MSO8008 - Bury Castle, Selworthy (Monument)


A suboval enclosure of presumed Iron Age date visible as an earthwork with two detached outworks. The enclosure measures 80 metres by 60 metres and is defined by a bank of 1.6 metres high. A single entrance lies on the northeast side.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

[SS 91774716] Bury Castle (NAT) Camp (NR)[1] Bury Castle: a multivallate hillfort of under three acres, at the end of the spur immediately northwest of Selworthy. Defences consist of widely spaced, outer ditched triple ramparts to west, and a scarped, precipitous slope to the east. (see plans) [2-5] This is a small univallate hillfort with an annexe or outwork to the west. The alledged third rampart shown by Allcroft is a bank running from SS 9152 4714 to SS 91584734. It is of totally different appearance to the other defences and seems to be nothing more than a comparatively modern field bank. The main enclosure is bounded by a rampart and outer ditch, but because it is situated on a west to east slope the ditch disappears and the rampart degenerates into little more than an outer scarp on the downhill (eastern) side. No continuation of the southern end of the western outwork can be traced, but the northern end turns and is linked by a scarp to the main enclosure. Published 1:2500 survey revised. [6] There are traces of stone building foundations in the northeast part of the inner enclosure where a track enters [7]. Whybrow mentions that a good deal of stone is evident in the structure at and near the northeast entrance, as well as at one or two other points, and it is possible the rampart was originally stone revetted. [7,8] (SS 9177 4716) Bury Castle (NAT) Settlement (NR) [9] Additional Bibliography. [10-14] SS 917 471. Bury Castle, Selworthy. Listed in gazetteer as a multivallate hillfort with widely spaced ramparts covering 0.18 hectares. [15] Bury Castle consists of a suboval enclosure of presumed Iron Age date with two detached outworks on the northwest side. The site lies at 240 metres above Ordnance Datum on a spur running roughly northwest to southeast immediately northwest of Selworthy village. The enclosure is centred at SS 9176 4716 and measures 80 metres by 60 metres overall. It is defined by a substantial earth and stone bank 1.6 metres high with an external ditch 1.5 metres deep. On the southeast, the enclosure is defined by an outward facing scarp only. There is a single entrance 3 metres wide on the northeast side. This has been obscured and infilled by a later dump of material, possibly stone clearance resulting from post-medieval agricultural improvement. Some slight platforming immediately south of the entrance may represent original hut stances.There are two detached outworks. The first lies some 30 metres to the north-west and comprises a single bank 10 metres long and 2.7 metres high with a ditch 1.2 m deep on its northern side. There is no clear entrance through the outwork, and it is likely that access was around its southern end where the earthwork fades. The second outwork lies 150 metres northwest of the former and is about 120 metres long. Its western half has been incorporated into a later field system and it is now indistinguishable from a field bank. The eastern half, which was initially identified by Allcroft, comprises a spread bank 4.5 metres wide and 0.9 metres high. Both outworks cross the spur and fade away where natural slopes begin to steepen. Surveyed at 1:1000 scale in February 1998 as part of RCHME's Exmoor Project. A full report has been deposited in the archive. [16,17] Scheduling revised with new national number 16 August 1994 was Somerset 205. [20] The Iron Age hillfort is visible as an earthwork on aerial photographs. The main fort enclosure is centred at SS 9176 4716 with the two outer ramparts to the north west which are centred at SS 9168 4718 and SS 9158 4729 respectively. The fort is as described above [16,17] and has been mapped using the available aerial photography. [21-23] At the entrance to the fort, on the north side, a number of stones have been pulled from the bank to form a cairn. [25] There is another bank 200 metres to the north-west which may be an outwork. [28-30] A small hillfort or defended enclosure with an additional crossridge defence on the uphill west side. Situated on the tip of a spur, with a steep drop on two sides, but a gentler approach to the southwest. The enclosure is subrectangular in plan with slightly curving sides and rounded corners, having an internal area of 0.21 hectares enclosed by univallate earthworks. The defences are greatest on the upper sides, with a bank up to 2 metres high and outer ditch up to 2 metres deep, forming an external face 1.7 metres high. On the lower sides use is made of the natural slope which has been scarped to form a bank 0.2 metres high above a drop of 1.8 metres, with a slight outer terrace. The earthworks have a steep, well preserved profile. The most likely original entrance is in the centre of the northeastern side where there is a disturbed area consisting of a gap in the rampart and a mound of stone extending out from the interior of the enclosure, truncating the ditch which turns out along it. This may represent a tumbled outturned entrance or collapsed gatehouse. Uphill from this there is a counterscarp bank outside the ditch. The present entrance on the southwest appears to have been created by a modern trackway over the ramparts. Uphill, 32 metres above the enclosure, is a crossridge work with two arms meeting at a shallow point on the crest of the ridge. The northeast arm, 45 metres long, runs parallel to the top side of the enclosure, and the second arm runs south from this for 45 metres. It is formed of a bank approximately 2 metres high and an external ditch approximately 2 metres deep, of similar proportions to the upper side of the enclosure, forming an external face 2.5 metres high. On the north-east this work runs to the edge of the spur and turns briefly towards the enclosure as a scarp and terrace. A length of natural scarp completes the gap between the two. On the south, however, the work ends well short of the edge of the hill, suggesting that approach was intended from this direction. There is a gap through the crosswork immediately south of the apex, consisting of a shallowing of the ditch and lowering of the bank, but this appears to be modern. The crosswork may have defined an outer enclosure, but a more likely purpose was to provide better visibility both from and of the site along the uphill approach. Such crossworks covering the otherwise blind approach to a defended site are a feature of several sites in the region. The outer edge of the cross-work ditch has been reused as the course of a later field enclosure bank, and it has been faced with drystone walling. Redundant field banks are present around the site and date from the post-medieval or early modern period. [33] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 8. [34] The site was surveyed in April 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 8. [35] The site is depicted and labelled "Bury Castle" and "Fort" on 2020 MasterMap data. [36]

Sources/Archives (35)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <2> Monograph: Allcroft, A.H.. 1908. Earthwork of England: Prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman, and Mediaeval. Macmillan (London). P. 112-113.
  • <3> Monograph: Ordnance Survey. 1962. Ordnance Survey Map of Southern Britain in the Iron Age. Ordnance Survey. p 41.
  • <4> Index: Ministry of Works. 1961. List of Ancient Monuments of England and Wales. P. 82.
  • <5> Monograph: Page, W. (editor). 1911. The Victoria History of the County of Somerset. Archibald Constable and Company, Limited (London). 2. P. 499-500.
  • <6> Unpublished document: PITCHER, GHP. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, 21 July 1965.
  • <7> Monograph: Burrow, E.J.. 1924. Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset. P. 72-3.
  • <8> Article in serial: Whybrow, C.. 1967. Some Multivallate Hill-Forts on Exmoor and in North Devon. Devon Archaeological Society. 25. P. 11-12.
  • <9> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1974. 1:10,000 scale map: 1974. 1:10000.
  • <10> Article in monograph: Forde-Johnston, J.L.. 1976. Hillforts of the Iron Age in England and Wales: A Survey of the Surface Evidence. Liverpool University Press.
  • <11> Article in monograph: Fox, A. 1961. South-Western Hillforts. Problems of the Iron Age in Southern Britain. Institute of Archaeology. P. 58.
  • <12> Monograph: Phelphs, W.. 1836. The History and Antiquities of Somersetshire. J. B. Nicholas and Son. 1. P. 117.
  • <13> Article in serial: Burrow, I.. 1981. Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in the First to Eighth Centuries AD. British Archaeological Reports. 91. pp 259-60, 91.
  • <14> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited.
  • <15> Article in monograph: Hogg, A.H.A.. 1979. British Hillforts: An Index. Occasional Papers of the Hill-Fort Study Group; No.1. British Archaeological Reports. p 197.
  • <16> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. H Riley, R Wilson-North and P Wild, 19 February 1998.
  • <17> Report: Wild, P.. 1998. Bury Castle, Selworthy, Somerset.
  • <18> Survey: Bury Castle, Selworthy/ink survey . 1:1000. General: Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <19> Survey: Bury Castle, Selworthy/pencil survey . 1:1000. General: Permatrace. Pencil.
  • <20> Unpublished document: English Heritage. 15.09.94. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <21> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF/106G/UK/1655 3015-3016 (11 July 1946).
  • <22> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 161-162 (17 April 1979).
  • <23>XY Archive: Severn Estuary Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment: SS 94 NW. MD000133. [Mapped feature: #42546 ]
  • <24> Report: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. Field Monument Warden Report.
  • <25> Unpublished document: National Trust notes. PRN 33985.
  • <27> Unassigned: May 1974. NMR SS9147-1 (WAP).
  • <28> Aerial photograph: West Air Photography. 1981-1983. Oblique aerial photographs across Exmoor National Park. 29011.
  • <29> Aerial photograph: 1971. HSL.UK.71-177 Run 91, September. 8681.
  • <30> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 9147.
  • <31> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. 286.
  • <32> Aerial photograph: 1990. DAP QL5-8.
  • <33> Report: Preece, A.. 1993-1994. English Heritage Monument Protection Programme.
  • <34> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <35> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015.
  • <36>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2020. MasterMap data. 1:2,500. [Mapped feature: #42545 ]



Grid reference Centred SS 9167 4720 (269m by 225m) (Estimated from sources)
Map sheet SS94NW

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO209
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11579
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO12588
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 NW2
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • National Trust HER Record
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 36765
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33985
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35796

Record last edited

Nov 11 2020 4:09PM


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