The hillfort at Bury Bank, north of Stone at Meaford, is a new addition to the 2016 official “at risk” register of historic sites.
“Declining: Generally unsatisfactory with major localised problems”, mostly arising from “scrub/tree growth”.
Since the time of John Leland’s travels in Tudor England the site has been known and written of as an ancient seat of the Anglian king of early Mercia, King Wulfhere (657-74 AD).
From “A few jottings on some Staffordshire Camps” in North Staffordshire Naturalists’ Field Club, Annual Report and Transactions, 1892:
Dr. Plot in his Natural History of Staffordshire, published in 1686, thus quaintly describes this place: ” On the top of a hill there yet remains the ruins of a large castle, fortified with a double vallum and entrenchments, about 250 yards diameter, the gate seeming to have been on the west part of it where the side banks on each hand plainly appear : others fancy there was a second gate on the east side too ; though I could not perceive any probability for it, but on the south side there is a round conical hill, much like a tumulus cast up higher than all the rest of the work, which, according to the tradition of the country thereabout, was the seat of Ulferus [Wulfhere], King of Mercia …. Mr. Sampson Erdeswick asserts that he had seen an old writing relating to the foundation of the Priory of Stone [founded from c. 1138 – 1147 A.D.] that affirms as much : which may, perhaps, be that of R. de Suggenhill and Petronel his wife, whereby they gave to the Church of S. Mary and S. Ulfade of Stone Messuagium juxta montem qui dicitiur Ulferecester in terroris de Derlaston ; which index proves fully that this was the royal mansion of the said Ulferus who governed Mercia from the year of Christ 657 to 676, the Lowe (tumulus) adjoining being in all probability the place of his sepulture.”
Approximate translation of the Late Latin:
“A plot of land with a house, next to the great mound on the lordly castle of Ulfere [Wulfhere], the fierce warrior of Derlaston”.
On Derlaston, see map (above). The Place-names of England and Wales (1916) records: “DARLASTON (Wednesbury and Stone): St. D. 954 Deorlavestun, Derlavestone, 1004 ib. Deorlafestun, Dom. Dorlavestone. Wed. D. a. 1200 Derlavestone.” Deor was a deer, lave was wash, stun is presumably stone. Given the geography, possibly the name is then related to the stepping stones across the river, where the deer were cleaned and washed after the King’s summer deer-hunts? The Darlaston in South Staffordshire, near Wednesbury, has a similar situation on the upper reaches of a river — being located where the three head-streams of the River Tame converge.
Interestingly, if we accept a relatively early date for the famous poem Beowulf, then the summer hunting palace of the King of Mercia would have a good claim as the possible place where Beowulf was written down by a poet — who we know used the Mercian dialect.