Lambert's Castle: an Iron Age hillfort 425m west of Nash Farm, with a bowl barrow, and the sites of a post-medieval fair and a telegraph station


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Lambert's Castle: an Iron Age hillfort 425m west of Nash Farm, with a bowl barrow, and the sites of a post-medieval fair and a telegraph station
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Dorset (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 37177 99072

Reasons for Designation

Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen. The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by outworks. 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. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north. Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Lambert's Castle hillfort is well preserved and will contain archaeological deposits providing information about Iron Age society, economy and environment. It is one of four hillforts overlooking the western end of the Marshwood Vale within a distance of 8km, which is an unusual concentration. Bowl barrows are the most numerous form of round barrow, and are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, with most examples constructed in the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthern or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which contained single or multiple burials. Despite disturbance, this example will retain archaeological remains. The location of the fair in the hillfort provides an unusual association and information relating to society and economy in the post- medieval and possibly medieval period will be preserved. The telegraph station was part of an extensive warning system important during the Napoleonic wars.


The monument includes Lambert's Castle, a large univallate Iron Age hillfort located at the end of a spur 425m west of Nash Farm, one of four hillforts overlooking the western end of the Marshwood Vale. Two other hillforts occupy prominent hilltops within 8km to the east. All these hillforts are the subject of separate schedulings. Within the hillfort are a bowl barrow, the remains of a fair site which may date back to the medieval period, and a 19th century telegraph station. The interior has been divided into small fields defined by stone walls dating to the 19th century at the time of Enclosure and Tithe Apportionment. These are shown on the Tithe map of 1844, but not on an estate map dating to 1769 showing the hillfort. The hillfort has a rampart 8m wide rising up to 3m above the base of the 4m wide and 1.5m deep external ditch, built along the edge of the escarpment and across the level ridge at the southern end, enclosing a rectangular area about 4.7ha in size. There is a counterscarp bank on the outside of the ditch visible intermittently around the enclosure, 2m wide and 0.3m high. These earthworks have been disturbed by 19th century field walls which have often been cut into the scarp of the bank or ditch. On the southern side a gap in the ramparts with a corresponding causeway across the ditch provides access across the level neck of the spur. The entrance gap is 12m wide but may have been disturbed. The earthworks on this side are more substantial than elsewhere in the hillfort. A second entrance on the northern side may have been original, consisting of a causeway across the ditch with a hollow way continuing into the interior. Earthworks to the west of this hollow way may suggest an inturned entrance. A narrow causeway across the ditch at the north west corner of the hillfort provides access to the interior along a footpath and is thought to be modern. Following storm damage in January 1990 a section across the rampart in the north west corner of the hillfort was recorded by the National Trust before reinstatement. This indicated that there were two or possibly three phases of construction, the earliest being a box rampart of dump construction, built on the old land surface, with timber palisades lining the inner and outer faces and possibly a stone facing on the outside. No dateable finds were recovered. Near the southern end of the hillfort there is a Late Neolithic to Bronze Age bowl barrow which has been disturbed by the later fair activities. It is now an irregular mound but was originally a maximum of 13m in diameter and is 0.75m high. There are no visible traces of a quarry ditch surrounding the mound but this will survive as a buried feature. The site of the fair lies in the centre of the hillfort near the southern entrance. Low banks, about 0.2m high, forming a regular rectangular grid pattern, can be seen to the west of, and partly disturbing, the bowl barrow, and probably represent the remains of fair stalls. The fair house was thought to be behind the southern rampart east of the entrance where there is a square depression 15m across. To the south of the stalls is a raised stony platform about 6m square and 0.2m high. Its date and function are not known but it was probably connected with the fair. In the south west corner of the hillfort are two small rectangular fields bound by banks, 3m wide and up to 1m high, with traces of ditches on both sides 1m wide and 0.3m deep. The southern field has a double bank on its eastern side, with a ditch on both sides of the banks and a gap of 2.3m between them. The date of these fields is not known but they have generally been considered to be of medieval origin and an association with the fair is likely. The earliest reference to a fair at Lambert's Castle was in 1709 when a grant was obtained to hold an annual fair on the Wednesday before the feast of St John the Baptist (24th June). However, as the site is fairly isolated, and comparing it with other medieval fairs located in hillforts, it is possible that it was chosen for the site of the 18th century fair because of an existing tradition. A fair continued to be held in June on the hill top until about 1947, with horse races taking place outside the hill fort. A second fair in September was also held on the site for a while in the 19th century. Although the fair activities extended along the ridge to the south outside the hillfort only those features contained within the ramparts are included in the scheduling. Towards the north east corner of the hillfort is the site of a telegraph station which was built in 1806 as part of a chain of similar stations between Plymouth and the Admiralty. The site is overgrown making it difficult to verify any surface features, but deposits relating to the building will survive below ground. All fence and gate posts, and post-medieval field walls, 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. 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.

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Books and journals
Hutchins, J, The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset: Volume II, (1863), 264-5
Lester, M J, 'Proceedings of the Dorset Natural Hist and Archaeology Society' in Lamberts Castle, Marshwood, W. Dorset, , Vol. 112, (1990), 115
Leaflet, Thackray, D, Coney's Castle and Lambert's Castle, (1979)


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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