Welshbury hillfort and associated earthworks


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018158

Date first listed: 23-Oct-1998


Ordnance survey map of Welshbury hillfort and associated earthworks
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Gloucestershire

District: Forest of Dean (District Authority)

Parish: Blaisdon

National Grid Reference: SO 67770 15445


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 final form of Welshbury hillfort is consistent with a `developed' hillfort dating to the Middle Iron Age period from c.300 BC, although some elements of the entrance constuction have been paralled with later Iron Age examples, c.100 BC - 50 AD. Welshbury hillfort and associated earthworks have been subject to a detailed survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England which has identified a sequence of landscape features dating from at least the Bronze Age to the beginning of the Roman period. The earthworks represent a well preserved later prehistoric landscape and will contain archaeological and environmental information valuable to the understanding of the interrelation of Bronze Age field systems and settlement with Iron Age hillforts and the development and function of hillforts. The site of the hillfort is covered with a naturally regenerated lime woodland which is clearly of some antiquity and is a well preserved survivor of a woodland type common in pre-Neolithic England.


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The monument includes a univallate hillfort, subsequently strengthened by the provision of extra ramparts on the southern and western sides, an earlier field system associated with an area of unenclosed settlement and a cairn situated on a narrow spur overlooking the Flaxley valley on the eastern edge of the Forest of Dean. There are sharp slopes on the eastern and northern sides of the hillfort but the gradient is much more gentle on the southern and western approaches. The hillfort has been superimposed over an earlier field system comprising lynchets, some of which stand 4m-5m in height, which define both square and rectangular fields. At the north the field system has been truncated by the hillfort, although the lynchets can still be traced on the berms separating the hillfort ramparts. A cluster of platforms lie within the field system and probably represent an area of unenclosed settlement associated with the pre-hillfort phase. Also likely to be of earlier date, are the remains of a cairn situated within the hillfort at the highest point of the ridge. The earliest phase of hillfort construction consisted, for much of the circuit, of a single bank and ditch rampart enclosing a roughly trapezoidal area which now forms the north eastern part of the hillfort complex. Subsequent to this the outer ramparts were constructed, providing two additional sets of widely spaced bank and ditch on the south and west sides. It is possible that there was a lengthy time lapse between these two phases of hillfort construction. The defences are most substantial on the southern, more gentle, approach and less so on the north and east sides where the natural slope is steeper. The most likely site for an entrance to the hillfort is at the south eastern corner of the main enclosure which appears to align with a routeway from the valley below. An annexe at the south east corner, defined by two additional banks and ditches, seems to be later in date than the main body of the hillfort. Within the interior of the hillfort a small group of potential hut sites survive in the north eastern corner and it is possible that a number of the other crescent shaped platforms, relating to later charcoal burning, are re-used Iron Age features. It has been suggested that a final phase of refurbishment to the defences may have occurred in the early medieval period but the hillfort is unlikely to have remained in use after the Roman occupation of the Forest of Dean, sometime after AD50 and may not have been occupied during the intervening time. Later archaeological features include a series of more than 60 charcoal burning platforms that are most likely to be related to the Forest of Dean iron production industry of the medieval period and the remains of a 19th century summer house sited to the south of the south eastern corner of the defences.

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: 31186

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing