Copyright Dame Kathleen Kenyon, Plate 2 from "Excavations at Sutton Walls, Herefordshire 1948 - 1951".
GEOLOGY OF SUTTON WALLS.
The name Walls refers to the great man-made embankments which surround an area of 29 acres on top of the hill. Before they were made the hill was a fairly flat topped, steep sided feature - the remains of ancient river terrace above the River Lugg
Underlying the flat top and above the red marls which are exposed on its slopes is a layer of gravel. The gravel fragments are of a similar size and are well rounded suggesting that they had been transported there by water. The gravel comes mainly from the catchment area of the Rivers Lugg, the Teme and the Onny. At that time, the Teme and the Onny were tributaries of the Lugg which flowed southward through Herefordshire and the gravels were deposited as part of a vast flood plain at a time well before the ice of the last glaciation spread over the western part of the county. Since then the present valley of the Lugg has been cut, leaving a remnant of the former flood plain as Sutton Walls.
Although at its highest Sutton Walls is only about 100 metres above sea level, at various points on the footpath that encircles the Camp there are extensive views towards South Herefordshire, the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, Shropshire, and the Malverns. There are numerous paths from both Sutton St Nicholas and Marden that lead up to the "Walls". Two thirds of the plateau is scrubland (this covers the old quarry and landfill areas), the remainder is agricultural land. Many people use these footpaths. We hope to open up views and improve the footpaths as part of the Conservation Management Plan.
In 1933, Sutton Walls was declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument. By 1935 quarrying for gravel had commenced. This quarrying increased as part of the war effort with much of the gravel reportedly being used at the RAF Credenhill.
Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon noted that the feature marked on earlier Ordnance Survey maps called the King’s Cellar was known to quarrymen to whom she spoke as an ancient quarry. The King’s Cellar stood untouched at least until the mid 1970s, a fact supported by a landfill worker who reported in 2018 that he had been instructed not to carry out any work in that area.
By the time Kenyon commenced her excavations in 1948 much of the western section had become a shell.
We are fortunate that in her final report Kathleen Kenyon included diagrams of the geology she encountered as she cut the trenches in the western entrance and ramparts.
The illustration at the top of this page reproduces Plate 2 from her report. It shows natural gravel; red gravelly soil; various colours of clay; clay rock and purple sandstone ‘lumps’.
The Conservation Group hopes that, with permission, it will have the opportunity to investigate the soils and geology at the eastern end of Sutton Walls.