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Historic England Research Records

Yarnbury Castle

Hob Uid: 215137
Location :
Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Berwick St. James, Steeple Langford
Grid Ref : SU0352040390
Summary : A multiphase, multivallate hillfort of 28.5 acres. The earthworks were surveyed by RCHME in 1991 and a full descriptive and analytical account can be found. Excavations have recovered Iron Age and Roman pottery, as well as inhumations in both graves and pits, and other human remains. Iron Age and Roman coins were also found. Within the main hillfort is an earlier enclosure 5.2 hectares in area. Intensity of occupation inthe main hillfort is demonstrated by the recognition during the RCHME survey of over 130 probable structures, presumably representing the sites of round houses as well as pits and other features. Between the earlier circuit and the inner rampart, a number of large compounds are visible, with possible stone footings discernible in many. In the south east quadrant of the hillfort are the remains of the Winterbourne Stoke sheep fair, which was held biannually until 1916, when the surrounding area was commandeered by the army. The most prominent features are the sheep folds, a rectangular area 120 metres by 90 metres and consisting of 16 low mounds in two blocks of 8. The present sheep fold is probably of 19th century date, although the antiquity of the sheep fair itself is unknown. The discovery of Roman material, including pottery, tiles, coins and burials, during both excavation and on other occasions has led to the sites inclusion in Scott's gazetteer of Roman villas.
More information : SU 035404 Yarnbury Castle (NAT) hill fort (NR) sheep fair
held here (NAT) (1)

A multivallate hill fort, with elaborate inturned entrance at E,
enclosing 28 1/2 acres (2). The traces of a single bank and ditch
enclosure within the main fortifications were excavated by Mrs
Cunnington in 1932. The main earthworks are probably c.100 BC, post dating the small enclosure which proved to be c 300 BC from pottery in the lower levels. The ditch and entrance at the W were exposed revealing post holes, probably forming part of a gateway. The ditch had been allowed to silt up and the bank levelled at an early date, there afterwards being occupation over the area into the RB period. Pottery from EIA to RB, including Samian of c 160 AD, was found. Three inhumations in graves were found, associated finds suggesting LIA/RB, also two inhumations in pits and isolated human bones in other pits. Nine complete or partial remains of newly born or very young infants were in the silt of the ditch. Two coins, one Celtic of 1st or 2nd century BC and bronze of ? Constantine I were found. (2-3)

A small enclosure added to the outside of the ramparts on W is
probably a late RB stock enclosure. Remains of the pens of an 18th century sheep fair lie over part of the inner enclosure. (4)

SU 035 404: Yarnbury Castle, an IA fort situated at about 500 ft
above OD, comprises three ramparts with outer ditches, and encloses approximately 10 hectares.

The outer rampart, up to 3.5m high above the 1.7m deep ditch, is
encroached upon by the median rampart in places, suggesting that this and the inner rampart were either constructed or enlarged at a later period. In places a berm at the original ground surface level survives between the middle and outer banks, and an irregular quarry ditch along the inside of the inner rampart, are further evidence of alterations to the original plan.

The complex inturned entrance in the E and an offset entrance in
the N appear to be the only original entrances, although the break
in the W may have been made to give access to the later
sub-rectangular enclosure on that side.

Within the hillfort the earlier enclosure can be traced as a shallow
ditch with a slight inner bank on the W. It encloses approximately
4 1/2 hectares, and although extensively mutilated, particularly
in the E, a causeway at SU 03464031 remains, probably the entrance excavated in 1932.

The work is generally well preserved except for some quarrying of
the inner rampart in the SE, and numerous interior banks and scoops probably associated with the sheep fairs held here from the 18th century until 1916 (a).

Resurveyed on PFD, utilizing OS APs,at 1:2500. (5)

Surveyed as part of the South Wiltshire Earthworks Project, showed 98 probable structures, mainly circular and many of which are clustered in compounds defined by low banks. Later use as a sheep fair is represented by the earthworks of the sheep folds and associated buildings. The latter being cut into the inner rampart. An aerial of the area demonstrates the relationship of the hillfort to the surrounding linear ditches and field systems. (6)

SU 035 403. Yarnbury. Listed in gazetteer as a multivallate hillfort covering 10.5ha. (7)

Yernbury Castle. Listed in gazetteer of hillforts in Wiltshire. (8)

Yarnbury Castle. Published plan. (9-10)

Yarnbury Castle has been surveyed by staff of RCHME Salisbury office as part of a project focusing on the earthworks of South Wiltshire. The folowing is abstracted from the archive report:

The 11 ha multiphase hillfort of Yarnbury is situated on the Upper Chalk at the S end of a level spur, with access to the River Wylye, 3km to the SW, via a dry valley S of Deptford Down. Yarnbury is clearly the result of a complex development, culminating in the multivallate enclosure. In its final form, the defences comprise, for the most part, three ramparts with external ditches, although the outermost ditch is absent on the NE, due to damage by the impingement of a later downland droveway. Overall width of the defences is a uniform 55ft.

Quarry scoops are present around most of the circuit immediately to the rear of the inner rampart. Marked hollows in the ditch bottoms, often reflected by 'dumps' on the rampart crests, are a recurring feature at Yarnbury and it is possible that these reflect 'gang' divisions in construction or refurbishment, as may be the straight lengths by which the entire circuit is built.

Of the seven breaches in the defensive circuit, only that on the E can be considered as original, the remainder being later in date, some possibly associated with the Romano-British occupation. many of the openings appear to relate to downland droveways, a number of which converged on the site in the Post-Medieval period.

Within the main hillfort there is another, earlier, enclosure 5.2ha in area. This is best preserved on the W and SW sides. The marked 'causewayed' effect of the ditch is due to the placing of structures of Iron Age and Romano-British date into the feature, making use of the shelter afforded by the hollow. On the NW the course of the ditch has been modified by the development of a track leading from the entrance, and serving compounds and structures of the later phase. The entrance into the inner enclosure is located on its W side and is flanked by two low mounds which may be the remains of spoil heaps associated with Cunnington's excavations there.

The intensity of occupation within the multivallate fort is ably demonstrated by the recognition of over 130 probable structures surviving mainly as hollows up to 1m deep. The majority appear to be circular, 7 to 15m diameter, many being set within compounds or yards. On the N and E, between the earlier circuit and the inner rampart, a number of large compounds containing structures are visible, with possible stone footings being discernible within many of them. Not all of these structures are likely to be contemporary. Within a number of them are indications of overlapping elements. In addition to the structures, pits, probably contemporary with the occupation, are visible in many areas.

Occupying the SE quadrant of the hillfort, and obscuring earlier detail, are the remainns of the Winterbourne Stoke sheep fair, an event of uncertain antiquity, held biannually until 1916 when the surrounding area was commandeered by the army for troop training. The limits of the fair are marked by 6 boundary stones, the northern line of which also defines the Steeple Langford-Berwick St John parish boundary. Within this area the most prominent features are the sheep folds, a rectangualr area 120m x 90m and consisting of 16 low mounds arranged in two blocks of 8. The present sheep fold is probably of 19th century date, as it does not appear on Colt Hoare's plan of 1812, and the SW corner overlies a track shown on the Andrews and Dury map of 1773. (11)

Further reference. (12)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1961
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Source Number : 2
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : Hawkes, CF and S Piggott
Page(s) : 29-31
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Vol(s) : 103-4, 1946-7
Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : RCHME Field Investigation 04-DEC-1991 (MC Corney)
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Source Number : 12
Source : A gazetteer of Roman villas in Britain
Source details : Site number WZ 156
Page(s) : 207
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Vol(s) : no.1
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Source : Yarnbury Castle, Roman British pottery/ink distribution plot
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Source : Yarnbury Castle earthworks/photogrammetric survey
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Source : Yarnbury Castle, Post Medieval pottery/ink distribution plot
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Source : Yarnbury Castle/pencil fieldwalking grid
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Source : SU 04 SW 6 (Yarnbury Castle) (1974)
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Source : Yarnbury Environs/AP transcription
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Source : Yarnbury Castle hillfort/site development
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Source : Yarnbury Castle/environs
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Source Number : 3
Source : The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine
Source details : Cunnington, ME
Page(s) : 198-205
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Vol(s) : 46, 1932-4
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Source : Yarnbury Castle hillfort/report
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Source : Yarnbury Castle hillfort/geophysical report
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Source : Yarnbury Castle hillfort/ink survey
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Source : Yarnbury area showing contours and cropmarks/ink survey
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Source : Yarnbury Castle hillfort/outline plan
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Source : Yarnbury Castle hillfort/pencil survey
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Source : Yarnbury Castle, Iron Age pottery/ink distribution plot
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Source Number : 4
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Thomas, N. 1960. Guide to Prehistoric England, p235
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Source Number : 5
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Grinsell, LV, J Dyer. 1971. Discovering Regional Archaeology: Wessex, p80
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Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 MHB 17-DEC-74
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Source Number : 7
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 12: Newsletter
Source details : Corney, M
Page(s) : 8
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Vol(s) : 12, 1986
Source Number : 8
Source : British Hillforts: an index
Source details :
Page(s) : 207
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Vol(s) : 62
Source Number : 9
Source : A history of Wiltshire: volume 1, part 1
Source details : Grinsell, LV. Archaeological Gazetteer
Page(s) : 262
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Source : A history of Wiltshire: volume 1, part 2
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Multivallate Hillfort, Inhumation, Pit, Hut Circle
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Later Prehistoric
Display Date : Later Prehistoric
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -4000
Monument Type : Enclosure
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Enclosure, Inhumation, Villa
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit, Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : No earlier than 1800
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date : 1800
Monument Type : Sheep Fold
Evidence : Earthwork, Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : Sheep fair ended 1916
Monument End Date : 1916
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Sheep Fold
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Enclosure, Inhumation, Villa
Object Type : COIN, TILE
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Wiltshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 200/300
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : WI 116
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : 15418/10
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 04 SW 6
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : RCHME: SOUTH WILTSHIRE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date :
End Date :
Associated Activities : YARNBURY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1800-01-01
End Date : 1810-12-31
Associated Activities : YARNBURY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1932-01-01
End Date : 1932-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 04 SW 6
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1974-12-17
End Date : 1974-12-17
Associated Activities : YARNBURY CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31