Exploring Kent's Past

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Monument details

HER Number:TQ 64 SE 3
Type of record:Monument
Name:Castle Hill earthwork, Castle Wood, Brenchley

Summary

A large almost completely circular earthwork comprised of two banks, possible originally supporting a timber palisade and a ditch. There was a causewayed entrance in the south east and an additional defensive ditch. Ballast appeared to have been thrown on both sides to form ramparts. There have been various interpretations of the site - it was originally thought to have been a motte and also dated to the Iron Age based on its appearance and positioning in the landscape. It is now thought to be the site of a medieval ring work fortification, probably originally containing timber buildings within the enclosure.


Grid Reference:TQ 6922 4278
Map Sheet:TQ64SE
Parish:BRENCHLEY, TUNBRIDGE WELLS, KENT

Monument Types

  • HILLFORT? (Iron Age - 800 BC? to 42 AD?)
  • RINGWORK (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon to Medieval - 410 AD? to 1199 AD?)
  • ENCLOSURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds

  • SLAG (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1320862: RINGWORK IN CASTLE WOOD, IMMEDIATELY SOUTH WEST OF LITTLE KNOWLE

Full description

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[TQ 69224279] Castle [NR] (1)

Castle Hill, Brenchley. (Listed under 'Castle Mounts'. Class D) This earthwork stands 195 ft. above sea level on the side of a gently sloping hill which affords no natural defence. The entrenchments are not in a good state of preservation, and the ground is very uneven in surface both outside and within the enclosure; the original plan is not easily distinguished, but the work appears to have consisted of a deep fosse with the ballast thrown on both sides to form two ramparts. The only opening is on the south east and is presumably the original entrance. (2)

Brenchley Castle seems absolutely devoid of history; date of erection unknown. (3)

In Castle Wood, Brenchley, there is an unusual, well-preserved earthwork. It is situated on a NE spur of Castle Hill, at a height of 190 ft. OD., with the ground falling away fairly steeply to the NW and SE; the subsoil is clay. The earthwork is near-circular on plan measuring 60m NW-SE by 54m. transversely within strong defences comprising two banks with a medial ditch on all sides except the west and south west. Here a further ditch with slight outer bank has been added (see section) presumably to cover the more vulnerable approach from the SW. The original entrance appears to have been in the SE. where there is a gap in the inner rampart now traversed by a footpath. A significant offsetting of the outer rampart in the SW side, together with an innerberm suggests a complex entrance approach. A further gap in the west side is caused by the footpath already mentioned. A pond at the southcorner is probaby the result of modern drainage. Within the enclosed area there is a barrow-like mound, averaging 20m. in diameter and 0.6m in height, surrounded by a shallow ditch across the NW quadrant of which a faint causeway is visible. Overlying the inner rampart at the NW and SW corners are two earthen mounds. The former is circular on plan measuring 11m. in diameter by 1.6m in height; it has a large hollow in the centre and a gap/entrance to the SE. The SW example is rectangular on plan measuring 10.5m. in length, 7m in breadth and 0.8m in height, with a hollowed centre; it is clearly later than the rampart. This earthwork is not a castle-mound, as stated by the VCH and published on OS 1". Its general appearance and topographical position suggest an Iron Age date and the offsetting of the outer rampart and the berm feature would appear to add support to this dating. (4)

No change: survey of 13.3.61 checked and correct. (5)

TQ 692428 Scheduled listing Kent 39. (6)

This is a motte and consists of a deep ditch with ballast thrown up on both sides to form two ramparts and is circular in shape. The only opening is on the south east and is presumably the original entrance. (7)

The monument includes a medieval ringwork, formerly interpreted as a motte castle, constructed on the crest of a sandstone and clay spur of Castle Hill, which forms part of the High Weald of Kent. the ringwork is situated north of Castle Hill village. At its centre lies a roughly circular area, measuring up to 60m in diameter, enclosed by a bank which may have originally supported a timber palisade. This bank is encircled by by a dry defensive ditch up to 10m wide and about 5m deep, which has become partly waterlogged due to later disturbance. The ditch is in turn encircled by an outer bank, which has since been pierced to allow access to the ditch on its north eastern side. The material from this excavation is deposited in the form of a small, curving earthwork, projecting from the outer edge of the bank. This earthwork feature is inculded in the scheduling. The ringwork defences are strengthened to the west by the addition of a further ditch with a slight outer bank.

Access to the interior was originally by a simple causewayed entrance through the south eastern defences, approached today by a footpath which crosses the ringwork and leaves via a gap, created at a later date, in the north western side of the earthwork. Several timber buildings would once have stood within the central enclosure, although no visible remains of these survive today. Evidence for subsequent reuse of the monument includes a small circular mound and a rectangular enclosure, which partly overlie the encircling bank in the north and west. Metal working slag has also been recovered from the surface of the bank on its north eastern side, indicating that the monument may have been reused for small scale industrial activity.

The fenceline, which crosses the northeastern edge of the monument, is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

Despite some subsequent disturbance, the ringwork in Castle Wood immediately south west of Little Knowle survives well, and retains archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction and origianl use, as well as its abandoment and later use. Furthermore, the presence of such a stronghold in this part of Kent is of considerable historical importance in contributing towards our understanding of the early post-Conquest geography of this region.

Additional Info (10)


From the National Heritage List for England:

"The monument includes a medieval ringwork, formerly interpreted as a motte castle, constructed on the crest of a sandstone and clay spur of Castle Hill, which forms part of the High Weald in Kent. The ringwork is situated north of Castle Hill village. At its centre lies a roughly circular area, measuring up to 60m in diameter, enclosed by a bank which may have originally supported a timber palisade. This bank is encircled by a dry defensive ditch up to 10m wide and about 5m deep, which has become partly waterlogged due to later disturbance. The ditch is in turn encircled by an outer bank, which has since been pierced to allow access to the ditch on its north eastern side. The material from this excavation is deposited in the form of a small, curving earthwork, projecting from the outer edge of the bank. This earthwork feature is included in the scheduling. The ringwork defences are strengthened to the west by the addition of a further ditch with a slight outer bank. Access to the interior was originally by a simple causewayed entrance through the south eastern defences, approached today by a footpath which crosses the ringwork and leaves via a gap, created at a later date, in the north western side of the earthwork. Several timber buildings would once have stood within the central enclosure, although no visible remains of these survive today. Evidence for subsequent reuse of the monument includes a small circular mound and a rectangular enclosure, which partly overlie the encircling bank in the north and west. Metal working slag has also been recovered from the surface of the bank on its north eastern side, indicating that the monument may have been reused for small scale industrial activity. The fenceline, which crosses the north eastern edge of the monument, is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

Reasons for Designation

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60 with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period.

Despite some subsequent disturbance, the ringwork in Castle Wood immediately south west of Little Knowle survives well, and retains archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction and original use, as well as its abandonment and later reuse. Furthermore, the presence of such a stronghold in this part of Kent is of considerable historical importance in contributing towards our understanding of the early post-Conquest geography of this region."

The Impact of proposed development at Church Farm on this scheduled monument was assessed by a May 2014 Desk-based assessment by Wessex Archaeology. (11)


<1> OS Card / NAR index entry, OS 6" 1907-38 (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<2> Page, W. (ed), 1908, The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Kent Volumne I, VCH 1 1908 407-408 sketch plan (Monograph). SKE7882.


<3> P. H. Ditchfield (ed),, 1907, Memorials of Old Kent, Memorials of Old Kent 1907 202-3 (H Sands) (ed P H Ditchfield) (Monograph). SKE7927.


<4> OS Card / NAR index entry, F1 ASP 13-MAR-61 (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<5> OS Card / NAR index entry, F2 CFW 17-JAN-63 (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<6> OS Card / NAR index entry, DOE (IAM) SAMS 1988 Kent (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<7> OS Card / NAR index entry, DOE (IAM) 1983 Record Form (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<8> Field report for monument TQ 64 SE 3 - March, 1961 (Bibliographic reference). SKE3256.


<9> Field report for monument TQ 64 SE 3 - January, 1963 (Bibliographic reference). SKE3257.


<10> Flinders Petrie, W. M., 1880, Notes on Kentish Earthworks, Notes on Kentish Earthworks W.M. Flinders Petrie page 11 (Article in serial). SKE7926.


<11> Wessex Archaeology, 2014, Desk baseed assessment: Land at Church Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent (Unpublished document). SKE31163.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<1>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. OS 6" 1907-38.
<2>Monograph: Page, W. (ed). 1908. The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Kent Volumne I. VCH 1 1908 407-408 sketch plan.
<3>Monograph: P. H. Ditchfield (ed),. 1907. Memorials of Old Kent. Memorials of Old Kent 1907 202-3 (H Sands) (ed P H Ditchfield).
<4>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. F1 ASP 13-MAR-61.
<5>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. F2 CFW 17-JAN-63.
<6>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. DOE (IAM) SAMS 1988 Kent.
<7>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. DOE (IAM) 1983 Record Form.
<8>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 64 SE 3 - March, 1961.
<9>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 64 SE 3 - January, 1963.
<10>Article in serial: Flinders Petrie, W. M.. 1880. Notes on Kentish Earthworks. Arch Cant Vol Xlll: 8-16. Notes on Kentish Earthworks W.M. Flinders Petrie page 11.
<11>Unpublished document: Wessex Archaeology. 2014. Desk baseed assessment: Land at Church Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent.

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