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Defended Enclosure, Solva

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Map ReferenceSM82SW
Grid ReferenceSM8090024350
Unitary (Local) AuthorityPembrokeshire
Old CountyPembrokeshire
PeriodIron Age
1. Solva is a small, quite lightly defended enclosure with concentric annexe lying on a ridge crest at 60m above sea level. It occupies a strong naturally defensive position, with very steep slopes to the north and south. To the southwest the ridge-top falls away slightly and narrows to an arete. The most easily approachable side is the northeast where the flat ridge-top widens out into the coastal plateau. The main enclosure is sub-rectangular in shape approximately 100m SW - NE and 85m SE - NW internally. The defences are best preserved beneath a hedge-bank on the southwest side where a single earth bank (stonework here seems to be associated with the hedge-bank rather than the defences) rises to over 2m externally, with no trace of a ditch. On the north and south sides the bank survives as a scarp, up to 1.5m - 1m high externally at the western ends, but fading to nothing to the east. The northeast end is defended by a spread bank up to 6m wide and 0.5m high, but this fades to nothing towards the southeast corner of the enclosure. There is a trace of a ditch towards the northeast corner, and here a simple gap marks the entrance. The defence of the outer enclosure or annexe is best preserved to the southwest of the main or inner enclosure. Here a simple spread bank 1m high externally lies 100m from the inner enclosure, cutting off the approach along the arete. This bank curves round to the northeast and southeast where it fades into a scarp running along the sharp breaks of slope that define the ridge-top. Effectively this bank forms a concentric outer enclosure, but not a complete circuit as the easily approachable northeast side is left undefended by it. In 2006, the site was under improved pasture.
(Ken Murphy, Dyfed Archaeological Trust, 2006).

2. The fort commands the north-easterly summit of the Gribin ridge, which descends to the sea to the south-west and has two further promontory forts, the Gribin Ridge fort (NPRN 410450) and the Gribin promontory fort (NPRN 94269).

3. Royal Commission aerial reconnaissance on 16th July 2013 recorded parchmarks which added to our understanding of this interesting concentric defended enclosure. On the north-east side, where the ground is almost level, aerial photos show the curving line of a palisade trench continuing the course of the outer enclosure where the earthwork is almost plough levelled. This allows calculation of a maximum dimension to the outer enclosure of approx. 320m NE-SW by 180m, meaning that the defended enclosure as a whole encompasses some 4.0 hectares.

Further complexity was suggested on the south-west side where the ridge narrows and the outer enclosure swings around to cut off the coastal approach to the summit, with the site of the gate marked by a simple gap in the earthwork. Parchmarks clearly show an outer palisade trench, or a very narrow slit-trench, external to the rampart and flanking the gateway. However, rather than the line of this outer rampart forming a concentric defence to the inner, parchmarks clarify its return back north, forming a 'bailey' or discrete outer enclosure to the west of the main inner enclosure. This may suggest a more complex development to this site than was previously thought.

See parchmarks recorded on frames AP_2013_3559 to 3570.

T. Driver, RCAHMW, Dec 2013.