Mounsey Castle and an associated outwork 100m to the north


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Somerset West and Taunton (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SS 88555 29561, SS 88608 29753

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.

Mounsey Castle survives well and is unusual because the preserved remains of a revetment wall are still visible in the rampart face, providing a rare insight into the construction methods of Iron Age hillforts. There is also evidence for occupation of the site during the medieval period, and possibly earlier, in the form of charcoal burning activities carried out to support iron working sites in the locality. It is one of only seven hillforts distributed across the region, all of which occupy similar commanding positions overlooking the major river valleys.


The monument, which lies in two separate areas of protection, includes Mounsey Castle, an Iron Age univallate hillfort and an associated outwork, located on a high rocky promontory on the north side of the lower Barle Valley about 3km north west of Dulverton. The layout of the hillfort is defined by the natural contours of the hill which is broadly triangular with a wide, curved base to the south, which gradually narrows to the north. The ground falls steeply away down to the River Barle on the south and west sides and to a valley formed by a tributary of the Barle on the east side. The narrow north side of the hill is defined by a rocky spur across which the associated outwork is situated. An area of approximately 1.75ha is enclosed by a single scarp to the west and east and a rampart to the south which varies throughout its length from between 1.5m and 2m high. On the west and south sides the escarpment is artificially emphasised by an internal scarp which appears to have been quarried to provide material for the rampart. There are two entrances into the site, located on the north east and the south west sides, both of which appear to be original. The north eastern entrance has a slightly out-turned rampart with a berm and short length of bank. The south western entrance is formed by one in-turned, and one slightly out-turned, rampart end which creates an embanked corridor through the defences into the interior of the hillfort. Several stretches of revetment walling are visible in the rampart face along the south side including a length of about 14m, located close to the south western entrance, which is up to 0.8m high and constructed of roughly coursed stone. The defences on the north side are provided by an outwork which is also included in the monument. This is located about 100m to the north, and down-slope of, the hillfort and straddles the steep ridge which forms the narrow, northern rocky spur of the hill. The outwork is about 16m wide and formed by modification of the ridge to form a steep stone-faced scarp with a shallow ditch behind and fronted by a level berm with a scarped bank below, also stone-faced, which extends for about 30m across the ridge. It is strategically placed to defend the entrance on the north side of the hillfort. The foundations of a small stone building are situated within the interior of the hillfort close to the southern rampart bank. The structure is about 3m long and 2m wide with a level platform adjacent to the east side, and has been identified as the remains of a charcoal burner's hut. Several well-preserved charcoal burning platforms have been identified in the area below the south side of the hillfort and it is known that charcoal was used nearby at iron smelting sites during the medieval period. A large quarry scarp, located close to the north eastern entrance, was also recorded in the interior of the hillfort. Mounsey Castle takes its name from the Monceaux family who were local landowners in the medieval period. All fence posts and fencing are excluded from the scheduling. 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Riley, H, Mounsey Castle and Brewer's Castle: two IA enclosures, (1999)
Riley, H, Wilson-North, R, The Field Archaeology of Exmoor, (2001), 63-64
SS 82 NE 2, National Monuments Record,


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.

End of official listing

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