Ritton Castle: a slight univallate hillfort and a ringwork and bailey castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Ritton Castle: a slight univallate hillfort and a ringwork and bailey castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
Worthen with Shelve
National Grid Reference:
SO 34440 97644

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.

Despite some ground disturbance associated with the 19th century settlement, the slight univallate hillfort and the ringwork and bailey castle at Ritton survive as good examples of these classes of monument. It is an interesting example of a prehistoric hillfort which has been modified in the medieval period to form a ringwork and bailey castle. Within the hillfort, partly sealed beneath later occupation deposits, a range of buried features, and artefactual and organic remains are expected to survive, which have the potential to illustrate many aspects of Iron Age life. The hillfort defences will retain evidence of their construction and any alterations made to them in the medieval period. Organic remains surviving in the buried ground surface beneath the rampart and within the external ditch will also provide important information about the local environment and the use of the land before and after the hillfort was constructed. Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosed, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. In Shropshire, ringworks are comparatively rare in relation to other types of contemporary early medieval castles incorporating a conical mound, or motte. Within the ringwork and bailey the remains of contemporary structures will survive as buried features, which, together with the associated artefacts and organic remains, will provide valuable evidence about the activities and life styles of those who inhabited the site during the medieval period. The ringwork defences will retain significant information about their construction, and the organic remains preserved in the buried ground surface under the rampart and within the associated ditch will also provide additional information about the changes to the local environment and the use of the surrounding land.


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a slight univallate hillfort, and a ringwork and bailey castle. The hillfort was constructed around a projecting shelf on the north western side of Brooks Hill where the ground slopes steeply to the north, south and west. From this commanding position there are extensive views over the neighbouring valley and the surrounding uplands to the north and west. The hillfort is sub-rectangular in plan, with overall dimensions of 116m north west to south east by 215m south west to north east. The defensive circuit encloses an area of about 1ha. Its size would suggest that it was the settlement of a largish community, perhaps where particular centralised economic and social activities were practiced. Where the surrounding ground falls away steeply the earthwork defences of the hillfort consist of a steep scarp bounded by an external terrace, or berm, which for the most part is between 1m-2m wide. To the west, part of this scarp has also been divided by a narrow berm. On the eastern side, where the ground rises gently to the south east, the hillfort is defined by a bank, which averages 6m wide and 1m high, and an external ditch, which is between 6m and 8m wide and 1m deep. To the south this ditch is bounded by the steep scarp which continues along the western and northern sides of the shelf, and to the north east where the ditch turns outwards to join the scarp. The original entrance into the interior of the hillfort was via a causeway, about 5m wide, through the north eastern part of the defences. In the medieval period the hillfort was reutilised to form a ringwork and bailey castle, which is believed to have been the principal residence, or caput, of Ritton manor. The first known reference to the manor is in a deed of about 1203 when Robert Corbert of Caus granted Ritton to Buildwas Abbey. The ringwork, which was constructed in the northern part of the hillfort, is roughly triangular in shape, measuring approximately 28m south west to north east by 30m north west to south east, internally. The sizeable earthwork defences along its southern side consist of a curving rampart of earth and stone, between 14m and 18m wide and averaging 2.2m high, with an external ditch between 8m and 10m wide, and between 1.2m and 2.2m deep. There is a 4m wide entrance passage through these defences which provides access into the interior. The northern part of the defensive circuit of the ringwork reuses the steep scarp which originally defined the north western corner of the hillfort. The position of the ringwork within the hillfort would suggest that the rest of the hillfort interior served as a bailey to the ringwork, and would therefore have contained a range of ancillary structures, including stores, stables and other domestic accommodation. The earliest large scale Ordnance Survey map published in 1882 shows a small settlement occupying the site. A pathway is shown linking this settlement to the nearby lead mine to the north, which worked intermittently from 1852 to 1874. The mine itself is not included in the scheduling. Apart from mounds of rubble from the demolished buildings, all that remains visible of this settlement is a square embanked enclosure with an adjoining small quarry and several associated shallow sunken trackways.

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
Eyton, R W, The Antiquities of Shropshire. Volume VII, (1858), 18


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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