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Pen-y-Crug;Pen y Crug Hillfort

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Map ReferenceSO03SW
Grid ReferenceSO0293030370
Unitary (Local) AuthorityPowys
Old CountyBrecknockshire
PeriodIron Age
1. Pen-y-crug is a large, oval, multivallate hillfort which encloses the summit of a prominent, isolated hill about 2km north-west of the confluence of the rivers Usk and Honddu at Brecon. Pen-y-crug stands as one of the great achievements in planning and construction of Iron Age Wales. The undulating interior of the site rises from south to north, with a peak towards the west side 330m above sea level. The position is a conspicuous and commanding one, the ground beyond the defences falling away fairly steeply in all directions.

Although denuded the surviving earthworks are still prominent. Quarrying has damaged the outer perimeter defences on the north, south and east and parts of the site have been eroded by movement along the paths crossing it. The defences are covered by grass, bracken and patches of gorse and the ploughed interior is grazing land at present.

The series of ramparts follows closely the contours of the upper part of the hill. For most of the circuit there are four ramparts and a counterscarp bank, reduced to three on the west where the slope is steeper. The banks were constructed of earth and stone, probably by the method termed 'downward construction'. Traces of a quarry ditch are visible behind the innermost rampart. The enclosure measures internally 182m north to south, by 134m, an area of 1.92 hectares; externally the entire hillfort enclosures 4.29 hectares. The outer faces of the highest banks attain a height of 5.2m in places.

Source: paraphrased from RCAHMW Brecknock Inventory, Part ii, 1986, p. 68-70.

T. Driver, RCAHMW. 7th Dec 2010.

2. Points to note regarding the rampart system: The steepness of the main inner, and second, ramparts at Pen-y-Crug suggests that both were originally stone-walled, and this is confirmed by traces of neatly-built stone walling where erosion has exposed the original rampart face. The inner, and second, ramparts together with the outer-most line are the most clearly defined defences at the fort, with the intervening ramparts often comprising of little more than a palisade footing with an intervening terrace.

The rampart system is at its most complex and impressive on the east and north sides where there are 5 lines of defence, and the ramparts at the north or 'rear' of the hillfort are among the tallest and most impressive on site. While the ramparts flanking the main south-east gateway are impressive in their scale, and the detailing of the neat terminals flanking the gateway passage is apparent, there are problems here. To the east of the main gate the outermost, fifth, rampart fades out, perhaps by design but potentially through post medieval ploughing. To the west of the main gate the ramparts lose their neat plan just east of a modern quarry where - apparently - a boss of durable natural rock necessitated that second-most rampart to curve in and avoid it. The intervening third and fourth ramparts here are especially low.

The ramparts are at their most simple on the south-west angle of the fort where the steep ground made construction of standing ramparts difficult. To retain an impression of multivallation from afar, the builders built more simple scarp terraces on the lines of the ramparts. The most interesting section of the defensive scheme is on the north-west side where, approaching the 'back' of the hillfort, the reduced scheme of 4 ramparts on the west and south merges with the 5 ramparts of the north and east. A point was chosen by the builders to diverge one rampart into two and this point is still apparent on the ground.

Site visit 15/12/2014

T. Driver, RCAHMW, 16th Dec 2014.