Iron Age fort 900m north east of Dale Hole Cottage


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Iron Age fort 900m north east of Dale Hole Cottage
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Norfolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TF 87437 44722

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.

The known examples of earthwork enclosures in Norfolk which correspond to the hillforts of the upland regions of England are relatively few in number, and most were constructed in low-lying, though naturally defensible locations. All but one of them are located in the north western part of the county. The enclosure 900m north east of Dale Hole Cottage has the characteristics of a slight univallate hillfort and is a good example of this class of monument in a lowland setting, although its siting in coastal marshland is unusual. The earthworks survive well with the interior showing little evidence of later disturbance, and the monument will contain much archaeological information concerning the date, manner and form of construction of the enclosure and its subsequent use. The possible identification with a fort mentioned by Tacitus gives additional interest.

The monument has wider importance in relation to the other surviving Iron Age forts in the area which include an enclosure of similar type at South Creake, some 8.5km to the south, and a small multivallate enclosure at Warham, 7.75km to the south east. As a group, these are a source of comparative information of great value for the study of Iron Age settlement and society in this part of East Anglia.


The monument includes an irregularly oval earthwork enclosure, occupying the southern end of a sand and gravel spit which extends southwards from the coastal dunes known as Holkham Meals and is surrounded on three sides by a former tidal salt marsh.

The enclosure, which is identified as an Iron Age fort, has maximum overall dimensions of approximately 375m north-south by 255m east-west, with an internal area of approximately 2.5ha. It is bounded on the west side by a steep natural scarp approximately 3m high above the level of the marsh, and on the north, east and south sides by an earthen bank and outer ditch. On the west and south sides, where the natural slope of the ground is more gentle, there is also an outer counterscarp bank. The inner bank stands between 1m and 2m in height and the counterscarp bank between 0.4m and 1.4m. The ditch, which has become partly infilled but remains open to a depth of up to 1m, is between 10m and 17m in width. A gap approximately 9m wide in the banks on the south side is thought to mark an original entrance, and beyond the gap, to the south and east, are slight earthworks which probably represent the remains of an outwork protecting this entrance. Three other gaps through the inner bank on the east side are associated with overflow channels from three roughly circular, shallow ponds on the eastern side of the interior and are thought not to be original features. The three ponds, together with a fourth situated to the west of them, in the southern half of the interior, are also considered to be of later date.

Finds recovered from the surface of the enclosure include two sherds of pottery of Iron Age type.

The monument is one of two known forts which correspond to the description by the Roman historian, Tacitus, of a site where a Roman force, under the command of Ostorius Scapula, defeated a rebellious faction of the local tribe, the Iceni, in AD 47. (Another possible site is Stonea Camp in Cambridgeshire, occupying what was then an island in the fens.)

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
Clarke, R R, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Holkham Camp, Norfolk, , Vol. 2, (1936), 231-233
Davies, J, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Where Eagles Dare: the Iron Age of Norfolk, , Vol. 62, (1996), 63-92
Gregory, A, Davies, J, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Iron Age Forts of Norfolk, , Vol. 54, (1992), 63-65
Robinson, B, Gregory, T, 'Norfolk Origins' in Celtic Fire And Roman Rule, , Vol. 3, (1987), 23-25


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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