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Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record caveat document.

Name:Grabbist Hillfort
ENPHER Monument Number:MSO9408
Type of Record:Monument
Grid Reference:SS 9817 4369


A possible Iron Age defended enclosure, defined to the north and west by a double bank and ditch. The southern side of the hill is almost precipitous and there are no defensive works there.

Monument Types


[SS 9835 4371] Earthwork [NR]. (1)

No further information. (2)

Although situated at the end of a steep sided, narrow ridge, this feature is not a defensive earthwork and it does not appear to be prehistoric. In spite of a slight bank and shallow outer ditch at its western end it looks like a lynchet. Traces of narrow rig and furrow on the ridge above it suggest that it may be the lyncheted boundary to an area of cultivation, and may be of late medieval origin. (3)

The site appears to be an unfinished defensive enclosure. On the north and west sides are a double bank and ditch, the bank being 3.0 metres above the ditch base, at its highest. These peter out to the east, but a small bank, 0.5 metres high remains completing the circuit on the north side. The southern side of the hill is almost precipitous and there are no defensive works there. The area enclosed is ovate, circa 200 metres by 100 metres. Possible earthworks seen on aerial photographss to the north have been ploughed out. (4)

The enclosure on Grabbist Hill is centred at SS 9830 4367. It lies on the southeastern edge of the hill at 170 metres above sea level, commanding views over Dunster to the enclosures on Gallox Hill. The site was surveyed at a scale of 1:1000 using GPS and EDM as part of the RCHME Exmoor Project. The enclosure is ovoid in plan and measures 500x60m. No defences are present on the southern edge, where the land falls away steeply to the base of the "Giant's Chair", a natural feature formed by land slippage. The earthworks are strongest at the northeastern corner, where a ditch and counterscarp bank run for some 70 metres. A possible inner rampart has been disturbed by a later field boundary which runs around the inner edge of most of the enclosure. The ditch here is 2.2 metres deep and the overall width of the defences is 10 metres. The break where the modern track enters the enclosure may be an original entrance. Most of the northern edge of the enclosure is defined by a single scarp 1.3-1.9 metres high. A quarry scarp is also discernible behind this scarp. The field bank mentioned above links the northern edge with a scarp which cuts off the eastern edge of the spur. Narrow ridging covers the southeastern part of the interior and a length of field bank runs north-south for 30 metres to the west of this. The site lies in fairly open deciduous woodland. The nature and scale of the earthworks, combined with their location both topographically and in their proximity to the enclosures on Gallox Hill, suggest that the site is an Iron Age defended enclosure. Cultivation has taken place on the site; this probably occurred in the medieval or post medieval period, although no map evidence for this was found. (5)

Scheduled on 11 August 2003. (8)

The earthwork of the univallate Hillfort on Grabbist Hill is clearly visible on aerial photographs examined as part of the Exmoor National Park National Mapping Programme project in 2008. (9-10, 12)

May be remains of prehistoric hillfort. (13)

Incomplete large enclosure with bank and ditch to the north. Also to the north is a bank and ditch forming an outwork. (14)

The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 records Grabbist Hillfort as in bad condition and of high risk due to extreme damage by vegetation, namely trees, bracken and seedlings. (18)

The hillfort was included in the Exmoor National Park Monument Management Scheme for 2011-12. The site was first cleared of vegetation and then sprayed to halt bracken enroachment on the site. (19)

<1> Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1962, 6" SS94SE (Map). SSO1634.

<2> Hancock, F., 1902, REV Object Name Book, P. 29 (Unassigned). SEM7708.

<3> Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comments, F1 Pitcher, G. 16/06/1965 (Unpublished document). SMO5103.

<4> Dennison, E, 1986, Somerset Archaeology 1984-5, 145-6 (Article in serial). SSO911.

<5> Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, Field Investigators Comment, Riley, H. 1998 (Unpublished document). SMO5111.

<6> MARSHALL, PM, Grabbist Hill/pencil survey (Technical drawing). SMO7271.

<7> MARSHALL, PM, Grabbist Hill/ink survey (Technical drawing). SMO7270.

<8> English Heritage, 20/8/2003, English Heritage to Somerset County Council (Unpublished document). SSO1136.

<9> Vertical Aerial Photograph, NMR OS/79013 244-45. 17/04/1979 (Aerial photograph). SMO4068.

<10> Oblique Aerial Photograph, NMR SS 9843/5 (NMR 23825/03). 19/02/2005 (Aerial photograph). SMO4069.

<11> Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, Exmoor Project (Collection). SMO5831.

<12> 2007-2009, Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 94 SE (Archive). SMO7570.

<13> Aston, M, 19.10.77, Somerset County Council (Unassigned). SSO773.

<14> Western Archaeological Trust, 1980s, Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey, 9843 (Survey). SSO708.

<16> HSL.UK.71-177 Run 99, 8803 (Aerial photograph). SSO261.

<17> 1990, DAP QK7,8 1990 SCED (Aerial photograph). SSO127.

<18> Bray, L.S., 2009, Final Results Table: Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment (Report). SEM7744.

<19> Turner, J., Monument Management Scheme: 2011-12 (Report). SEM7880.

Sources and Further Reading

[1]SSO1634 - Map: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1962. 6" SS94SE.
[2]SEM7708 - Unassigned: Hancock, F.. 1902. REV Object Name Book. P. 29.
[3]SMO5103 - Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comments. F1 Pitcher, G. 16/06/1965.
[4]SSO911 - Article in serial: Dennison, E. 1986. Somerset Archaeology 1984-5. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 129. 145-6.
[5]SMO5111 - Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. Riley, H. 1998.
[6]SMO7271 - Technical drawing: MARSHALL, PM. Grabbist Hill/pencil survey.
[7]SMO7270 - Technical drawing: MARSHALL, PM. Grabbist Hill/ink survey.
[8]SSO1136 - Unpublished document: English Heritage. 20/8/2003. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
[9]SMO4068 - Aerial photograph: Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/79013 244-45. 17/04/1979.
[10]SMO4069 - Aerial photograph: Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 9843/5 (NMR 23825/03). 19/02/2005.
[11]SMO5831 - Collection: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Exmoor Project.
[12]SMO7570 - Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 94 SE. MD002187.
[13]SSO773 - Unassigned: Aston, M. 19.10.77. Somerset County Council.
[14]SSO708 - Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 9843.
[16]SSO261 - Aerial photograph: HSL.UK.71-177 Run 99. 8803.
[17]SSO127 - Aerial photograph: 1990. DAP QK7,8 1990 SCED.
[18]SEM7744 - Report: Bray, L.S.. 2009. Final Results Table: Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment.
[19]SEM7880 - Report: Turner, J.. Monument Management Scheme: 2011-12.

Other References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO217
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11230
  • Local List Status (No)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 SE2
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 36851
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33567
Date Last Edited:Feb