Rook’s Castle Hillfort, Somerset

Rook’s Castle hillfort is in an ideal location for a spur end enclosure of the Higher Castles type. The ground falls away steeply to the W and S. Evidence for a quarry here in the Middle Ages may account for the two ponds and the hollow lozenge-shaped area between them, but can scarcely have caused the well-preserved bank and ditch on the W and N sides of the site. This has a rounded corner on the NW and the bank stands c1.5m (estimated) above the bottom of the ditch. To the S and E the earthwork is confused. On the S the ditch appears to run beyond the bank, which comes to an end c70m from the NW angle. At this point a S facing scarp runs E for c100m, gradually decreasing in height. This scarp appears to have cut into the existing bank. The area S of the scarp is uneven and somewhat disturbed. The slope in the wood is much disturbed by quarrying but the APs indicate that there is an artificial bank along this side. Indications are therefore that this is a rectangular enclosure, c120m by 120m internally, much disturbed by later quarrying.

Bank with outer ditch forming a large “pear” shaped enclosure lying E-W on the N side of Rooks Castle Wood. The interior of the feature is divided into small rectangular enclosures by low banks or vegetation marks. A more degraded bank on the E and NE side of the enclosure is related to it and partially enclosed it. This outer bank is acknowledged by the existing field boundaries.

Clearly there was a tile quarry here (PRN 10231) in the C14 but the earthworks do not seem related to this and appear to be those of an Iron age hill slope enclosure. Some earthworks are marked on the 1904 map.

APs show clearly a larger enclosure surrounding the inner earthworks, partly fossilised in field boundaries.

First identified in 1949 by Dr. H W Catling, who mentions that the earthwork was tactically noted by the OS, appearing as it does on the 25″ map. However it is speculated that the surveyors did not realise its antiquity due to the presence of a quarry. It is described as being 550′ long and roughly quadrilateral. A stone built well is recorded in the centre approx 17′ deep, and it was recorded that during the ‘extremely dry summer of 1949 there was 10′ of water in the well’. A number of cropmarks were noted in the interior of the enclosure. The name Rooks Castle is no modern conceit. Churchwardens accounts for the Church of St. Mary, Bridgewater for the 24th July 1394 read “For 4,250 stone tiles purchased at Rokescastell, 5 shillings and 8 pence, at 16 pence a thousand. And for transporting them to Bridgewater, 4 shillings, at 1 shilling a thousand’ (SRS Vol. LIII, Bridgwater Borough Archives No. 475)”.

The site was surveyed in 2003 (PRN 17132). The complex of enclosures is suggested to be of two phases, comprising a later prehistoric sub-rectangular enclosure with an outer annexe, and a D-shaped enclosure of probable medieval date. The latter enclosure may well be associated with the former Royal Forest of North Petherton.

By the early 16th century the site was used as the common pound for the county.

The features described above are visible as earthworks and have been mapped from aerial photographs. They comprise a rectilinear enclosure, containing possible building platforms, with curvilinear outworks. They are situated next to Rook’s Castle Wood on a south facing slope between 170m and 176m above OD. It is possible that the enclosure has prehistoric or Roman origins, perhaps a late prehistoric “hill slope” enclosure similar to others in Somerset. Alternatively it may have been constructed or at least reused in the Medieval and/or Post medieval period when there was a tile quarry adjacent (see ST 23 SE 4). The rectilinear enclosure is only partially visible on aerial photographs and is defined by a ditch with an outer bank which partially encloses an area measuring 60m by 75m. Within the enclosure is a raised rectangular platform measuring 30m by 25m and a number of possible building platforms are situated to the north of this.

The building platforms are very neatly defined and appear relatively recent and may therefore relate to the Medieval and/or Post Medieval activity at the site. The possible outworks are defined by banks which curve out to the east of the enclosure, defining an inner and an outer area measuring 55m by 55m and 133m by 95m respectively. The outer bank has an outer ditch in places. The topography does not really suggest this is a defended site, as it is just below the crest of the hill so it is unclear what these outer works are. Further work is required to determine a possible date and function for these features. The site even shows differently on the available aerial photographs and more details are present than were possible to map.


OS map reference: ST 253 323. Nearest town/village: North Petherton.

Data kindly supplied by the Somerset Historic Environment Record.

Record created in December 1982

© Copyright Somerset County Council 2013

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