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Bury Castle
Selworthy, Somerset, England
Geograph 3319707 Site of Bury Castle, Iron Age Fort
The site of Bury Castle
Type Hillfort and later motte and bailey castle
Coordinates Latitude: 51.0311
Longitude: -3.5147
National Trust
Open to
the public

Bury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort and 12th medieval century castle near Selworthy, Somerset, England.[1]


Iron AgeEdit

Bury Castle Somerset Map

Plan of the Bury Castle site

Bury Castle was built as a promontory fort, situated over the meeting of the River Exe and River Haddeo.[2] Hill forts developed in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age, roughly the start of the first millennium BC.[3] The reason for the emergence of hillforts in Britain, and their purpose, has been a subject of debate. It has been argued that they could have been military sites constructed in response to invasion from continental Europe, sites built by invaders, or a military reaction to social tensions caused by an increasing population and consequent pressure on agriculture. The dominant view since the 1960s has been that the increasing use of iron led to social changes in Britain. Deposits of iron ore were located in different places to the tin and copper ore necessary to make bronze, and as a result trading patterns shifted and the old elites lost their economic and social status.[4] Archaeologist Barry Cunliffe has argued that while widespread war was not typical during the period, hill forts reflected the tensions at the time, and did provide defensive strongholds when conflicts broke out, as well as playing an important political role for the new elites.[5]

The Bury Castle hillfort covers 0.2 hectares (0.49 acres) in internal area. The main enclosure has a single rampart and ditch, with steep drops on the north, east and south sides. There is an additional rampart 30 metres (98 ft) to the west, with a deep ditch. The rampart is revetted with drystone walling.[1][6]

Medieval periodEdit

In the late 1130s, a civil war, known as the Anarchy, broke out in England between the supporters of King Stephen and the Empress Matilda. A motte and bailey castle was built on the Bury Castle side, probably by William de Say.[7] In 1198 Richard I confirmed that Brompton should be part of the inheritance of Matilda.[8]

The motte measures 23 metres (75 ft) and was placed on the southern tip of the promontory, with the bailey beyond around 60 metres (197 ft) across.[7][9]


Bury Castle is today protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and owned by the National Trust.[1] It has been added to the Heritage at Risk register due to vulnerability from scrub or tree growth.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Bury Castle". National Monument Record. English Heritage. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  2. "Bury Castle, an Iron Age defended settlement, No:24025". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  3. Payne, Andrew; Corney, Mark; Cunliffe, Barry (2007). "The Wessex Hillforts Project: Extensive Survey of Hillfort Interiors in Central Southern England". English Heritage. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-873592-85-4. 
  4. Sharples, Niall M (1991). "English Heritage Book of Maiden Castle". London: B. T. Batsford. pp. 71–72. ISBN 0-7134-6083-0. 
  5. "Time Team: Swords, skulls and strongholds". Channel 4. 2008-05-19. Retrieved 16 September 2009. 
  6. "Bury Castle". Exmoor Historic Environment Record. English Heritage. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bury Castle, Brompton Regis, Gatehouse website, accessed 16 July 2011.
  8. Dunning, Robert (1995). Somerset Castles. Tiverton: Somerset Books. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-0-86183-278-1. 
  9. Creighton, O. (2005). "Castles and Landscapes: Power, Community and Fortification in Medieval England.". Equinox. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-904768-67-8. 
  10. "Bury Castle, an Iron Age defended settlement, Selworthy, West Somerset - Exmoor (NP)". Heritage at Risk. English Heritage. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 

Further readingEdit

  • Adkins l and R, 1992. A Field Guide to Somerset Archaeology.
  • Burrow E J, 1924. Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset.
  • Burrow I, 1981. Hillforts and Hilltop Settlements of Somerset.

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