Pontesford Hill Camp: a small multivallate hillfort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019829

Date first listed: 25-May-1934

Date of most recent amendment: 09-May-2001


Ordnance survey map of Pontesford Hill Camp: a small multivallate hillfort
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Pontesbury

National Grid Reference: SJ 40858 05558


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

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The small multivallate hillfort on Pontesford Hill is a good example of this class of monument. It is one of a group of broadly contemporary hillforts constructed along the hills overlooking the Rea Brook valley. In common with these other defended settlements, the hillfort on Pontesford Hill is considered to contain significant buried deposits, structural features, artefactual and organic remains, which have the potential to illustrate many aspects of Iron Age life. The defences will retain evidence about their manner of construction and any subsequent modification. The organic remains surviving in the buried ground surfaces beneath the ramparts and within the ditches will also provide important information about the local environment and the use of the land before and after the hillfort was constructed. The archaeological excavation carried out in 1963 not only provided information about the construction of the defences, but also demonstrated the nature and the degree of survival of the occupation deposits and the associated structural features sealed beneath the outer part of the southern hillfort defences. The woodland boundary banks will retain information about their construction and provide important evidence relating to woodland management and holding patterns in this area in the post-medieval period.


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


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a small multivallate hillfort, situated on the northern spur of Pontesford Hill with a commanding view of Rea Brook valley, the uplands to the west and the undulating lowlands to the north. It lies 0.7km to the south of the multiple enclosure hillfort on Earl's Hill, which is the subject of a separate scheduling. Pontesford Hill Camp was constructed around a steeply-sided shelf. To the south the surrounding ground rises steeply towards Earl's Hill. The hillfort is oval in plan, with overall dimensions of 105m north west to south east by 140m south west to north east. The defensive circuit defines an area of about 0.3ha. Its size would suggest it was the settlement of a small community, perhaps several related family groups or a single extended family group. The earthwork defences of the hillfort consist of two principal ramparts separated by a ditch. The outer faces of the ramparts survive as steep scarps, which closely follow the contours of the hill. On the north west side the outer rampart coincides with a rock outcrop. The ditch, which has been largelly infilled, is discernible as a terrace or as a shallow depression, but will survive as a buried feature. Around the north eastern part of the circuit an outer ditch bounded by an external rampart provided an additional line of defence. Outer defences were also constructed around the southern half of the main circuit, on either side of entrance causeway into the fort. These outer defences consist of a rampart partly defined by ditches. Access to the interior of the hillfort was from the south west, where the innermost rampart turns inwards to form an entrance passage about 3.5m wide. The outer lines of defence on southern and south eastern sides have been partially modified by the construction of a forest track. On the southern side, to the east of the entrance causeway, this track follows the course of the ditch separating the two principal ramparts. In 1963, following the widening of the track, an archaeological investigation was undertaken to examine the southern part of the outer defences, to the east of the entrance causeway. A trench dug was through the middle rampart, and along the top post holes were found, which marked the position of a palisade or fence. The excavation also revealed a complex sequence of occupation, of at least three phases, which pre-dated the hillfort. The earliest phase consisted of gullies cutting into the natural clay subsoil, associated with flint artefacts, most notably an early Neolithic scarper. The subsequent phases revealed were undated and consisted of pebble surfaces in association with post-built structures, together with a rubbish pit containing charcoal. In the post-medieval period, the hillfort and the surrounding area was subdivided by a network of woodland boundary banks. A low boundary bank cuts across the southern part of the outer defences and originally may have connected with the more prominent boundary bank, orientated north west to south east, that runs across the hillfort. The more prominent boundary bank is depicted on the Ordnance Survey `Old' Series map, published in 1833. Both parts of these boundary banks are included in the scheduling in order to preserve their relationship with the hillfort. The surface of the track, the waymarker post and all fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all 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.

Legacy System number: 33839

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Barker, P, 'Prehistoric Man in Wales and the West' in An Emergency Excavation on Pontesford Hill Camp, 1963, (1972), 345-53

End of official listing