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Pilsdon Pen



Details of Hill Fort on Pastscape

(ST 412013) Camp (NR) (1) Pilsdon Pen hill-fort consists of an irregularly shaped oval enclosure of 7 3/4 acres, defended by two lines of ramparts and ditches usually with counter-scarp banks. When the slope is less steep or absent there is an interval between the inner and outer defences. The lines of the inner ditch on the north-east side and of the outer ditch on the south-west side are mutilated by hedge-banks. Except at the north-west end of the enclosure when there is no appreciable natural fall, the inner rampart appears to have been of no great height above the level of the interior, and in some places is entirely absent. There are now four entrances to the camp. That at the south-east end, where the defences are set back on each side of the opening, appears to be original. The entrance on the south-west side has a platform between the inner and outer systems on its south-east flank. The more westerly of the two entrances at the north end appears to be modern, but the more easterly is ancient and is masked by a convergence of the defences on both flanks. Two roughly rectangular sinkings at the north end of the camp, with slight banks running from them, possibly represent an earlier line of defences at this end. Near the middle of the fort is a square enclosure surrounded by a slight bank about 25ft. wide with traces of an external ditch. On the south-west the bank is apparently formed by a pre-existing pillow-mound (For tumuli and pillow-mounds within the fort area, ST 40 SW 27 and 28). Near the middle of the square enclosure is a slight circular rise about 23 feet in diameter. (2-3) The hillfort consists of a series of strong banks and ditches as shown on 1:2500 plan herewith and is situated in a commanding position with level ground only at the north west end. The description given by the Royal Commission is correct except that a slight inner slope to the inner bank may be traced throughout its course. The rectangular enclosure is surrounded by a bank 10 metres wide and 0.5 metres high with a vague inner and outer quarry ditch. The whole of the south-west side has been destroyed by a later pillow mound ('G' on plan). Of the original entrances (K, L, M) both 'L' and 'M' are approached by strong causeways. North-west entrance 'N' has a modern causeway across the ditch. (4)
Excavations initiated and supported by the owners of the site, Mr. and Mrs. Pinney of Bettiscombe Manor, were carried out at Pilsdon Pen by P.S. Gelling from 1964 to 1971. Work was concentrated in three areas:-
(1). Earthworks on north-west. These were found to be the remains of abortive defences that were never completed, including a central entrance, a double rampart and a ditch 6 feet deep. It was surmised that they were probably built shortly before the main defences, for which they were a first attempt. A small Roman sherd was found near the gateway.
(2). Occupation Site. On the south side of the camp, opposite the square enclosure, two typical Iron Age round huts were excavated. Finds included a considerable amount of domestic refuse and a fragment of a crucible to which were adhering minute specks of gold.
(3). Square Enclosure. Excavations revealed that there were originally circular huts on the site of the square enclosure. These were replaced by by a timber structure which measured about 180 feet along its north-west side. The beam slots for this building were rectangular in section (unlike the usual U-shaped Iron Age gullies) and seemed to suggest an aisled structure surrounding a central courtyard. Associated with it were two huts of horse-shoe shaped plan with similar sleeper beam slots. Within one of the huts was found a gold coin of Gallo-Belgic XV type, but there was very little domestic debris and no trace of hearths. The rectilinear structure appears to have been demolished after a few decades, and replaced by low banks. Some cobbling was laid in the interior, upon which was found a Roman ballista bolt. On top of the bank was a pit containing nearly 1000 slingstones. The mound shown by the Royal Commission (and O.S. plans) in the centre of the square may represent the south end of a diagonal mound clearly visible on air photographs but not satisfactorily identified during the excavation. It is suggested that the rectilinear and horseshoe structures represent a temple extant between about 80 BC and 40 BC, and ranking as one of the outstanding structures in later British prehistory. The low banks which replaced it about 40 BC are regarded as the token demarcation of a temenos area. The importance of the site is confirmed by the evidence of gold-working. (6-8) Excavation and Mesolithic flints found. (9-10)
ST 412 013. Pilsdon Pen. Listed in gazetteer as a multivallate hillfort covering 3.2ha. (11)
Centred ST 41200130. Pilsdon Pen Hillfort, a well-preserved multivallate fort of Iron Age date.
Partially excavated 1964-1971 by P S Gelling: early defences concluded to be unfinished, hut foundations found in interior, site of temenos discovered (d). Re-excavated and reinstated 1982. Temenous reinterpreted as rabbit warren (e). (12)
A small multivallate Iron Age hillfort located at the southern end of Pilsdon Pen ridge 650 metres south west of Higher Newnham Farm. One of 4 hillforts overlooking the western end of the Marshwood Vale within 10 kilometres, the nearest being 2.5 kilometres east. Within the hillfort are the remains of 2 Late Neolithic to Bronze Age burial mounds, a Medieval cultivation system and a post Medieval rabbit warren. Scheduled. (13)
Chance Posted by Chance
29th March 2016ce

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