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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This copy shows the entry on 12-Nov-2019 at 15:28:59.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- West Somerset (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
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