Elworthy Barrows hillfort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020724

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jul-2002


Ordnance survey map of Elworthy Barrows hillfort
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. 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.

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset (District Authority)

Parish: Brompton Ralph

National Grid Reference: ST 07033 33718


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

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.

Elworthy Barrows hillfort survives in good condition and is one of a number of prehistoric monuments which occupy prominent positions on or near a well defined course along the Brendon Hills, known as the Brendon Hills Ridgeway. It is a fine example of an unfinished hillfort and is additionally important as it provides a rare insight into, and valuable information about the construction methods and design of hillforts. It is one of a group of hillforts which have been defined as fortified settlements located in this region.


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


The monument includes Elworthy Barrows, a univallate hillfort located just below the summit of a broad ridge which extends along the Brendon Hills area of Exmoor. The hillfort, which is believed to be unfinished and of Iron Age date, is approximately circular in plan and lies on open ground which slopes gradually to the south and south east. An area of about 3.5ha is defined by an earthwork bank and outer ditch. The construction of the hillfort on the north side is less advanced than the remainder of its circuit and is formed in this sector by a low and uneven earthen bank with a narrow break in its length and flanked along its north side by a series of shallow quarry ditches. The low bank is thought to represent the material excavated from the quarry ditches that was retained for the future construction of a rampart which was never completed. A small deep pond which is located adjacent to the north east corner is probably the result of past quarrying activities. The east side of the hillfort is defined by a bank with a berm and shallow outer ditch which together provide an overall width of 22m. A gap formed by two banks which curve inwards to form a narrow inturned entrance passage is located in the east side just to the south of the centre. The construction of the southern circuit of the hillfort is considered to have been fully completed. It is formed by a bank with a maximum height of 6m and an outer ditch up to 4.5m wide with traces of a low outer bank which gradually levels out. The profile of the inner bank and ditch on the extreme south side has been disturbed by a 19th century field bank. A gap in the bank on the south west side is believed to be original and it has been suggested that this may have been left open deliberately as an intended entrance. The bank to the north west of the entrance is approximately 3m high above the interior of the hillfort and its outer face is about 9m high above the base of the ditch. Elworthy Barrows has been described as a fortified settlement, one of several of similar date recorded in the region and this may account for its location in a position which offers no natural defences.

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: 35318

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Jesson, E, Hill, D, The Iron Age and its Hill Forts, (1971), 25-27
Oxford Archaeological Unit, , 'Oxford Archaeological Unit' in Elworthy Barrows hillfort, (1996)
ST 03 SE 1, National Monuments Record,

End of official listing