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GAER FAWR;GAER FAWR HILLFORT

Site Details


NPRN 303579

Map Reference SN67SW

Grid Reference SN64887188

Unitary (Local) Authority Ceredigion

Old County Cardiganshire

Community Llanilar

Type of Site HILLFORT

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Iron Age

Site Description 1. The hillfort is strongly sited on the summit of a steep east-west ridge which falls precipitously away on the south side to the headwaters of the Afon Wyre, with more gentle hillslopes on the north and west sides. The spine of the ridge ascends on the east side from the Trawsgoed basin on the Afon Ystwyth and aerial photographs show numerous braided trackways climbing this ridge towards the summit.

The hillfort measures approximately 265m north-south by 120m east-west overall. It comprises a main inner enclosure formed of a strong rampart, ostensibly built of shale rubble and clay but with traces of stone revetment exposed in erosion features, together with traces of a stone capping on the summit of the rampart in the south-east part of the fort. Overall the rampart measures about 10m wide by 4m high. Remains of an outer rock-cut ditch on the south-east side probably continued at least around the remainder of the east and north sides of the fort. Along the west side of the fort the rampart is far smaller in scale, being more of a scarp bank at the top of precipitous slopes. However, periodic ploughing is continuing over this bank and severely eroding and spreading the remains.

The hillfort is bivallate on the north, east and south sides where an outer rampart curves around to defend the more gentle slopes on this side. This secondary rampart is separated from the first, inner rampart by a broad terrace varying in width between 10-20m. It is augmented by a rock cut outer ditch, the edges of which, despite some silting, are very well preserved in places. Hogg in the Cardiganshire County History (1994, 261) postulates that this incomplete outer rampart may suggest the fort is unfinished. However, parch marks on aerial photographs which show buried sections of plough-levelled ramparts on the north side do not suggest the outer eastern ramparts were ever continuous, and it may be they were simply built in key sections to flank particular parts of the defensive façade.

The hillfort has two entrances. The main gate on the south side is in-turned, and the right-hand (eastern) bastion is larger and more swollen than the western, suggesting it was perhaps a slinging platform or other defensive feature flanking the gate. On the north side is a smaller, less elaborate gateway which gives access down a steep slope to the outer terrace, suggesting it was never a main gate. A major break through the defences on the east side is modern. Architecturally, Gaer Fawr shares a number of similarities with Pen Dinas at Aberystwyth, some first noted by I T Hughes in the 1920s. These include the wide-spaced terraces flanking one side of the hillfort, with the two gateways positioned behind the terraces, at the apexes of the enclosure. A find of iron slag, potentially Iron Age, within loose stone of ploughed down remains of southern rampart, close to its western angle with the south-west rampart is now in Ceredigion Museum.

The hillfort interior used to contain well-preserved earthworks of ridge and furrow cultivation, recorded on CUCAP AP AUB 95 (12th April 1968) but a programme of intensive ploughing during the 1970s (captured during on CUCAP AP CCU 19) severely damaged the interior, and continues today across the interior and western defences of the hillfort. Named ‘Pen y caerau’ on the 1834 Ordnance Survey map.

Visit date: 1st October 2000.

T Driver. 7th Feb 2012

2. Illustrated and described in Driver, T. 2016. The Hillforts of Cardigan Bay. Logaston Press

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