Cannington Camp/Cynwit Castle, Cannington, Somerset

Cannington Park camp, also known as Cynwit Castle, is a univallate hillfort. It is on the summit of a hill of outcropping limestone. Its defences are now slight and difficult to distinguish amongst old quarry pits, rock outcrops and brambles but in the main appear to have been a scarp surmounted by a dry stone wall. The wall is robbed and tumbled, but was revealed in a trial trench dug in the SW corner by Mr C Bazell in 1913. Parallel and below this, further scarping of the hillside appears to be additional defensive work. A gap on the N side may be original, but the main entrance seems to have been on the SE, where there is a third scarp at the foot of the hill. E of the entrance, a bank and outer ditch are probably a later adaption of the original scarp Numerous finds from the surface over the last sixty years include worked flints, Iron age pottery and a C1 strip bow brooch.
The hillfort is densely overgrown with hazel and bramble. It is a bivallate site with apparently original entrances at the N and S. Excavations took place in 1905 (in the interior), in 1913 (behind the rampart on the S side) and in 1963 (behind the outer bank on the S) (PRN 12770). The site is one of a number related to an incident in 878 described in Asser’s “Life of King Alfred” when a Danish force besieged English levies in an earthwork (Arx Cynwit) Other sites, particularly Countisbury in Devon, have also been suggested. It has also been suggested that the settlement and field system to the S (PRN 10444) post dates the outer earthwork of the hillfort.
Roughly square hillfort, constructed around a conical rocky outcrop to enclose c12 acres. The camp was damaged by quarrying during the first world war. Present access is via the original entrance at the SE corner. A ditch has been quarried out of the rock. Outside the entrance are a series of terraces. The interior has sparse soil cover with many stony outcrops. Many thistles and nettles particularly on the W half.

Long period (1974-84) of correspondence regarding quarrying threats resulting from breaches of planning permission.

Other finds include flint flakes, scrapers, cores, a leaf shaped arrowhead and Iron age “B” sherds. {8}

The quarry has continued to advance on the hillfort and all the markers placed by English Heritage appear to have been moved. There is also confusion over the exact boundary of the scheduled area but the quarry does appear to have crossed the boundary.

Most of monument under fairly dense scrub of thorn and gorse, with mature oak and ash on the E, NW, W and S side slopes. Summit is open grass cover, with many rocky outcrops. SE entrance earthworks lie in field of permanent pasture and have good stable grass cover. Vehicle track into hillfort from SE corner, but is long established and stable. On N side, area of stone quarry is hugely expanded. Quarry face, drop of 50-100 feet, now skirts around N angle of camp at a minimum distance of 4m from visible earthworks. Top of quarry face along NW side of camp defined by recent rubble bank about 3m from base of earthworks. This edge is stable but there has been a collapse, bringing quarry edge closer to base of earthworks.
See PRN 16250 for Bronze Age tanged knife find and PRN 15298 for a bronze axe find.
The camp was damaged in 1916 by the digging of two mining trial trenches and the activities of large numbers of mules associated with barytes mining (PRN 12826).


OS map reference: ST 247 405. Nearest town/village: Cannington.

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