Berry Castle Hillfort, West Porlock, Somerset
Berry Castle hillfort has, over the years, been variously described as a Romano-British fort, an earthwork thrown up in 1052 in response to the attack by Harold Godwinson (1), and on one OS map, a Tudor hunting lodge.
The enclosure is now surrounded by woodland, on a spur of high ground between two combes, created by the flow of water from a number of springs which issue from the hillside above the site. The neck of the spur has been cut off by a substantial outwork with an external ditch, through which the parish boundary ditch has been cut (the enclosure is also bisected by the ditch) (2).
Burrow describes the ramparts making up three sides of a rectangular enclosure, (3) with the North East face (the open side of the rectangle) being protected by a sharp slope, the bottom of which meets the confluence of the aforementioned springs. Descriptions of the height and position of the ramparts and ditch seem confused – at their most impressive the ramparts are 7m across and 1.7m high internally, with an external ditch 6 m in width at the top, 2 metres deep, and 2 metres wide at the bottom.
One surveyor noted that the position of the enclosure makes no military sense due to it being overlooked from the West side, which is little defended. The position makes a lot more sense however, when you reflect that it occupies a point conveniently between low and high grazing pastures, and additionally has a number of plentiful fresh water supplies. Berry Castle is perhaps best described as a defendable enclosure, rather than a defended one.
OS map reference: SS 9177 4716. Nearest town/village: Porlock.
1. Swanton, Michael (Ed) (1998) The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Routledge P.179
2. Ian Burrow 1981 Hillfort and hill-top settlement in Somerset in the first to eighth centuries A.D. BAR British series1 (1974) – 91, 1981
4. Scheduled Monument Notification DOE (IAM) Record Form 24 1 77