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Megaliths, Mênhirs and Stone Circles of East Somerset

Backwell Hillfort

Iron Age Hill Fort, Nailsea

Grid reference ST49406805

Map

Map showing Backwell Hillfort

The former site of an Iron Age hillfort. Unfortunately most of the site has been destroyed by quarrying.

Big Tree Long Barrow

Neolithic Long Barrow, Frome

Grid reference ST727517

Map

Map showing Big Tree Long Barrow

Big Tree Long Barrow lies on Buckland Down beside the A362 road running northwest from Frome to Radstock. Unfortunately, previous ploughing out of the site means that there is little to see at this site, only the outline of the barrow can be seen in the right conditions. Even the 'Big Tree', a large Elm tree that used to stand nearby is no longer.

Brean Down

Iron Age Hill Fort, Weston super Mare

Grid reference ST293588

Map

Map showing Brean Down

Brean Down is a promontory off the coast of Somerset standing 320 feet (98 m) high and extending 1.5 miles (2 km) into the Bristol Channel at the eastern end of Bridgwater Bay between Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea. Made of carboniferous limestone, it is a continuation of the Mendip Hills, and two further continuations are the small islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm. It is now owned by the National Trust, and is rich in wildlife, history and archaeology. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There is evidence of a pagan shrine at Brean Down dating from pre-Roman times which was re-established as a Romano-Celtic style temple in the mid-4th century and probably succeeded by a small late-4th century Christian oratory. Several Roman finds including gold coins of Augustus, Nero, and Drusus, two silver denarii of Vespasian and a Roman cornelian ring were found at the site during quarrying. There is also evidence of an Iron age hill fort and prehistoric barrows and field systems.

Brent Knoll Hillfort

Bronze Age Hill Fort, Burnham-on-Sea

Grid reference ST341510

Map

Map showing Brent Knoll Hillfort

Brent Knoll Hillfort stands like a beacon amongst the low lying land of the Somerset Levels to the east of Burnham-on-Sea. A landmark highly visible from the M5 motorway, the hill would have been an island in Prehistoric times. Dating from the Bronze Age, it has stone and rubble ramparts situated on the western side of the hill. The knoll has been worked by man over the centuries so that there are now layers of archaeology to sift through. The Romans are known to have built a temple here as well as their own fortifications. They knew Brent Knoll as 'The Mount of Frogs', although others claim the knoll to be Mount Badon - Mons Badoni. It stands 137 metres high.

Butcombe Round Barrow

Bronze Age Barrow, Bristol

Grid reference ST516627

Map

Map showing Butcombe Round Barrow

Butcombe Round Barrow is a Bronze Age bowl barrow situated to the southwest of Bicknell Farm, in the village of Redhill. The barrow has a diameter of about 25 metres and was formerly surrounded by an external ditch, traces of which still survive. The centre of the barrow has been robbed out - usually by past treasure hunters. It is also recorded that a windmill was built on this site some time in the thirteenth century. Less than a kilometre away to the southeast lies Fairy Toot barrow.

Cadbury Hill Fort

Iron Age Hill Fort, Clevedon

Grid reference ST442649

Map

Map showing Cadbury Hill Fort

Cadbury Hill Fort lies to the southeast of the village of Yatton near Congresbury, in North Somerset. Officially known as the Cadbury-Congresbury Hillfort it should not be confused with South Cadbury Fort near Yeovil. There are some excellent views from the summit with ramparts built in the Iron Age. The ramparts defend an interior of about three and a half hectares (8.5 acres), with traces of Iron Age round houses still visible. It is thought that the fortifications were added to in about 400AD and also that it was occupied after the withdrawal of the Romans. The site was excavated between 1968 and 1973, with large numbers of Mediterranean pottery sherds and amphorae unearthed.

Castle Neroche Hillfort

Iron Age Hillfort, Taunton

Grid reference ST272158

Map

Map showing Castle Neroche Hillfort

Castle Neroche is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle on the site of an earlier hill fort near Staple Fitzpaine, Somerset, England. The hill rises to 260 m on the northern escarpment of the Blackdown Hills. The castle was probably built by Robert of Mortain in the 11th century and probably went out of use in the 12th. The site was excavated by Mr. H. St. George Gray in 1903. There have also been nearby archaeological finds of Mesolithic flints, and a Bronze Age copper axe found in 1857, but nothing from the Iron Age or Roman periods Castle Neroche, known locally as Castle Rache (and the summit is known as The Beacon), has been described as a prehistoric earthwork later formed into a medieval castle. It occupies a promontory and there are four concentric lines of earthwork defences with a small motte (possibly with a stone shell keep) and bailey set into a corner of an earlier enclosure. A C19 farmhouse and garden occupy part of the area. Iron arrowheads, an iron sword blade and inhumation burials (one said to have been in a wooden coffin) were found before 1854. Warre's plan shows the burials at ST27131580 under the northern farmbuildings (which are not on Warre's plan). The sword findspot is shown at the crest of the hill to the E close to some pits which are described as having an inverted cone shape 8-10 feet in diameter and 7-8 feet deep and filled with lighter coloured soil.

Cheddar Gorge: Gough's Cave

Paleolithic Cave, Cheddar

Grid reference ST472543

Map

Map showing Cheddar Gorge: Gough's Cave

One of the main structures within the Cheddar Gorge is Gough's Cave. Named after Victorian former sea captain Richard Gough. He excavated the silt from the cave entrance between 1890 and 1898, his labours literally unearthed the huge chambers of St. Paul's Cathedral and the Diamond Chamber. The cave is thought to have formed between 500,000 years and 15,000 years ago by the action of water dissolving the limestone rock. Over the years the water level fell, causing the cave mouth to silt up. In the region of 250,000 years ago, water rich in calcium dripped through cracks in the the cave roof forming the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites we see today. Early humans lived in the cave entrance, during the Late Upper Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). In about 7000BC a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer, known today as "Cheddar Man", was buried here in mysterious circumstances. His is the oldest complete skeleton ever found in Britain.

Cleeve Toot

Bronze Age Settlement, Nailsea

Grid reference ST463657

Map

Map showing Cleeve Toot

Cleeve Toot is a semi-circular enclosure or settlement thought to date from the Late Bronze /Early Iron Age. A semicircular earthwork some 125 metres x 90 metres in diameter contains humps and depressions that suggest the sites of former hut circles and storage pits.

Archaeologically this area is rich in finds lying within the immediate vicinity of Stanton Drew and the Mendip Barrow cemeteries.

Deerleap Standing Stones

Neolithic Menhir, Westbury sub Mendip

Grid reference ST518486

Map

Map showing Deerleap Standing Stones

Deerleap Standing Stones are a pair of Standing Stones situated in a field near Ebbor Gorge car park. It is very worthwhile checking out these stones as they are set in a spectacular location. They stand high on the southwestern flanks of the Mendip Hills and offer wide-ranging views to the Bristol Channel, the Quantock Hills and the Polden Hills. Exmoor can also be seen in the distance on a clear day. Glastonbury Tor rises from the Somerset Levels below the site.

Ebbor Gorge

Neolithic Cave, Wells

Grid reference ST525486

Map

Map showing Ebbor Gorge

Ebbor Gorge is a limestone gorge in Somerset, situated near the City of Wells. It is designated as a 63.5-hectare (157-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Mendip Hills. Two thirds of the gorge is owned by the National Trust, and managed by English Nature as a National Nature Reserve. There are three marked trails of varying lengths around the steeply wooded gorge, the shortest of which is suitable for wheelchair users. Various caves within the gorge were inhabited by Neolithic people. The cave known as Bridged Pot is on record as having one of the best assemblages of small mammal remains found in Britain. Remains include steppe pika, arctic lemming, Norway lemming, various voles, red deer and reindeer. The small cave/rock shelter at Savoy's Hole contains largely undisturbed deposits likely to yield a similar assemblage of Devensian age.

Fairy Toot

Neolithic Long Barrow, Bristol

Grid reference ST520618

Map

Map showing Fairy Toot

Fairy Toot is the remains of a long barrow near the village of Nempnett Thrubwell in North Somerset. The barrow is in a poor state of preservation due to some 'excavations' carried out in 1789. With dimensions of about 60 metres by 25 metres wide, and aligned N-S, the barrow is thought to date from the Neolithic. What remains is now largely flattened rubble with trees and scrub growing on it. Within the centre of the barrow are remains of a sheep shed or suchlike, almost certainly built using stones from the barrow. However, at the north end is a small insight into the probable glory of its original form, where a couple of small mounds remain under the roots of trees. These remains are over 2m in height, and are clearly seen to have the outer face constructed of drystone walling. In fact, it is possible to make out the remains of what was possibly an opening of some sort and what was possibly a chamber entrance, but it is always possible that these are more modern alterations. It is recorded that an excavation in 1788 produced evidence of a gallery with several chambers, and remains of skeletons were found.

Glastonbury Lake Village

Iron Age Settlement, Glastonbury

Grid reference ST493407

Map

Map showing Glastonbury Lake Village

The remains of Glastonbury Lake Village were identified in 1892, showing that there was an Iron Age settlement about 300–200 BC on what was an easily defended island in the fens. Earthworks and Roman remains prove later occupation. Very little remains of this Iron Age Lake Village, which is owned by the Glastonbury Antiquarian Society, but many of the finds from the site are on display in the Glastonbury Lake Village Museum in Glastonbury High Street.

Glastonbury Tor

Neolithic Tor, Glastonbury

Grid reference ST512386

Map

Map showing Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor is as enigmatic now as it has ever been. The site is known to have been occupied from at least the New Stone Age as Neolithic flint tools have been discovered on the top of the Tor. Excavations between 1964 and 1966, unearthed evidence of habitation surrounding the medieval church of St. Michael. The finds included postholes, two hearths including a metalworker's forge, two burials oriented north-south, so unlikely to be Christian, fragments of 6th century Mediterranean amphorae, and a worn hollow bronze head which may have topped a Saxon staff. The plain surrounding the Tor was often flooded hence an old name for the Tor being 'Isle of Glass'. The remains of St. Michaels Church sit atop the Tor, destroyed in an earthquake on 11th September 1275.

Hamdon Hill Hillfort

Iron Age Hill Fort, Yeovil

Grid reference ST482165

Map

Map showing Hamdon Hill Hillfort

Otherwise known as Ham Hill, this Iron Age Hillfort lies to the west of Montacute, near Yeovil. Possibly the largest hillfort in England, its ramparts are three miles in length and enclose an area of 210 acres. Technically termed a bivallate hillfort, its third bank and ditch lie lower down on its flanks. The site, now a country park, commands 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside, and is well worth a visit. The best way to explore the area is to walk around the northern end, passing the war memorial.

Maes Knoll

Iron Age Hill Fort, Bristol

Grid reference ST600660

Map

Map showing Maes Knoll

Maes Knoll is an Iron Age hillfort situated about two miles north of the Stanton Drew Stone Circles. The hillfort is thought to have been constructed in about 250BC. It has a triangular sort of shape with dimensions of 120 metres by 26 metres. It stands 14 metres high and encloses an area of about 8 hectares (20 acres), defended by ramparts. The hill fort stands on a hill 197 metres high and would have easily controlled the surrounding land below.

Priddy Circles Henges

Neolithic Henge, Priddy

Grid reference ST539525

Map

Map showing Priddy Circles Henges

A linear arrangement of four circular earthwork enclosures, arranged roughly south-south-west to north-north-east and usually numbered one to four in the same direction. The southernmost is immediately east of Harptree Lodge, and the first three are quite closely spaced. The northernmost, which is separated from the other three by a gap of some 350 metres, is immediately northeast of Bandpitt Farm. Each enclosure has been recorded separately (ST 55 SW 124-7), and those records should be consulted for more detail. The gap separating Priddy 4 from the remainder seems genuine - there is no "missing" enclosure. This gap is bisected by the course of the Roman road (RR 45b) which runs northwest-southeast between Charterhouse and Old Sarum. Excavations between 1956 and 1959 focused on Priddy 1, although some test borings were undertaken in Priddy 4. No dating evidence was found, but the excavators assumed all four circles to be henge monuments. The enclosures are currently scheduled as probable Neolithic ritual or ceremonial monuments similar to the henge class. Apart from the lack of finds, the henge interpretation is rendered problematical by the presence of external rather than internal ditches. The obvious comparison is with Stonehenge phase 1, although that monument presents morphological and chronological difficulties in terms of interpretation as a henge. Priddy 4 contains several features interpreted as Bronze Age bowl barrows (ST 55 SW 6), though none have been excavated. Numerous features clustered around the circles and beyond have been interpreted in the past as old mine or quarry workings. More recent analysis suggests that although there is some evidence for mining, many of the features around and within the circles are natural sinkholes.

Information taken from English Heritage's PastScape Record

Priddy Nine Barrows

Bronze Age Barrow Cemetery, Priddy

Grid reference ST538516

Map

Map showing Priddy Nine Barrows

Priddy Nine Barrows are a group of Bronze Age barrows located to the southeast of the village of Priddy, near Cheddar in Somerset. In 1977 a Mesolithic hut site was excavated at Priddy. Nearby are the Priddy Circles a Stone circle or Henge monument, which appears to be contemporary with Stonehenge, i.e. Neolithic circa 2180 BC. The North Hill location of two round barrow cemeteries, Ashen Hill and Priddy Nine-Barrows which are neighbours of the Circles, would seem to imply that the area to the north-east of Priddy held ritual significance into the Bronze Age. South of the village at Deer Leap is a Bronze age burial mound and the remains of a medieval settlement of Ramspit. Drove Cottage Henge is a Neolithic ceremonial location to the east of the village.

Solsbury Hill

Iron Age Hill Fort, Bathampton

Grid reference ST768679

Map

Map showing Solsbury Hill

Little Solsbury Hill (more commonly known as Solsbury Hill) is a small flat-topped hill and the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It is located above the village of Batheaston in Somerset, England. The hill rises to 625 feet (191 metres) above the River Avon which is just over 1 mile to the south. It is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It gives impressive views of the city of Bath and the surrounding area. The hill was immortalized in 1977 by Peter Gabriel in his song 'Solsbury Hill'. It is sometimes misspelled as Salisbury, or Solisbury, perhaps because of confusion with Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire. The name Solsbury may be derived from the Celtic god Sulis, a deity worshipped at the thermal spring in nearby Bath.

South Cadbury Castle

Iron Age Hill Fort, Sparkford

Grid reference ST628251

Map

Map showing South Cadbury Castle

South Cadbury Castle is known to have been constructed and occupied in the Early Neolithic. Excavations give a date prior to 3000 BC. The area was then occupied in the Bronze Age and also used, unfortified, in the Early Iron Age. Sometime between 500 and 200 BC the hill top was fortified. The impressive defensive ramparts were constructed. The defended area is about 8 hectares and there is also speculation that an Iron Age temple, a Smithy and some houses also stood here. There are also artifacts found that clearly demonstrate that South Cadbury along with some of its neighbours were attacked by the Romans. Items uncovered include Roman military equipment and also the foundations of a Roman military building within the fort itself.

Stanton Drew - The Cove

Neolithic Hill Fort, Bristol

Grid reference ST601634

Map

Map showing Stanton Drew - The Cove

Standing Stones in Somerset located 200 metres north of Stanton Drew Great Circle in the garden of 'The Druid's Arms' pub.

Stanton Drew Great Circle

Neolithic Stone Circle, Bristol

Grid reference ST601632

Map

Map showing Stanton Drew Great Circle

Stanton Drew lies to the east of Chew Magna to the south of Bristol. There are two large circles here. They are so large they take a bit of getting your head around. The Great Circle, 113 metres in diameter is the second largest Stone Circle in Britain after Avebury. It dwarfs its neighbour, the North-East Circle at only 30 metres diameter. A third circle of eleven stones nearby on private land. Stanton Drew lies about 5 miles south of Bristol, off the B3130.

Stoney Littleton

Neolithic Long Barrow, Bath

Grid reference ST735572

Map

Map showing Stoney Littleton

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow otherwise known as the Bath Tumulus and the Wellow Tumulus is a Neolithic Chambered Cairn. It is a tremendous ancient monument situated to the east of the village of Peasedown St. John, to the south of Bath. The barrow has dimensions of about 30 metres by 15 metres and stands just under 3 metres tall. The entrance resembles a set of horns and there is an ammonite shape on one of the door jambs. The entrance leads to a gallery 16m long by 1 metre high. English Heritage describes the site thus: 'The long mound is oriented north west - south east, is trapezoidal in plan and measures about 30 metres long, 12.5 metres wide (at its widest point) and 2 metres in height, though it is believed to have once been much higher. The barrow mound is composed of small stones and is surrounded by a restored dry stone wall. At the south eastern end is a recessed forecourt flanked by dry stone walling which extends to the entrance. The entrance comprises of a lintel supported by two jambs and leads to the internal chamber. The western door jamb includes an ammonite cast one foot or 0.3 metres in diameter. The internal chamber includes a transepted gallery grave with three pairs of side chambers and an end chamber. The gallery extends for about 13 metres and varies in height from 1.2 metres to 1.8 metres. The mound is flanked on each side by a now infilled quarry ditch about 3 metres wide from which material was taken to construct the barrow. In 1816, an excavation by John Skinner uncovered human bones within the chamber some of which are held at the City Museum, Bristol'. Be sure to bring a torch to examine the three pairs of side chambers and the end chamber. truly, well worth a visit.

Sweet Track

Neolithic Trackway, Glastonbury

Grid reference ST424408

Map

Map showing Sweet Track

Ancient Trackway in Somerset. The Sweet Track is a supreme, if not so obvious example of Neolithic engineering, 6000 years old. An elevated footpath that ran for almost 2km across the Somerset levels swamps. Extensive tree ring studies have shown that ash, oak and lime trees were systematically cut, pre-fabricated and transported to the site, where they were built into a narrow footpath supported on crossed poles, driven into heavy poles underwater and pegged together. Finally the oak walking platform was laid on top of the V-shaped notch. All this indicates a high degree of organisation and forward planning. Some repairs were carried out, but it is clear that the Sweet Track was only in use for around ten years, probably due to the rising water level engulfing it. This waterlogging is what enabled the track to survive until it was accidentally discovered by a peat worker (named Ray Sweet) in 1970. A section of the still-buried track within the Shapwick Heath nature reserve is protected against drying out by a water distribution system. Another trackway is the Abbot's Way, from only 4000 years ago that can also be road-tested at the excellent Peat Moors Visitor Centre. Access: Sections of the Sweet Track are on display in the British Museum, London. The original Sweet Track passed through what is now Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and there are various signposted walks and information boards within the reserve.

Taps Combe Camp

Iron Age Hill Fort, Nailsea

Grid reference ST47796708

Map

Map showing Taps Combe Camp

A small and little known Iron Age hillfort situated between the villages of Brockley and Backwell near Nailsea in Northeast Somerset.

It is marked on the 1960s OS Pathfinder Map as a Settlement but it has strong defences with ramparts banks and ditches.

The Waterstone

Neolithic Quoit, Bristol

Grid reference ST502644

Map

Map showing The Waterstone

Situated close to Bristol International Airport, this portal dolmen or quoit is a prehistoric burial chamber consisting of three fallen stones and a former covering capstone. To the northeast of the village of Redhill it is marked on OS maps as Burial Chamber. About a mile and a half away to the southeast lies Butcombe Round Barrow.

Wearyall Hill

Hill, Glastonbury

Grid reference ST492382

Map

Map showing Wearyall Hill

While visiting Glastonbury, Wearyall Hill is a good vantage point from which to get an overview of the Isle of Avalon and all of Glastonbury's holy hills. This is where the guided tours around Glastonbury tend to start.

Windmill Hill

Neolithic Hill, Glastonbury

Grid reference ST50453950

Map

Map showing Windmill Hill

Otherwise known as St Edmund's Hill, this is one of the many sites named Windmill Hill in the UK. The hill, thought to be heavily altered by man, lies near Glastonbury at Grid Reference ST50453950. Now largely built upon, it is still an excellent place to watch the sun rise at winter solstice, giving an alternative view of solar alignments.

Worlebury Camp

Iron Age Hill Fort, Weston super Mare

Grid reference ST315625

Map

Map showing Worlebury Camp

Worlebury Camp is a hillfort near Weston super Mare in Somerset. It dates from the Iron Age although other finds suggest the overall site dates from the Bronze Age.

Wraxall Camp

Iron Age Settlement, Bristol

Grid reference ST52057193

Map

Map showing Wraxall Camp

Wraxall Camp is an Iron Age earthwork in Northeast Somerset. It lies about 100m north of Failand village it is about 40metres in diameter and has banks up to one metre high by 8 metres wide. There is no trace of a defensive ditch.

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