Hillfort on Grabbist Hill, 275m south west of St Leonard's Well


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021060

Date first listed: 11-Aug-2003


Ordnance survey map of Hillfort on Grabbist Hill, 275m south west of St Leonard's Well
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1021060 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 14-Dec-2018 at 07:18:47.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset (District Authority)

Parish: Dunster

National Park: EXMOOR

National Grid Reference: SS 98294 43686


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.

The univallate hillfort on Grabbist Hill, 275m south west of St Leonard's Well survives comparatively well despite some slight disturbance to the bank on the west side by a later medieval or post-medieval field boundary. It is a good example of an unfinished hillfort and is additionally important as it provides a rare insight into, and valuable information about, the construction methods of hillforts. It is one of only seven hillforts distributed across the Exmoor region, all of which occupy similar commanding positions overlooking the major river valleys.


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


The monument includes a univallate hillfort considered to be of Iron Age date located on Grabbist Hill on the north eastern edge of Exmoor. The hillfort is ovate in plan and aligned from north west to south east following the contour of the steep narrow ridge which forms the eastern end of Grabbist Hill. It is strategically positioned to take advantage of the natural defences offered by the precipitous contours of the ridge and is in a commanding position overlooking the Avill Valley to the south and west, Gallox Hill to the south, and the Minehead coast to the north and east.

The hillfort is believed to be unfinished and is defined on the north side by a single earthwork bank which ranges from between 1.3m to 1.9m in height at the western end and gradually diminishing to 0.5m in height towards the eastern end. It has been suggested that this low bank represents a marker line laid out for the unfinished defences. The western end of the hillfort, where the defences are strongest, is formed by a ditch which has a counterscarp bank. The base of the ditch is between 2.2m and 3m deep below the top of the bank and the defensive earthworks have an overall width of 10m. The south side of the hillfort is defined by the steep scarp of the hill which provides a natural defence and which is particularly precipitous above the base of a hollowed area, formed by a geological land slip, known as the `Giants Chair'. No artificial earthworks are visible in this sector. A gap in the earthworks at the western end of the hillfort is believed to be an original entrance, (a common form of hillfort entrance) and it would originally have had a corresponding causeway. The profile of the earthworks at the western end has been partially obscured by the addition of a later field boundary which extends around much of the inner edge of hillfort and which has also disturbed an inner rampart which may represent part of the original defensive circuit. This field boundary may be associated with an area of medieval or post-medieval cultivation represented by traces of narrow ridge and furrow located within the interior of the hillfort on the eastern and south eastern side. A 30m length of bank aligned from north to south and about 5m wide is visible in the centre of the hillfort and probably forms part of this later cultivation activity.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the wooden bench located adjacent to the footpath on the east side of the hillfort, together with the small area of hard-standing on which it is set; and the small wood post and rail fenced enclosure on the north east side of the hillfort together with all other fencing; the ground beneath these features is, however, 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: 35598

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Riley, H, Wilson-North, R, The Field Archaeology of Exmoor, (2001), 58-60
Dennison, E, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society' in Somerset Archaeology 1986, , Vol. 130, (1986), 145-6
SS 94 SE 2, National Monuments Record,

End of official listing