The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Maiden Castle (Durham)



There is some controversy over the age of this site, as the County Durham Sites & Monuments Register explains:

"classified as an Iron Age promontory fort, covering two acres and protected on all but the west side by steep natural slopes. The west rampart is 18ft. wide and 7ft. high with an external ditch, c.4ft. deep, and the remains of a slight inner bank at the south end. The original entrance may have been at the north end of this side, where there is a break in the outer ditch (Thomas, N, Guide to Prehistoric England, 1960. p. 111). Limited excavation (Jarrett, M G, trans. A&A, D&N, 1965, vol. 11, p. 124-7) on the west rampart revealed three phases of construction (A). The original clay rampart was revetted with cobbles, externally and at the top where a wooden palisade was also provided (B). The inside of the rampart was cut away and a stone revetting wall built, at least one of the stones bearing a medieval mason's mark (C). Wooden stakes were added to the retaining wall for strengthening. When the rampart was finally abandoned these stakes were burnt. 'Clearly the last two of the three phases must belong to the Middle Ages. It is possible, though not likely, that the original construction was prehistoric.' The only finds came from the topsoil, the earliest being C15 or C16 pottery fragments. The nearest parallels to this site are the defended, rather than fortified, farm or manor sites of medieval date in Roxburghshire, e.g. at Lintalee - grid reference NT61NW12. The interior of the earthwork is entirely wooded with no surface indications of occupation.' (NZ24SE38, Ordnance Survey, 1976)"
To reach Maiden Castle (reputed to be in fairly poor condition, despite its scheduled monument status) leave the City of Durham on the road to Shincliffe. The hillfort overlooks the River Wear from the tree-covered Whinney Hill, just opposite Houghall Agricultural College.
TomBo Posted by TomBo
13th August 2003ce
Edited 13th August 2003ce

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