Brent Knoll Hillfort, East Brent, Somerset


Brent Knoll hillfort is defended by a bank and outer ditch with counterscarp bank, and a second bank on the NE.

The defences consist of a bank, strengthened by scarping, a berm and a second scarp. There is an entrance on the E side.

The interior of the fort has been extensively quarried for lias limestone but considerable areas, especially in the N and SW are still intact. The whole site is under pasture, suffering damage from cattle in places. The outer defences on the N have been used as military trenches. The main enclosure is defined by an inner bank, discontinuous on the W where it has been quarried away, and with an entrance on the E side with some unusual features.

About 5m below the inner bank is a flat terrace about 3m wide from the ground which falls to a second major bank which surrounds the hilltop, except on the E where a modern trackway may reflect the original access route. There are several scarps across the spine of the hill to the N but some of these may be medieval strip lynchets which are also present on the S slopes of the hill (see PRN 10082). The track enters the hillfort in a slight hollow way, on each side of which is an irregular D-shaped platform on the outer face of the bank. These have been compared to Dark Age features at Cadbury Congresbury, Avon.

On at least two occasions, Skinner undertook excavations apparently on the NW side behind the inner rampart. He located pennant sandstone roof tiles, “foundation stones” and painted wall plaster. Coins were also found but not recorded.

Skinner’s notes are reproduced in Burrow. The finds are all indicative of a substantial building. A temple is more likely than a villa.

Other finds include an urn containing coins of Trajan and Severus, found before 1790.

These or other finds are also referred to by Collinson.

A total of 580 sherds are in Taunton and Woodspring museums. Most appears to be of C3- C4 date, mostly grey and black wares.

Burrow notes the tradition of a castle on the Knoll.

The enclosure award of 1801 shows a castellated tower.

RB pottery was found within the area of the hillfort at ST342510.

A large univallate hillfort. Rampart c.1m high, with internal quarry ditches, encloses the 1.6ha flat top of the hill. 2m below externally is a berm, then a further drop of 2-5m to a wide outer terrace which may have been a ditch and counterscarp. The outer terrace is absent on the NE, suggesting it was perhaps unfinished. Eroded patches of the ramparts show a rough stone facing and in one place a line of cut stones. Entrance on E where a hollow way, reused as later quarry track, runs between slightly inturned ramparts. The ramparts drop to form external D-shaped flanking platforms. A comparable feature is present on the lower terrace, perhaps representing a later extension of the gateway.

The present track into the fort appears to overlay an earlier hollow way just outside the entrance, and this earlier feature, which runs in a straight line down from the fort, may be the original approach road. On the N tip of the fort the berm drops to form a small platform, and the lower terrace protrudes to form two bastions. A large lynchet immediately below is possibly an additional rampart. These features may have guarded the N approach to the fort, and a narrow inturned gap in the rampart behind may have provided an entrance.

A 35m stretch of the rampart on the W is levelled. Limestone quarrying, probably medieval, has affected much of the interior, and seems to have spread radially from the E entrance. Banks and mounds present may have been formed or simply heightened by quarry spoil. Lynchets to the N of the fort appear to be part of a medieval strip field system which can be seen around the entire hill. No ground evidence can be seen to substantiate the presence of a medieval castle – if one existed it may have been quarried away.

The fort has been claimed as the site of Mons Badonicus.

IA pottery fragment found in erosion scar on S of fort in external face of rampart.

Scheduled area revised with new national number 3.6.94 to include area of field system to the N (PRN 10082).

Scheduled area revised with new national number 3.6.94 to include area of field system to the N (PRN 10082).

See PRN 15995 for Second World War trenches.

The monument is in generally good condition under permanent pasture with only a few areas where erosion will need to be monitored. Some scrub clearance would be beneficial.

Excavation of three post-holes by the National Trust (PRN 17268) showed the top 0.5m of the eastern rampart to be composed of dark clay loam with small amounts of stone. Abraded Roman sherds were incorporated in the material suggesting that this may represent a post-Roman raising of the rampart.

OS amp coordinates: ST 341 509. Nearest town/village: East Brent.

Data kindly supplied by the Somerset Historic Environment Record.

Record created in June 1983

© Somerset County Council 2007

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