Hillesley Ringwork

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameHillesley Ringwork
Alternative NamesVery Croft; Berry Croft; Hawkesbury; Hillsley
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityGloucestershire
1974 AuthorityAvon
Civil ParishHillesley and Tresham

(Area centred ST 76778960) A supposed ringwork in the field called 'Very' or 'Berry' Croft adjoining Hillsley church was levelled in 1979 to make a playing field. It had been surveyed earlier and excavation took place during its almost total destruction (Med. Arch. 1980).

The earthworks almost certainly represented a fortified Saxo-Norman manorial complex or burgeat, the initial defence being a 7m. wide horseshoe-shaped earthen rampart. It was revetted with unmortared stone inside and probably with timber outside.

The rampart was rebuilt between the 12th and 14th centuries with an unmortared stone revetting wall on its outer edge, the rampart being heightened with soil dumped against the wall's inner face. A defensive ditch was dug during this period which resulted in the formation of a counterscarp bank (earthwork 2).

The ringwork had lost its defensive use by the end of the 14th century; the stone revetment was then demolished and the site completely covered with re-deposited material.

Subsequently four buildings with stone foundations were built on the north part of the site but no dating evidence could be found for them. On a small mound SE of earthwork 1 the stone foundations of a building, which probably had a wattle and daub superstructure, were revealed which had been demolished by the 15th century.

Finds from the excavation are now in Bristol City Museum. (Williams 1979)

ST 767896:The earthwork site at Hillesley was levelled in 1979 and the salvage excavation undertaken by Bristol City Museum directed by Bruce Williams. The site had been cut by a sewerage pipe in 1977 and a watching brief carried out. The results of this and historical research by John Ainslie will be published with the 1979 excavation. The site probably represented a ringwork and an earlier phase with stone ramparts was noted

(Ellis 1984)

Taking the limited excavation into account, the site appears to have originated as a defended Saxo-Norman ringwork. The finds were poorly stratified in all the areas examined, so interpretation of the later phases is tenuous, although it appears that the site had become disused in the 14th century. The strengthening of the defences may have occurred during the uprising against William Rufus in the late 11th century, and the construction of the 4 buildings on the North rampart, although not closely dated, was subsequent to the disuse of the site (Williams 1987).

The remnants of an Early Medieval to Medieval ringwork are visible as earthworks on aerial photographs taken in 1946, though they have been levelled on aerial photographs taken in 1989.

The site is centred on ST 7678 8959 and extends over an area which measures 160 metres north-south and 115 metres east-west. The site comprises a rampart, a central mound flanked by a scarp and a possible building defined by a spoil heap.

The rampart is defined by a pronounced scarp, extending on and north-south orientation for 120 metres between ST 7673 8963 and ST 7675 8952. It measures circa 8 metres wide. The rampart faces west, and a smaller scarp extends from it at the centre. This measures 35 metres long and 2.5 metres wide.

An oval mound is centred on ST 7680 8962, and measures 42 metres long by 30 metres wide. It is flanked on its southern edge by a SSE facing scarp, which measures 40 metres long by 15 metres wide. A possible building is located to the north of the mound. It is roughly sub rectangular and measures 26 metres long by 11 metres wide (APs). (PastScape)

Nothing now survives above ground of an irregulsr enclosure of some defensive capacity, though in an unlikely position for a castle (far too close to Bristol). An inadequate (hurried) excavation. (King 1983)

Gatehouse Comments

Bruce Williams 1987 paper leaves little doubt this was an Saxo-Norman manorial centre, with evidence that defences were strengthened, initially in the late C11 and again during the mid C12.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST767896
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  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. lxvi (possible)


  • Walker, D., 1991, 'Gloucestershire Castles' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 109 p. 5-23 online copy
  • < >Williams, B., 1987, 'Excavation of a medieval earthwork complex at Hillesley, Hawkesbury, Avon' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 105 p. 147-63 < > online copy
  • Ellis, P., 1984, 'Earthwork surveys of three sites in Avon' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 102 p. 206-10 online copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1980, 'Medieval Britain in 1979' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 24 p. 247-48 download copy
  • Williams, B., 1979, 'Hillesley ringwork, Northavon' Bristol Archaeological Research Group Bulletin 6.8 p. 204-6