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Large multivallate and univallate hillforts, a round barrow, a Late Bronze Age settlement and WWII military remains, on The Wrekin

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Large multivallate and univallate hillforts, a round barrow, a Late Bronze Age settlement and WWII military remains, on The Wrekin

List entry Number: 1021275

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: Shropshire

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Wroxeter and Uppington

County:

District: Telford and Wrekin

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Little Wenlock

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 16-May-1934

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Jun-2004

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 34933

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

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.

Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobalise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are rare nationally. Most are located in southern England, while further examples occur in central and western England, with outliers further north.

Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials.

The large multivallate hillfort, the large univallate hillfort and the round barrow, which were constructed on the summit of The Wrekin, are good examples of these classes of monument. The enclosure of one hillfort type with another is most unusual. The location of these hillforts allows comparisons and distinctions to be made about their construction, the nature of their occupation and the range of activities performed. Archaeological excavations carried out here have demonstrated that domestic occupation of the hilltop began in the early first millennium BC and lasted for about 800 years. These excavations have shown that buried structural features and associated deposits survive well and contain a variety of artefacts, most notably pottery, and contemporary organic remains. Together the buried remains will provide significant evidence for the changing nature of life in the region during the Later Bronze Age and throughout the Iron Age.

The survival of the round barrow as an earthwork suggests that it continued to act as an important feature within the Bronze Age settlement and the later hillforts. The barrow mound will retain evidence for its method of construction as well as the burial or burials within it. These remains will add to our knowledge and understanding of Bronze Age funerary practices in this area.

During World War II the strategic importance of The Wrekin was again realised when a searchlight battery was established here. The various components of the battery survive well, and provide a clear illustration of the layout and functioning of an aircraft detection unit at this time. The importance of the battery is further enhanced by its proximity to the remains of an aircraft warning beacon.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a large multivallate hillfort and a large univallate hillfort, the underlying remains of a Late Bronze Age settlement, together with earthwork and buried remains of a round barrow, and the earthwork and structural remains of World War II military installations.

The earliest known visible feature surviving on the summit of The Wrekin is a Bronze Age round barrow. It was constructed on the highest part of the hill and is surrounded by the later hillforts. The barrow mound is mainly composed of stone, is roughly circular and is about 17m in diameter. It has an eroded profile and now mostly stands to a height of 0.5m, although the south eastern quadrant is better preserved and stands about 1m high. Although no longer visible at ground level, a ditch, from which material was quarried to construct the monument, surrounds the mound. This has become infilled over the years but survives as a buried feature, approximately 3m wide.

The large multivallate hillfort was built to encompass the whole of the spinal summit of The Wrekin and from this position there are extensive views in every direction. The overall dimensions of the hillfort are about 150m north west- south east by 900m south west-north east. The defensive circuit encloses an area of approximately 8ha. Its size indicates that it was occupied by a large community where centralised economic and social activities were practiced, including the storage and redistribution of food and the performing of ceremonies. The defensive strength of the hillfort is enhanced by its topographic location, with the surrounding ground sloping steeply in all directions. The earthwork defences of the hillfort consist principally of two ramparts with steep outer faces separated mainly by a narrow ditch. This ditch has been infilled, but survives as a buried feature. Much of the material for the construction of the ramparts came from a quarry ditch located behind the inner rampart. Level areas created during the digging of this ditch would have provided suitable places for the construction of buildings. The remains of these buildings, within the partially infilled quarry ditch, will survive well as buried features. The tops of the ramparts are now mostly level and, in combination with the adjacent infilled ditches, have the appearance of terraces running around the sides of the hill. There is no outer rampart along the south eastern part of the circuit, where the increasing steepness of the hillside helped to create an effective barrier. Wherever possible use was made of rock outcrops and cliffs by incorporating them into the lines of defence.

There are two entrances into the fort: at the north east and the south west. The one at the north east is known as `Hell Gate'. Here, the ends of the inner rampart turn inward to form an entrance passage about 3.5m wide. The entrance passage at the south west is about 2m wide and is flanked by a series of banks and ditches, now visible as low earthworks. This entrance is also overlooked by a sizeable rock outcrop on the eastern side.

In 1939 and in 1973 limited archaeological excavations were undertaken on the summit of The Wrekin. Trenches dug through the defences of the multivallate hillfort found that the inner rampart was built of deposits of earth and stone, and that two major periods of construction were represented. The 1973 excavations also included a small area of this fort's interior. Remains of post-built structures, associated with hearths, were found terraced into the hillside. Some of the pottery discovered indicates that a settlement was established in the Late Bronze Age, in the 9th and 8th centuries BC, prior to the construction of the multivallate fort in the Iron Age. It is probable that this early settlement, like other contemporary examples located on prominent hills in the region, was enclosed by a palisade or a bank. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal associated with the post-built structures suggests that the multivallate hillfort was founded between the 7th and 5th centuries BC. Additional radiocarbon dates suggest that this part of the hill had ceased to be intensively occupied by the 5th or 4th century BC. It was during this period, or slightly later, that the inner defensive circuit (the univallate hillfort) was constructed around the upper portion of the summit.

The univallate hillfort is sub-rectangular in plan. Its overall dimensions are about 150m north west-south east by 395m south west-north east. The defensive circuit encloses an area of approximately 3.5ha. This hillfort, like the multivallate fort, would have been occupied by a large community. The single rampart, which defines the interior, has a steep outer face. It is largely flat-topped and is bounded by a quarry ditch, now a shallow depression, to the rear. This ditch, like the internal quarry ditch of the multivallate hillfort, is likely to contain the well-preserved remains of buildings. Archaeological trenches dug across the rampart in 1939 demonstrated that there had been two major episodes of construction. The inital rampart was built of deposits of earth and stone with an external drystone retaining wall. Later, the rampart was enlarged by further deposits of earth and stone, which sealed the retaining wall.

The univallate fort also has two diagonally opposed entrances: one at the north eastern end (known as `Heaven Gate') and the other to the south west. At both entrances the rampart is flanked by an outer ditch and an external counterscarp bank. The ditch at the south western entrance consists of a series of adjoining pits. At both entrances the ends of the ramparts turn inward to form entrance passages between 2m and 2.5m wide. The south western entrance was partially excavated in 1939 and at least two periods of construction were revealed. Initially, there was a short entrance passage. Later, the entrance passage was lengthened and a stone revetment wall built against its internal faces. Guard chambers on either side of passageway were also constructed. The revetment wall was built of well-laid sandstone blocks, which are not native to the hill. The south western guard chamber was completely exposed, and was found to be rectangular in plan and formed a recess 2.9m by 4.6m. Its walls were constructed of stone and wood, and consisted of regularly placed posts between which was a rubble-built retaining wall of irregular and locally derived stones. The opposite chamber was partially excavated and would appear to be of a similar size and construction to the one to the south east. Close to the entrance passage, overlying the original bank, a burnt deposit was found, suggesting that entrance had been rebuilt after a fire.

As part of the investigation undertaken in 1939, a very limited area of the interior of the univallate fort close to the south west entrance was excavated. The remains of post-built structures and storage pits were discovered, indicating the fort had been intensively occupied.

Structural evidence from the 1973 excavation, supported by radiocarbon dates, suggests that about a hundred years after the univallate fort was constructed the multivallate fort was reoccupied. Radiocarbon dates obtained from a burnt timber and a quantity of burnt grain indicate that occupation on The Wrekin ceased about the middle of the first century AD. It is possible that the settlement here was deliberately destroyed by the advancing Roman legionary forces under Scapula in AD 48 or 50. Supporting evidence for this suggestion has come from the finding of two Roman javelin heads dating from the mid- first century, one from the hillfort itself and the other from the lower slopes of the adjacent Ercall Hill to the north east.

During World War II a searchlight battery was established on the summit of The Wrekin in order to detect enemy aircraft. It would have consisted of searchlights, a command post, a sound locator, and weapon pits for light Anti-aircraft guns. Remains of the searchlight battery lie within the southern part of the univallate hillfort close to the south west entrance. The positions of the searchlights are indicated by four regularly placed circular embanked enclosures in a straight line, each about 8.5m across, with a central depression in which a searchlight, 90cm in diameter, would have sat. The larger embanked oval enclosure would have served as a command post, close to which would have been the sound locator for pin-pointing the position of enemy aircraft prior to the use of the searchlights. Three weapon pits, circular embanked enclosures about 5.5m in diameter, are located a short distance away to the south west and north east.

To the north east of the searchlight battery is a rectangular concrete platform, measuring 3.05m by 4.26m, built next to the rampart of the univallate hillfort. It served as the base for an aircraft warning beacon, known as a Pundit or Chance Light. It was erected in 1943 following the crash of an allied aircraft into the hill. The beacon was dismantled in 1970.

In 1973 a television transmission station was constructed on the north western side of the multivallate hillfort. The transmission station, all modern track surfaces, fences, the waymarker post, the toposcope and the Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar and the concrete bases on which they stand are excluded from the scheduling. However, 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Burrows, D, Troublesome past of beacon on the blink, (2001)
Cunliffe, B, Iron Age Communities in Britain, (1991), 362-63
Evans, G, Secrets of The Wrekin Forest, (1992), 18
Kenyon, K M, 'Archaeological Journal' in Excavations on The Wrekin, Shropshire, 1939, (1942), 99-109
Kenyon, K M, 'Archaeological Journal' in Excavations on The Wrekin, Shropshire, 1939, (1942), 99-109
Stanford, S C, 'Archaeological Journal' in The Wrekin Hillfort Excavations 1973, , Vol. 141, (1984), 61-90
White, R H, Webster, G, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Two Roman Javelin Heads from The Wrekin Hillfort, Shropshire, , Vol. 69, (1994), 126-28
Other
Royle, C and Woodward, A, The Prehistoric Pottery, 1993, Well-dated LBA-EIA pottery sequence
Thomas, R, (2002)

National Grid Reference: SJ 62912 08198

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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End of official listing