Skip to main content

Scheduled Monument record MDR2043 - Fin Cop Hillfort, Ashford-in-the-Water

Type and Period (8)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

CAMP, Fin Cop is marked on the OS map of 1955. (1) Fin Cop on the north and west sides rises very abruptly to the height of nearly 500 feet above the River Wye, which curves round its base. Artificial defensive work of the fort on the east consists of a double rampart, with a ditch on the outer side of each, commencing at the edge of the precipice on the north. The ramparts are composed of stones, with some admixture of earth, and seem to have been used as a quarry for material for wall-building. They extend southwards for about two hundred yards, at which point the outer rampart and ditch disappear, and thenceforward a single rampart and ditch, the latter in many places now obliterated, continue towards the south and then, curving round to the east, are carried to the edge of the precipitous slope on the west. There is an entrance to the fort through the rampart about 125 yards from its northerly end. There is no water supply inside the fort, but a modern pond is situated at the foot of the rampart near the centre. (2) Fin Cop: A hill-fort with its north and west sides formed by the steep scarp above the Wye, and its east and south by two banks and ditches, the outer only preserved at the north end. A simple entrance is through the east side, 370' from the north end. (3) Fin Cop became a scheduled monument on the 2nd November 1950. Fin Cop is a steep-sided promontory situated on the western edge of Longstone Moor on the limestone plateau of Derbyshire. The monument occupies the north-west corner of the promontory, overlooking Monsal Dale to the north and Wye Dale to the west. It includes a Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age promontory fort and, within the area covered by the fort, an Early Bronze Age bowl barrow and an eighteenth century limekiln with an attached limestone quarry. The promontory fort comprises a level sub-rectangular area defined on the north and west sides by the steep scarps above the two dales and on the east and south sides by earthwork defences. Starting on the edge of Monsal Dale to the north, these defences extend southwards for 225m then curve south-west for a further 160m before ending on the edge of Wye Dale. From this point, a linear feature extends northwards back to the edge of Monsal Dale and is interpreted as the site of the timber palisade that would have enclosed the fort on this side. It consists of a low bank with a narrow berm or terrace to the west and then a slight counterscarp bank. It appears, wholly or partly, to have utilised a natural break in the limestone outcrop. The earthwork defences round the landward edge of the fort consist, for the northernmost 180m, of a bank, ditch and counterscarp bank, then, for the rest of the circuit, of a bank or rampart only. The more massive inner bank is currently c.5m wide by 1.5m-2m high, the ditch is c.3m wide by 1m-1.5m deep and the counterscarp bank is c.2m wide by 1m high. Although no longer visible, it is likely that the ditch extended round the southern section of the rampart and has become silted up and levelled by ploughing since the fort was abandoned. Together with the remains of the counterscarp bank, it will survive as a buried feature and is included within the scheduling. A gap in the double bank and ditch on the east side indicates the original entrance into the fort. (4) Resurveyed at 1/2500. The work has been badly robbed and mutilated by quarrying and agriculture, but along the whole east side there are evident footings of a strong stone-built rampart; these continue, but deteriorate, to the south-west. The outer rampart and ditch can only be traced at the north end. The entrance is inturned and strongly marked. The aerial photograph line between SK 17707122 and SK 17707075 marks a covered water main, and no evidence of Rooke's extra ditch and vallum was found. (5) Listed by Challis and Harding as an Iron Age hillfort, of ten acres, with bank, ditch and counterscarp. (6) Fin Cop hillfort or dale top enclosure comprises double bank and ditch ramparts to the east and south which enclose a corner of the flat land above the dale side. The scarp of the dale side forms natural boundaries along the west and north sides. Within this area, the interior of the hillfort has been ploughed recently and does not contain obvious contemporary features above ground, but may have remains preserved underground. No dating evidence has been discovered and on morphological grounds the site is probably later Bronze Age to earlier Iron Age. The function of the site is also not certain. Such sites have traditionally been identified as forts or defended settlements. However other interpretations should also be considered, for example stock enclosures or communal meeting places. (10) A desk-based assessment was undertaken by Archaeological Research Services Ltd in 2009. It formed the first stage of investigation of a larger project at Fin Cop, which was to comprise a full topographic survey, a geophysical survey and targeted excavation led by the results of the earlier work. Archival research for the desk-based assessment was undertaken by members of the Longstone Local History Group. Fin Cop was found to have been a focus for human activity from the Mesolithic through to the post-medieval period. It occupies a prominent, natural high point in a strategic location within the central area of the limestone plateau. Evidence for Mesolithic activity at the site comes from the discovery of several chipped flint and chert tools. Some possible Late Neolithic and Beaker Period flint tools have also been discovered, leading to some speculation as to whether the hillfort is Neolithic in origin. Two recorded excavations of Bronze Age barrows within the hillfort exist; during which inhumations, cremations, pottery and flint were discovered. It is thought that the large bank and ditch that define the hillfort may be Iron Age in date. A single Roman coin has been found at Fin Cop. There is also a possible Roman Road running north-south to the east of the monument. During the post-medieval period, the area was enclosed into the field pattern that can be seen today [2009]. Narrow ridge and furrow towards the south of the site indicates that arable agriculture was taking place here at this time. There is also evidence for small-scale industrial activity at the site. (11) An analytical earthwork survey and field investigation was carried out at Fin Cop hillfort by Archaeological Research Services Ltd and the Longstone Local History Group in 2009 in an attempt to better understand the hillfort remains and any previously unrecorded remains in the vicinity. The survey provided an accurate plan of the principal ramparts of the hillfort, along with five, possibly six, barrows within the ramparts. The survey also highlighted the extent of robbing, quarrying and previously unrecorded antiquarian excavation at the site. It also covered previously unrecorded lead mining in the immediate vicinity. From the results of the survey it was possible to produce a relative chronology for the site. It was concluded that the hillfort was likely to date to the Late Bronze Age, with possible housing platforms indicating settlement within the ramparts. Pre-dating the hillfort are the probable Early Bronze Age barrows. Although there was no evidence for medieval remains found within the fort, there is evidence for a medieval field system further downslope. There is evidence for post-medieval lead mining in the vicinity, with an enclosure wall overlying it that appears to have narrow ridge and furrow running parallel. Finally, industrial activity, in the form of small-scale lead mining, quarrying and lime production was surveyed, with three lime kilns on the site, two of which were related to quarrying activity. The results of the survey, along with the geophysical data (see below), were used to help inform the position of excavation trenches in the next phase of fieldwork at Fin Cop. (12) A detailed gradiometry and resistance survey was undertaken at Fin Cop Hillfort by Stratascan in 2009. The survey identified a number of anomalies of possible archaeological origin such as pits and ditches, with good correlation between the two data sets. The results from this survey, and the earthwork survey of 2009 mentioned above, were used to identify the position of excavation trenches in the next phase of fieldwork. (13) Excavations at Fin Cop were carried out as part of a programme of archaeological investigation during 2009 by the Longstone Local History Group and ARS Ltd. The excavations showed that the Fin Cop wall and ditch were of considerable scale and clearly built for a defensive purpose. The skeletal remains of a young woman from the 4th-3rd century BC was found dumped amongst the hillfort's destruction deposit. Both of these discoveries corroborate the theory that the site was used as a hillfort. Radiocarbon dates provide a Mid Iron Age date for the abandonment of this hillfort. Two radiocarbon dates from material within the primary ditch silt have produced dates of the Beaker period (2350-2040 cal BC), which could suggest that either both species were from residual material, or that there is a much earlier enclosure on the sire, part of which was incorporated into the hillfort defensive circuit. One of the trenches revealed evidence for rock-cut features such as pits and post-sockets, together with over 200 sherds of late prehistoric pottery. Two of the sherds were radiocarbon dated to 820-550 cal BC, indicating that there was human occupation here in the Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age, possibly relating to an early phase of the hillfort of to pre-hillfort occupation of the site. Sixteen test pits were excavated in an east-west transect across the interior of the hillfort. They produced 1800 chipped stone artefacts, of which all but five were made from the locally-outcropping chert. The assemblage is thought to be of Mesolithic date, and is thought to represent a raw material extraction site where preliminary flaking took place. (14, 15) The earthworks visible today on the summit of Fin Cop are the remains of an Iron Age hillfort. Dating of human remains found in the ditch show that the fort fell out of use around 300 BC. Long before the Iron Age, Bronze Age farmers living in the area around 2000 BC chose the highest point to bury their dead. Rock-cut graves with stones piled over them were raised along the crest of the hill. When these graves were excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries, adult human skeletons were discovered accompanied by pottery vessels. During recent excavations, activity on the hilltop dating back to the early hunter-gatherer groups who settled in the area after the laste Ice Age was found. Test pits excavated across the interior of the fort produced over 1700 chipped stone artefacts made from chert. Large quantities of chipping waste were found in the test pits indicating that Mesolithic hunters were quarrying and chipping chert on the hilltop between about 10,000 and 4000 BC. (16) The monument is defined by a steep scarps to the north and west. Curving earthworks, in the form of a continuous wall and ditch form the to eastern and southern defences. To the northeast a second bank and ditch lies just outside of the wall and ditch. In 2011 the momument was reported to be in good contition, but with areas of erosion and degrdation. <17>

Sources/Archives (17)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1955. 6".
  • <2> Article in serial: Tristram, E. 1912. 'Fin Cop prehistoric fort', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 34. pp 133-138.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Thomas, N. 1960. A Guide to Prehistoric England. p 72.
  • <4> Scheduling record: Ministry of Works. 1961. Ancient Monuments of England and Wales. 23283.
  • <5> Personal Observation: F1 JB 15-DEC-65.
  • <6> Monograph: Challis, A & Harding, W. 1975. 'Later Prehistory from the Trent to the Tyne', British Archaeological Report 20. Part 2. p 47.
  • <7> Bibliographic reference: Hart, C (NDAT). 1981. The North Derbyshire Archaeological Survey to AD 1500. p 75.
  • <8> Index: NDAT. 0071.
  • <9> Photograph: Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA). Slide Collection. 419.1-6.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Bevan, B (PDNPA). 1994. Brushfield Hough, Brushfield, Great Longstone, Ashford, Taddington and Sheldon Parishes, Derbyshire, Archaeological Survey, 1994. p 17, Feature 36.
  • <11> Unpublished document: Brightman, J (ARS). 2009. Fin Cop Hillfort, Derbyshire: An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Burn, A & Brightman, J (ARS). 2009. An analytical earthwork survey of the hillfort at Fin Cop, Derbyshire.
  • <13> Unpublished document: Smalley, R (Stratascan). 2009. Geophysical Survey Report: Fin Cop Hill Fort. HER Doc. No. 1213.
  • <14> Unpublished document: Waddington, C (ARS). 2010. Fin Cop Excavation Archive Report for 2009.
  • <15> Article in serial: Waddington, C (ARS Ltd). 2010. 'Archaeological Investigation at Fin Cop Hillfort, Monsal Head: A Summary Report' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 130, pages 96-101.
  • <16> Unpublished document: Archaeological Research Services (ARS) Ltd. 2010. Fin Cop Hillfort- Solving a Derbyshire Mystery.
  • <17> Unpublished document: Waddington, C and J Brightman (ARS Ltd). 2012. Peak District Hillforts: Conservation and Management Audit.



Grid reference Centred SK 1745 7099 (186m by 330m) (Centre)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (9)

  • EDR448
  • EDR449
  • EDR2726
  • EDR4691
  • EDR2779
  • EDR2812
  • EDR2725
  • EDR1098
  • EDR4038

Please contact the HER for details.

External Links (0)

Record last edited

Mar 15 2020 9:48AM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.