Brewer’s Castle Hillfort, Somerset
Brewer’s Castle hillfort is a small (0.3 hectare) univalate enclosure on a promontory of the (redundantly named) Hawkridge Ridge above the River Barle, which runs through this heavily wooded and rather beautiful river valley. The enclosure is overlooked by the larger Mounsey Castle on the next promontory to the South East.
The relationship between them is not clear – though they are very close to each other in terms of crow’s flight distance, they are separated by the incline of the valley and of course the river, so if they were both in use at the same time, they could well have been intended to serve different territories – either exclusively, or with Brewer’s Castle acting as a complimentary outlier to Mounsey Castle. The ford of this stretch of the river lies equidistant between the two enclosures – this might be an important factor in explaining their proximity.
The builders of Brewer’s Castle decided to modify the natural defences of the promontory to form a steep rampart with an average height of around 2 metres on the West side. Ramparts on the other sides were either not so prominent, or have not fared so well, and remain as a low rubble bank and scarp.(1) There are Eastern and Western entrances, both of which are thought to be original.(2)
There are also signs of vitrification, the fusing of rock caused by intense heat. This is a rare feature for a defended enclosure in this part of Britain – the majority of vitrified hillforts are found in Scotland. An irregular pillar of stone has been reported to the South of a gap in the North East bank. There is some debate, but it has been suggested that it was a gate-post.(3)
There is also a small enclosure 75 metres to the East of Brewer’s Camp, on the same promotory. This appears on the 1890 Ordnance Survey map and, as far as I can find, nowhere else. Without excavation it’s impossible to tell if this was contemporary with Brewer’s Castle or from another period entirely.
OS map reference: SS 8831 2976. Nearest town/village: Dulverton.
1. Burrow, Ian (1981). Hillfort and hill-top settlement in Somerset in the first to eighth centuries A.D. BAR.
2. Somerset Historic Environment Record 34287
3. Burrow, Ian (1981). Hillfort and hill-top settlement in Somerset in the first to eighth centuries A.D. BAR.