Norton Camp Hillfort, Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset

Norton Camp hillfort is a hill-top contour fort enclosing c5.2ha with three entrances, each a deep hollow way. Bidgood in 1850 described an inner and outer bank but Gray could not discern this in 1908, excavation suggesting it was natural in the only remaining section.

Other finds from the site include a neolithic axe, other flakes and scrapers and a C14 seal matrix.

The camp now consists of a single rampart, the whole side mutilated extensively, the three holloways being very deep and wide.

Excavations in 1968 and 1970 produced evidence of middle bronze age occupation.

A badly damaged site with a gently domed interior under the plough and the defences overgrown and eroded. The defences are univalate and now consist of a scarp up to 3m high. On the west side is a slight bank which appears to be a counterscarp but has been shown to be bronze age in date. The three holloways are about 450m long and up to 6m deep at the inner end.

Cropmarks seen in interior.

An external bank is mentioned in 1850.

Much of the ramparts are obscured by vegetation. A spring is enclosed within the rampart on the SE.

Planning application for housing development adjacent to the site.

Management plan agreed with creation of archaeological and nature trail. Involved fencing and the creation of a surfaced path adjacent to the Burnshill development, log steps and path through the woodland, clearance of dead trees and erection of stile and interpretation boards.

Watching brief required when footpath ploughed up across site.

Aerial photographs show clearly several internal features including subsidiary enclosures, holloways, and circular features (including concentric circles).

Area enclosed is an elongated circle with the brow of the hill on the west and a small valley on the east. Approaching hollow ways end a short way inside gaps in the ramparts, and APs show that they formerly extended further into the interior That on the SW is broadest. In its original form the fort may have had a more usual arrangement of opposing east and west entrances. An early Neolithic presence is indicated, and a possible henge to the N (PRN 44211) hints at the area being a ritual centre.

In the middle Bronze Age an enclosure of Ram’s Hill type was constructed around the top of the hill. Such enclosures are rare and evidence suggests that they were important sites on the boundary of several ecological zones and socio-political groups. The present fort was constructed in the later Iron Age, and lay on the border between two tribal areas, perhaps providing a contact point. The ditch was recut close to the time of the Roman invasion.

The sunken ways date from the late Iron Age to early RB, and are unusual or unique on a site of this size. Smaller similar features in Cornwall are interpreted as droveways into the fort. The hillfort was occupied into the early RB period but seems to have been abandoned by c AD100. Seems to have been an important ‘central place’ from Neolithic to RB times. Local folklore that “When Taunton was a furzey down, Norton was a market town” On the NE of the fort 15m from the rampart is a circular hollow 25m across, put forward as a Roman amphitheatre in 1872, but since regarded as natural.

A handaxe was discovered in 1981 (PRN 44292).

Scheduling revised with new national number on 1/8/1994 (was Somerset 96).

Generally the monument is in good condition with the exception of some badger damage. The interior continues to be ploughed.

See PRN 44292 for palaeolithic finds, PRN 44796 for 1908 excavation, PRN 44795 for 1968-71 excavations and PRN 44797 for bronze hoard.

Aerial photographs taken between 1989 and 1991 in particular show numerous internal features visible as cropmarks. Although conditions were clearly good for cropmark formation, the oblique views available are not conducive to confident transcription, particularly for the central and southern parts of the interior. Thus sitings are approximate and some detail is likely to have been missed. In addition, more recent agricultural features, primarily relating to field drainage, serve to obscure things further. In addition, it is not possible to identify any of the observed cropmarks with features excavated in 1968-71.

At least 5 circular or sub-circular ditched features are visible – at ST 19622617, ST 19552627, ST 19542632, ST 19572635 and ST 19642636. These range in size from circa 12 metres across to circa 18 metres. While they may represent the ditches surrounding plough-levelled round barrows, their size suggests that in many cases they may represent the locations of round houses. The fact that most, if not all, are penannular might support this suggestion.

A subrectangular ditched enclosure (plus associated features) measuring about 30 metres by 25 metres, with an east- facing entrance, is located just inside the northern rampart at ST 19602634. Numerous other linear and angled featuresare also visible, but do not clearly resolve themselves into clear arrangements. A curvilinear cropmark noted by Ellis circa 100 metres to the north of the hillfort and apparently concentric to it is visible on a number of aie photographs from 1947 onwards and represents former field boundaries.


OS map reference: ST 1962 2626. Nearest town/village: Norton Fitzwarren.

Data kindly supplied by the Somerset Historic Environment Record.

Record created in August 1983

© Copyright Somerset County Council 2007

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