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Sutton Walls

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Sutton Castle; Offa's Castle

In the civil parish of Sutton.
In the historic county of Herefordshire.
Modern Authority of Herefordshire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.
Medieval County of Herefordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO525464
Latitude 52.11388° Longitude -2.69360°

Sutton Walls has been described as a Timber Castle but is rejected as such, and also as a Masonry Castle but is rejected as such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Sutton Walls, a hill fort; the single rampart and ditch enclosing an area of about 28 acres. The entrances are at the E and W ends, the gaps on the N and S sides being modern. Large scale quarrying started in 1935 within the interior, and about 25% of the western end internally has been quarried away to a depth of some 6.0m. The site was excavated by Miss K.M. Kenyon between 1948 and 1951. The first occupation was early in the 1st century BC and was occupied until the 4th century AD. Finds. I.A. and Ro. Pottery was found in great abundance. Loom weights, spindle whorls, and weaving combs are evidence of a textile industry. Antler cheek-pieces of bridles and skeletal remains show that horses were in common use. Animal bones indicate the people were rich in herds. Iron slag was found in most levels; also an iron anvil and fragments of iron implements, rings, etc. Bronze objects suggest that some bronze working was carried out on the site. Small finds include bronze fibulae, iron objects incl. spear head and arrow head and objects of bronze, shale, glass and bone. Also 5 Roman coins. Twenty four bodies were identified. These were a group of war casualties killed in the defence of the fort against the Romans. (PastScape ref. Kenyon)

Sutton Walls. Hill-top fort. Defences consist of a steep scarp, except for a small portion, some 50yds long, in the middle of the S side, where there is a slight earthen rampart. There were 5 entrances of which 2 were held to be original. That at the E end, where the scarp lay well inwards on each side of the opening, and that at the W end where the scarp was also turned inwards on each side. Within the enclosure lay a large sinking called "The King's Cellar" {VCH has this as "King's Collar"} which was then some 16ft deep and of rounded form some 60yds across. This, however, may merely have been the product of quarrying. Small fragments of Samian have been found on the site which, it is suggested, may be that refered to by Giraldus Cambrensis in his account of the murder of Ethelbert by King Offa, as Villa Australis. Leland saw the remains of a "stone castle" here in the first half of the C16. (PastScape ref. RCHME)

At sutton a palayce of King Offas was King Ethelbright sleyn. Sutton is iii myles fro Heneforth northward apon Lugge. Yt is now cawled Suttun Walles, and now no thing but ruines. (Shoesmith quoting Leland)

Clearly the excavation excludes this as a medieval castle site. As so often with such sites the question is given the existence of a strong earthwork and the supposed danger of warfare in the medieval welsh march what is the reason for not reusing such a site if not for a castle then as a defensible village. The answer most likely lies in water supply and the possibility that the undoubted dangers of the marches are rather exaggerated both by contemporary medieval writers and modern authors.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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