Baring Gould’s plan from Archaeologia Cambrensis 1899
Facing the warrors’ dyke
Looking into the promontory fort across the multivallate defences
Looking along the inner bank of the defences southwards

Clawdd y Milwyr – the warriors’ dyke – is a promontary fort on St David’s Head, Pembrokeshire. Located 35m above sea level its defences comprise a north-south running dry stone bank with a single entrance through it. This earthwork crosses a shallow saddle between the Head itself and the mainland. Fronting the main bank is a ditch and counterscarp bank, plus a third outer bank.

In the case of this fort, as with so many, the defences do not simply straddle headlands, and thus utilising the natural cliffs that make the defences so effective. In addition, the facing of a natural rock outcrop and the use of topography to enhance the human-made defences. For a visitor experiencing it for the first time, would it have been apparent where the ‘natural’ defences end and the human-made defences begin? Is this simply a trick of its appearance as a long-abandoned monument, or might this have been part of the display effect of such sites in late prehistory?

Looking from the bare rock outrcrop over the defences towards Carn Llidi

Within the fort, only a small area (c. 50m by 30m) is suitable for habitation and here there are the traces of 8-9 hut circles, six of which were excavated in 1898 by Sabine Baring Gould producing finds suggesting occupation in the Roman period.

My interest in such sites is that they might have readily been occupied in the early medieval period as much as in the preceding Iron Age and Roman periods.

One of the hut circles within the promontory fort
Baring Gould’s plan of the hut circles, from Archaeologia Cambrensis 1899

Furthermore, it would be interesting to know whether the martial attribution of the place-name given to the striking headland, incorporating natural rock outcrops and human-made features, was early medieval in date. In which case, does it refer to legendary post-abandonment attributions, or a genuine martial presence to this prominent location dominating the westernmost coast of South-West Wales.

Looking over the promontory fort’s habitation area.

Baring Gould, S.B. 1899. Exploration of the stone camp on St. David’s Head, Archaeologia Cambrensis XVI, Fifth Series, 105-131.

Page, M., Driver, T., Barker, L, Murphy, K and Crane, P. 2009. Prehistoric Defended Enclosures Remote Sensing. Dyfed Archaeological Trust.