Bury Walls: a large multivallate hillfort


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Bury Walls: a large multivallate hillfort
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 57628 27515

Reasons for Designation

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between 5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection of the power struggle between competing elites. Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts, oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered, for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens. Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture occurred on many sites. Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere. In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of national importance.

Bury Walls is a fine example of a large multivallate hillfort, despite the partial modification of the outermost defences on the northern side. In Shropshire a very small number of hillforts of this class are known. Limited excavation and intensive field surveys have demonstrated that significant buried deposits and structural features survive at Bury Walls. The potential also exists here for the preservation of organic remains and a wide range of contemporary artefacts. Together these remains will provide a valuable insight into the activities and lifestyles of the inhabitants. From the earthwork and standing structural remains of defences it is apparent that they retain important information about their construction. In addition, organic remains surviving in the buried ground surfaces beneath the ramparts and within the ditches will provide valuable evidence about the local environment and the use of the surrounding land before the fort was constructed and during its occupation. Romano-Celtic temples were built to meet the spiritual needs of the communities they served by venerating the god or spirit considered to dwell in a particular place. The temple building was regarded as a treasure house of its deity and priests rather than a congregational building. Religious activities, including private worship, communal gatherings, sanctuary and healing, took place outside. Romano-Celtic temples included the temple building and a sacred precint or temenos. The temple building invariably faced due east and was the focus of the site, although it did not necessarily occupy a central position in the temenos. It comprised a cella, or inner temple chamber, an ambulatory or walkway around the cella, and sometimes annexes or antechambers. The buildings were constructed in a variety of materials, including stone, cob and timber, and walls were often plastered and painted both internally and externally. Some temenoi enclosed other buildings, often substantial and built in materials and styles similar to the temple; these are generally interpreted as preists' houses, shops or guest houses. Romano-Celtic temples were built and used throughout the Roman period from the mid-first century AD to the late fourth/early fifth century AD, with individual examples being used for relatively long periods of time. They were widespread throughout southern and eastern England, although there are no known examples in the far south west. The Roman buildings within Bury Walls hillfort, which are believed to have formed part of a Romano-Celtic temple, demonstrate the continued importance of the hillfort during the Roman period, apparently acting as a major focus of religious activity. The partial excavation of these buildings has indicated the nature of the structural remains and has shown that associated artefacts and organic remains are likely to survive. The dating of the buildings has been aided by the chance discovery of artefacts from within the hillfort, and the geophysical surveys of the site have confirmed the existence of a ditch which may have defined the temenos.


The monument includes the earthwork, standing structural and buried remains of a large multivallate hillfort, occupying a well-defined promontory which forms part of the southern escarpment of an imposing sandstone ridge. From this location there are extensive views over the north Shropshire plain to the south. The overall dimensions of the hillfort are 380m east-west by 520m north-south. The defensive circuit encompasses a natural spring and encloses an area of approximately 8ha. The size of the hillfort indicates that it was the settlement of a very large community where certain centralised economic and social activities were practiced. The defensive strength of the hillfort is enhanced by its topographic location, where the surrounding ground slopes steeply in all directions except to the north. In relation to the natural topography, much of the circuit consists of a single, but sizeable, rampart, which is defined on its northern side by a ditch, an outer rampart and an external ditch. The eastern end of this outermost ditch is now visible as a shallow depression, having been partially infilled, and the corresponding length of outer rampart has been reduced in height by ploughing. To the west an elongated pond has been created within the outermost ditch. Along its southern side, revetting the lower part of the the external face of the outer bank, is a drystone wall of probable 18th century date. It is included in the scheduling. From within the interior of the hillfort the height of the rampart varies considerably from 1.8m to 7.8m. On the northern side the fall from the top of this rampart to the base of the adjacent ditch is about 14.5m. Along the eastern side of the fort, on the external face of this rampart, the remains of low, stone-built, internal revetment walls, are partially visible. A cutting made through the top of this rampart in 1981 demonstrated that deposits of earth were overlain by dumps of stone. The principal entrance to the fort is near the north east corner, where the ends of the inner rampart turn inwards to form an entrance passage about 5m wide. A limited archaeological excavation of the entrance in 1930 found that the bedrock at its base was cut by a series of cart ruts. The area immediately to the north of the entrance was also partially examined and the remains of possible hearths, associated with a fragment of a quern stone and an iron object, were discovered. At the north western corner of the fort there is a break in the inner rampart corresponding with a narrow causeway at the top of the natural escarpment. These appear to be original features and are likely to have acted as a subsidiary entrance or postern. Outside the south western corner of the fort a natural spur has been enhanced by the construction of a steep-sided bank, about 45m long. This feature appears to have been an integral part of the hillfort defences, serving as an external lookout platform. In 1999 and 2000 the hillfort was the subject of intensive archaeological investigation, which included geophysical surveys to detect buried features and a topographical survey. This investigation revealed that over the northern part of the interior a series of large concentric terraces had been created. The material excavated during this operation appears to have been used to construct the defences. Except for a well-defined scarp to the south of the principal entrance, little is now visible at ground level of these terraces. The geophysical surveys of the site have indicated that the terraces, together with other remains, including internal boundaries, roadways and circular structures, all survive well as buried features. As part of the programme of archaeological work carried out in 1930 the remains of stone structures were uncovered near the middle of the interior of the fort. The principal building discovered consisted of a rectangular room, 4.6m by 8.75m internally, with a smaller partly paved room, possibly a vestibule or annex, to the north. The rubble-built walls of this building are between 0.8m and 1.45m thick. The remains of other adjoining walls were also revealed, and in the soil surrounding these structures quantities of gypsum lime plaster and oyster shells were found. When the remains of these buildings were discovered it was thought they were medieval, but more recent research indicates that they are almost certainly Roman. The nature of their construction and architectural form, and comparison with other similar structures located within hillforts, suggest that the remains are probably part of a Romano-Celtic temple. The long history of Roman artefacts having been found within the hillfort (the most recent include sherds of pottery and Valentinianic coins (AD 364-78)) further support this identification. A ditch, 3m to 5m wide, runs across the northern part of the interior, to the north of the stone building, and is orientated ENE-WSW. It survives as a buried feature and was detected during the geophysical survey of the site. A possible entrance causeway, about 2m wide, was detected near the south western end. This ditch is clearly later than the construction of the hillfort as it cuts through the remains of the terraces. It is possible that the ditch is contemporary with the Roman buildings, serving as a boundary to define an area (a temenos, or sacred precint) around them. All fences and gate posts, the concrete lined pond, and the surface of the farm track 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.

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Books and journals
Murdie, R E et al, Geophyical Surveys at Bury Walls, 1999-2000, (2000)
Murdie, R E et al, Geophyical Surveys at Bury Walls, 1999-2000, (2000)
Morris, J A, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Bury Walls, Hawkstone, (1931), 85-89
Morris, J A, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Bury Walls, Hawkstone, (1931), 85-89
photo in possession of Mr Burden, Burden, J, A photogragh of the cutting made through the rampart in 1981, (1981)
Title: Plan of Bury Walls Camp near Hodnet, Shropshire Source Date: 1931 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Plan of Bury Walls Camp near Hodnet, Shropshire Source Date: 1931 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
White, R, (2000)


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.

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