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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 409694

Map Reference SR99SE

Grid Reference SR9917394196

Unitary (Local) Authority Pembrokeshire

Old County Pembrokeshire

Community Stackpole


Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Iron Age, Prehistoric

Site Description Mowingword is a narrow, finger-like promontory extending south from the main peninsula of Stackpole Head. A 'ditch' was first identified at Mowingword on a location map of Stackpole Warren by Don Benson in 1990 (Benson et. al. 1990, Excavations at Stackpole Warren, Dyfed, PPS 56, Figure 2, Site 24) but not further described. Aerial photography by the Royal Commission on 28th January 2009, examining the headlands of the Stackpole region for archaeological sites in winter light, recorded the small ditch cutting off this narrow promontory, and the site was subsequently visited and recorded on the 21st October 2009.

The promontory is an unusually slender finger of Carboniferous Limestone which projects south from the mainland, rising above lower grassy ledges on both sides and giving the appearance of a towering wall of rock pillars from below. At the northern (landward) end of the promontory is a rock-cut ditch with a central causeway. The western ditch is 7m long and of rectangular plan with a squared, rock-cut terminal against the causeway; it varies in width at the base between 1.4m and 1.7m, and widens at its top to around 2.8m wide. Its maximum depth is 1.10m. The eastern ditch is less impressive, being 5.74m long with a shallow, rounded terminal against the central causeway. It is around 1.9m wide at the base, broadening to between 2.5m-3.6m at its top. The outer ends of both ditches open to the sheer cliff edges of the promontory. The central causeway of uncut rock is 2.8m wide, with good evidence for paving or cobbling in the form of rectangular limestone blocks up to 0.3mx0.45m in size, visible through the grass on the western side. There is no formal defensive bank to match the rock-cut ditches, except for a low pile of spoil outside and to the north of the deeper, western ditch. The interior thus enclosed by the promontory ditches is 54m long (north-south), narrowing to a mere 6m in its middle and widening at its tip to some 12m. The ground surface is bare limestone pavement with a thin covering of turf in places but lacks any further evidence of cut features or built structures. Further utilisable ground can be found on the lower ledges below both sides of the narrow promontory, above the precipitous coastal cliffs. The wider ledge on the east was examined, and was found to comprise a series of natural rock-edged grassy terraces and platforms, as well as ill-defined sunken areas, giving the appearance of built structures and perhaps offering further locations for prehistoric activity.

The presence of both a well defined rock-cut ditch crossing the neck of the promontory together with a central causeway preserving clear evidence of artificial paving, confirms the Mowingword promontory as a deliberately-enclosed site dating to the Iron Age or later prehistoric period. However, the lack of a clear rampart bank or wall to match the ditch, or any internal features indicative of settlement, makes a purely defensive or domestic role hard to support. Indeed, the 'miniature' nature of the promontory defences and the high, narrow and treacherous character of the enclosed interior invites speculation as to a possible ritual or ceremonial role for this site, remote as it is from the main areas of later prehistoric settlement at Stackpole (NPRN 300424) and from other coastal promontory forts in south Pembrokeshire. The closest parallel is the similarly small promontory enclosure at Linney (NPRN 408910), which lies to the west of the main Linney Head coastal promontory fort, nearly 11km west of Mowingword.

T. Driver and L. Barker, RCAHMW, 23rd October 2009

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