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Dundon Beacon, Compton Dundon

In the civil parish of Compton Dundon.
In the historic county of Somerset.
Modern Authority of Somerset.
1974 county of Somerset.
Medieval County of Somerset.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST48543199
Latitude 51.08491° Longitude -2.73605°

Dundon Beacon, Compton Dundon has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort occupying the top of a hill which projects into and above the south east side of the Somerset Levels. The earthworks enclose the c.5ha of hill which is flat at the centre but rises at its north and south ends. The plan of the fort is determined by the natural contours of the hill. On the south east corner of the fort is a mound known as Dundon Beacon, and running north from this is a well defined lynchet.
Dundon Beacon at the south east corner of the fort is a mound on the highest part of the fort, c.3m high and c.18m in diameter with a flat oval top. There is a hollow to the west of the mound, 10m wide and 1.5m deep, which was one of the sources of material for the beacon's mound. This hollow continues as a shallow ditch 0.5m deep around the north side of the mound and cuts through the ramparts, indicating that Dundon Beacon is later than the ramparts of the fort.
Overlying the ditch is a sloping, flat topped, bank c.5m wide inclined towards the mound which would have given access to the mound from the interior of the fort. An excavation in c.1827 found an undated burial with tin rings and fragments of pottery. It has been suggested that the mound is a Norman motte constructed over a Bronze Age round barrow. The earthworks for the hillfort in the area of Dundon Beacon are c.2m high internally and appear to have been constructed from a 6m wide outer terrace. They are more substantial than the rest of the ramparts, and add weight to the suggestion of a Norman re-working of the defences in this area with the intention of creating a motte and bailey castle. (Scheduling Report)

The mound is ditched through the rampart on its N suggesting that it is of later date. It is possible that this is a Norman motte. The stretch of the hillfort immediately N of this is heightened to a 2m high bank apparently raised from a 6m wide terrace below, and this may represent a Norman reworking of defences with the intention of creating a motte and bailey castle (Preece).

Seems highly unlikely that this isolated site was a Norman motte, although could be compared with Castle Neroche, where a pre-historic site was used by the Norman in their initial conquest and later adapted into a castle. Other than the supposed later quality of the mound there is no evidence of Norman occupation although that might not exclude a short-lived and never completed intent to make a castle. However it is more probably that if the original bronze age barrow was altered at a date well after the Iron Age fort was constructed the alteration was done in late medieval/early modern times to produce a beacon (probably one more of celebratory function than military use).
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:30

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