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Herefordshire Beacon, Colwall

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Citadel; British Camp

In the civil parish of Colwall.
In the historic county of Herefordshire.
Modern Authority of Herefordshire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO75984006
Latitude 52.05786° Longitude -2.35144°

Herefordshire Beacon, Colwall has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


A well preserved and spectacular Iron Age hillfort of two or more phases with over 100 possible hut circles. The hillfort originally covered at area of approximately 8 acres. The site was apparently reused as the site of a medieval ringwork, possibly in a further two phases, and grew to an area of around 32 acres in size. The site is also known as British Camp. (PastScape)

A rock-cut ditch, ovoid plan surrounds a disturbed platform with a possible minute attenuated bailey to the east. Interior is a platforme which slopes markedly from SE to NW. Substantial rampart on E and S sides, slight to the N and on the W it is absent. Within the bailey are remains of a rectangular building 4m by 10m. Two mounds either side of the path nearby have no sign, possibly are natural but the E mound appears to be part of a bank across the ride that suggests they are artificial. There are two main theories – that the castle was built during the anarchy, when King Steven and the Angevins were fighting in Gloucestershire, and fortifications burnt at Tewkesbury and Winchcombe. The more plausible theory is that the castle could be classed with the other early Norman hill castles, or possibly be early pre Norman. (Herefordshire SMR ref. Bowden, 2000)

Paul Martin Rempfry suggest that Harold Godwinson may have built a castle here. Ringwork & bailey, probably a large stone shell keep, as there are definite signs of a stone gateway on the bailey & stone all over the site. Although some medieval pottery has been found along with dressed stonework, previous excavations have confused the record.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Shoesmith, Ron, 2009 (Rev edn.), Castles and Moated Sites of Herefordshire (Logaston Press) p. 93-4
      Remfry, P.M., 2008, The Herefordshire Beacon and the families of King Harold II and the earls of Hereford and Worcester (Castle Studies Research & Publishing)
      Salter, Mike, 2000, Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 40
      Remfry, Paul M., 1996, The Herefordshire Beacon, 1048 to 1154 (SCS Publishing: Worcestershire)
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 99
      Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 200, 239
      Stirling-Brown, R., 1989, Herefordshire Castles (privately published) p. 94
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 204
      1981, Herefordshire Countryside Treasures (Hereford and Worcester County Council) p. 70
      Stanhope, S., 1980, Archaeology of the Welsh Marches p. 94
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 205
      Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann)
      RCHME, 1932, An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire Vol. 2: east p. 55-7
      Burrow, Edward J., 1919, The Ancient Entrenchments and Camps of Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and London) p. 156, 158-60
      Chalkley Gould, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Herefordshire Vol. 1 p. 205-6
      Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 121-2 online copy
      McKay, 1875, The British Camp on the Herefordshire Beacon (Malvern: Folly Publications)
      Card, 1822, Dissertation on the subject of the Herefordshire Beacon (London)
      King, Edward, 1799, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 1 p. 19-21 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • 1998-99, 'Pre-Conquest Castles in Herefordshire' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 12 p. 33-4 online copy
      Sterling Brown, R., 1988, 'Preliminary Results of Castle Survey' Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 50 p. 41
      King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
      1965, Antiquity Vol. 39 pl. XLI
      1959, Antiquaries Journal Vol. 39 p. 241n1
      Wheeler, R.E.M., 1952, 'The Herefordshire Beacon Hill Fort' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 109 p. 146-8 online copy
      Hawkes, C.F., 1931, Antiquaries Journal Vol. 11 p. 83
      Price, F.G.H., 1881, Journal of the Anthropological Institute Vol. 10 p. 319-31
      Price, F.G.H., 1880, 'Herefordshire Beacon Camp' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 220-28
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Bowden, M., 2000, British Camp or Herefordshire Beacon (English Heritage Investigation Report. English Heritage)
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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