Nesscliffe Hill Camp: a small multivallate hillfort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020285

Date first listed: 25-Apr-1946

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-2001


Ordnance survey map of Nesscliffe 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: Great Ness

National Grid Reference: SJ 38651 19797


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 Nesscliffe Hill is a fine example of this class of monument, refortified later in the Iron Age. Within the two enclosures significant buried deposits, structural features, artefactual and organic remains are expected to survive, which have the potential to illustrate many aspects of Iron Age life. The limited archaeological excavation undertaken within the interior has demonstrated that the site continued to be occupied during the Roman period, and that well-preserved buried deposits, containing a wealth of artefactual material, from this period have survived. The defences of the hillfort will retain evidence of their construction and their later modification. 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 surrounding land before the hillfort was constructed and during its occupation. The monument is accessible to the public and has considerable educational value.


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 part of the summit of Nesscliffe Hill. From this location there are extensive views to the north and west of the north Shropshire plain, and the hills of the Welsh borderland beyond. The overall dimensions of the hillfort are 185m north-south by 310m east-west. Its size would suggest that it was occupied by a large community where certain centralised economic and social activities were practised. The defences of the hillfort enclose an area of approximately 2.8ha, and encompass ground which rises to the north west and an isolated knoll to the east. To the south and east the earthwork defences of the hillfort consist of two ramparts each bounded by external ditches. The ditch between the ramparts is still clearly visible, while the outer ditch, which has been mostly been infilled, survives as a buried feature about 8m wide. To the north east, where the ground is steeper, a single rampart with an external ditch was constructed. This ditch has also been largely infilled, and it too survives as a buried feature about 8m wide. On the north western side the hillfort is defined by a sheer sandstone cliff. The original entranceway into the fort lies close to the north eastern corner, and marks the division between the univallate defences to the north and the bivallate defences to the south. At a later date the hillfort was extensively altered, with the interior being divided into two distinct areas. Around the higher ground to the west sizeable defences, consisting of two ramparts separated by a ditch, were constructed, and included the incorporation and enlargement of the existing hillfort defences to the south west. This newly created enclosure, with an internal area of approximately 1ha, appears to have served as the principal focus of the settlement. The area to the east, defined by the existing hillfort defences, seems to have acted as a subsidiary enclosure. Access into the main enclosure was via a narrow entrance passage, 2.5m wide, defined on either side by the inturned ends of the inner rampart. At several places near the entrance the vertical faces of the rock-cut ditch can be seen. Between 1953 and 1955 a small-scale archaeological excavation was conducted within the main enclosure, adjacent to the south eastern section of the inner rampart. It was found that the edge of the rampart here was revetted with loose sandstone blocks. The excavation also revealed a single layer of occupation from which came a quantity of Roman artefacts, including sherds of pottery (mainly bowls and jars dating from the second to the fourth century AD) and several coins. In 1956 a trench was dug across one of the inturned ramparts defining the entrance passage to the main enclosure. No artefacts were found to date these defences. The surfaces of the woodland tracks, all fence and gate posts, the waymarker posts, the stile, the information board located close to the entrance of the main enclosure, and the water cistern situated close to the inner rampart of the outer enclosure 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 34911

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hume, C R, Jones, G W, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Excavations on Nesscliff Hill, , Vol. 56, (1960), 129-32

End of official listing