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PEN-Y-BANNAU HILLFORT

Site Details


NPRN 300704

Map Reference SN76NW

Grid Reference SN74196689

Unitary (Local) Authority Ceredigion

Old County Cardiganshire

Community Ystrad Fflur

Type of Site HILLFORT

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Iron Age

Site Description Pen y Bannau is a strongly sited hillfort whose rocky summit reaches 352m O.D. It occupies a precipitous crag aligned NE/SW at the western end of an upland plateau, commanding extensive views over Cors Caron/Tregaron Bog, to the west and south, and across the uplands bordering the Teifi Pools to the east and north.

The hillfort measures overall c.180m NE/SW by 60m and is divided roughly in two by the summit of the crag, now occupied by a triangulation pillar. To the south of the crag the hillfort interior encloses a pronounced slope, and the enclosing low wall appears never to have been a significant barrier and may, indeed, have originally functioned as the footings for a timber palisade. The southern end of the fort is completed by steep rocky cliffs. Mid-way along the west side of this southern half of the fort is an entrance giving access from below up a fairly steep track. There are the sites of possibly two house platforms in the eastern part of this enclosure, together with a small rectangular structure which is probably later.

The most impressive defences of the hillfort occupy the northern part of the crag. Here, a concavity at the northern end of the crag is enclosed by substantial stone walls and there is the suggestion of up to five house platforms sited around the perimeter. At the northern terminal of the crag, the ramparts turn in to form the main gateway to the hillfort, protected by two further ramparts below. The appearance given by this impressive defensive façade, when viewed from approaches to the north-east, is of a very strong multivallate hillfort.

The ramparts of this façade still stand 3-4m tall. One enters around the eastern terminal of the lowest rampart and climbs uphill along a pathway, passing the eastern terminal of the middle rampart and reaching the main inner gateway. Massive stonework protruding through the turf, particularly on the western terminal of the main gate where a boulder just over 1m long rests on another large stone, suggests that the gate structure was originally completed in stone. The deep passage which presently exists between the high rampart terminals further suggests the original existence of a crossing bridge over a gateway passage, as excavated at Pen Dinas, Aberystwyth.

The distinctive architecture at Pen y Bannau shares many common features with other hillforts bordering Cors Caron. The fundamentals of the Cors Caron façade scheme are that the complex façade of the hillfort is sited at the narrow apex of the ridge, outcrop or promontory, essentially restricting the area for potential display. The long sides of the forts usually lack extensive artificial ramparts as they are formed along topographically steep landscape features. The second chief characteristic is the use of steep-faced, at time free-standing, ramparts to form the blocking façade. Entry to the hillfort is oblique in nature, around the terminals of the blocking façade ramparts. However, the final position of the main gate varies; Pen y Bannau features a highly visible gateway, centrally placed in the apex of the ridge. At both Castell, Tregaron, and Tre-Coll, a different strategy to the approach is employed, namely an invisible inner gateway, entirely obscured by the outworks. The ultimate position of the gate is by no means obvious, and it must be sought behind, or alongside, the terminals of the outworks.

Main visit date. 31st August 1999.

From: Driver, T. (2005) The Hillforts of North Ceredigion: Architecture, Landscape Setting and Cultural Contexts, PhD thesis, The University of Wales, Lampeter, unpublished.

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