Details - Friends of Putnoe Wood and Mowsbury Hillfort

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Mowsbury Hillfort > Legacy Record
Mowsbury Hill is located on the south eastern tip of a long spur of chalky boulder clay to the north of Bedford and the Ouse valley. Archaeological evidence gathered, to date, demonstrates that the hill has seen two major phases of occupation - a univallate hillfort constructed in the Iron Age, and a medieval moated site adapted from and sited within the earlier ramparts. The existence of the hillfort was first clearly identified in 1971, although fragments of Iron Age and Romano-British pottery had been reported from the site since the turn of the century and some authorities had previously suggested a prehistoric origin for the earthworks. Sample excavation in 1971-2 confirmed the presence of a large single ditch encircling the tip of the spur. This measured approximately 4.3m wide and 2m deep and had been completely infilled, incorporating material from the collapsed internal bank. Only a slight scarp remains along the southern side of the hill to mark the position of the bank, which had been supported by a timber framework of the Hollingbury type. This feature had been destroyed by fire leaving clear impressions of the timbers in the semi-fired clay which composed the bank. Pottery found in association with the rampart indicates a date of construction in the early Iron Age, and a limited period of occupation. With the addition of geophysical evidence from within the copse in 1972, the complete outline of the perimeter was established, forming a roughly oval plan measuring c.290m north west to south east by 200m transversely. The earthworks of the medieval settlement occupy the central and north western part of the hillfort. These include a rectangular moated enclosure orientated roughly east to west and measuring approximately 110m by 80m, the south eastern quarter of which is taken up by a second moated island. The northern arm of the larger enclosure is believed to have been adapted from the hillfort ditch. The southern arm, within the interior of the former fort, is much more substantial - measuring up to 15m in width and 2.5m deep and flanked by a large external bank. The moats were supplied by a narrow leat which enters the site from the north east corner. A second leat branches from the centre of the northern arm and extends towards a pair of small fishponds located some 20m from the north east corner of the main island. The inner pond is also thought to have been sited within the line of the hillfort ditch. The medieval site has been identified with the Manor of Morinsbury, mentioned in various documents prior to 1465. The name may have been retained as `Morsebury'- the title of a field owned by the Goswick family in the 16th century which included the area of earthworks and presumably devolved to the present name of Mowsbury Hill. All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these items is included.
Selected Sources
Books and journals
Goddard, A R, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1904), 307
Rickards, V, Thunder, C, The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire, (1912), 212
Wadmore, B, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire, (1920), 221-3
Dring, G J, 'Beds Arch J' in Ravensden, Mowsbury Camp, , Vol. 7, (1972), 95
Dring, G J, 'Beds Arch J' in Iron Age Pottery from Mowsbury Camp, Ravensden, , Vol. 6, (1971), 68-9
Beds C.C. earthwork plan (SME 332), Simco, A & Coleman, S, Mowsbury Hall, Ravensden, Bedfordshire, (1984)
Beds C.C. earthwork survey (SMR 332), Simco, A & Coleman, S, Mowsbury Hill, Ravensden, Bedfordshire, (1984)
discussion with County SMR officer, Coleman, S, Mowsbury Hill, (1996)
Geophysical Survey results, Clark, A J, Mowsbury, (1972)
MPP schedule entry 20458, Went, D, Someries Castle: Magnate's Residence & Formal Garden Remains, (1993)
MPP schedule entry 27106, Went, D, Bourn Hall, Motte & Bailey Castle & 17th century Formal Garden, (1994)
Simco, A & Coleman, S, Mowsbury Hill, Ravensden, Bedfordshire, 1985, Beds C.C. earthwork survey (SMR 332)
SMR 332, Mowsbury Hillfort and Moat,
Vertical monochrome, Aerofilms, R 10 7456, (1965)

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