Univallate hillfort 250m south and a bowl barrow 300m south east of Castle Dykes Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018857

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Apr-1999


Ordnance survey map of Univallate hillfort 250m south and a bowl barrow 300m south east of Castle Dykes Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Northamptonshire

District: Daventry (District Authority)

Parish: Farthingstone

National Grid Reference: SP 61735 56331, SP 61919 56297


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

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.

Archaeological excavation has demonstrated that, despite ploughing, the hillfort 250m south of Castle Dykes Farm survives well and represents a good example of this class of monument. The interior will retain structural and artefactual information for the occupation of the site, whilst the ditch and surviving sections of the associated bank will provide evidence relating to the hillfort's construction. Additionally, the recovery of fragments of smelting slag from within the defensive bank is believed to provide evidence for early iron smelting in Britain. Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally, occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape, and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. Despite the damage caused by ploughing, the bowl barrow 300m south east of Castle Dykes Farm will retain significant archaeological information. The area within the barrow's encircling ditch will contain buried deposits relating to funerary activities, including burials. The fill of the buried ditch will retain artefactual evidence both for the date of construction and the duration of the monument's use.


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


The monument lies south and south east of Castle Dykes Farm and includes the earthwork and buried remains of a univallate hillfort and the buried remains of a Bronze Age barrow within two areas of protection. The hillfort occupies a prominent position on the summit of a narrow ridge and the ground falls away fairly steeply to the south and north, and drops gently towards the west, east and north west. Although the hillfort has been reduced by ploughing, its defences, which take the form of an inner bank, a ditch and a counterscarp bank, remain visible in places. A late 19th century plan of the site provides evidence for the form of the hillfort at this time and shows a sub-rectangular enclosure with an internal area of approximately 2.4ha. Most of the counterscarp bank has been lowered by ploughing but remains visible as a low earthwork along the west side of the hillfort. The defensive ditch, although largely infilled, can be traced on the west, north west and east sides of the enclosure, approximately 5m wide. Elsewhere it will survive as a buried feature. The extent of the southern boundary, and the form that it took, is not known because it is overlaid by a minor road and is thus not included in the scheduling. An early 19th century description of the western inner bank and an excavation across the northern defences in 1959 both provide evidence that the inner bank takes the form of a stone-faced rampart which was possibly of box construction (two parallel outer walls packed with earth and small stones). The inner bank has also been affected by ploughing but remains visible along much of the west and east sides of the hillfort as very low earth banks marked by concentrations of small stones and red soil, whilst the northern bank survives as a fairly substantial earthwork within an existing hedge boundary. There is no surface evidence for the original access to the interior of the hillfort; a causeway was noted across the northern boundary ditch in the 1950s but there is no corresponding break in the inner bank. Quantities of burnt ironstone, iron slag and charcoal were recovered from the core of inner bank during the excavation and have since been regularly recorded at the site following ploughing. It has been suggested that the presence of iron slag may indicate that iron working was taking place here, or within the vicinity, possibly during the Iron Age. Approximately 25m to the east of the hillfort are the buried remains of a bowl barrow which lies within a separate area of protection. The barrow has been reduced by ploughing, and the earthwork remains are no longer visible on the ground surface. However, cropmarks generated by the fill of the barrow's buried ditch regularly appear and were recorded on aerial photographs taken in 1970. The barrow ditch defines a circular area measuring approximately 25m in diameter. Approximately 350m to the north of the hillfort are the earthwork remains of a motte and bailey castle which is the subject of a separate scheduling. All fence posts 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: 21627

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Knight, D, An Iron Age Hillfort at Castle Yard, Northamptonshire, (1985)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Northamptonshire III, (1981), 86-7

End of official listing