Burton Point is a promontory on the south-west side of the Wirral peninsula overlooking the Dee Estuary. On it, there is the fragment of a prehistoric (and possibly early medieval) promontory fort.

On Wednesday 14th September I was delighted to help the reserve’s heritage volunteer Gina Couch in giving talks and tours of the promontory fort within the Burton Mere RSPB nature reserve as part of their Heritage Open Day.

Gina at the Visitor Centre with a range of reproduction archaeological artefacts
Me in my borrowed RSPB gillet!

Gary Crawford-Coupe published a useful survey of Burton Point in 2005, appearing in volume 80 of the Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society. Read it HERE.

I approached the site from two perspectives, drawing up on Gary’s inferences based on contour survey and geophysical survey as well as his summary of the antiquarian accounts and stray finds.

First, from a landscape perspective, I talked about how Burton Point was an important landmark on the Dee Estuary which was accessible from the estuary until the canalised Dee in the early 18th century took away the river. As such, I considered it an important and persistent place through prehistoric and historical periods for estuarine communities.

Second, I talked about the specific aspects of the archaeology from the Point and how little we know about the detail of the story. These include:

  • Neolithic stone tools;
  • the bank-and-ditch which is most likely date to the pre-Roman Iron Age and represent a small defended settlement;
  • among many possible interpretations of the ‘skeletons’ reportedly found on the Point in the 19th century is that the promontory had the focus of an early medieval ecclesiastical site. Other early medieval sites in proximity include Neston, Hilbre Island, West Kirby, Irby (and on the Welsh side) Basingwerk and Holywell were discussed;
  • the medieval and post-medieval quarrying of the Point which is interesting in itself as well as explains how we have so little of the archaeology surviving from earlier periods.

There’s so much more to learn about Burton Point. In that regard, I was happy to raise with visitors the many unanswered questions about the site and its landscape context through time.

Subsequently, doctoral researcher Liam Delaney shared with me some recently captured Lidar images of the site which reveals clearly the damage of historic quarrying and the surviving bank-and-ditch of the fort.

© Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2015. All rights reserved.
© Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2015. All rights reserved.

I got to meet c. 55-60 lovely visitors over 5 hours and among them were two former archaeologists!

I also thoroughly enjoyed spending time on a striking location with fabulous views and surrounded by beautiful wildfowl.

Here’s my TikTok from the day:

Crawford-Coupe, G. 2005. The archaeology of Burton Point, Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society 80: 71-90.

Crawford-Coupe, G. 2014. The promontory fort at Burton Point, in T. Saunders (ed.) Hillforts in the North West and Beyond. Manchester: Council for British Archaeology North West, pp. 42-50.