished burh related to the Anglo Saxon mint settlement at nearby Milborne Port, or that it was utilised during the medieval period, should not be discounted. All fence posts, gate posts, telegraph poles and water troughs, together with the shepherd's hut which is located within the fort on the north eastern edge and the rectangular stone feature loctated on the edge of the stream on the south side, are excluded from the scheduling, 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


54262, BAR, (1984)


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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