Earlier prehistoric hillfort at Penbury Knoll.
Reasons for Designation
Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day. Earlier prehistoric hillforts are large fortified settlement sites dating to the Neolithic period (c.3500-2000 BC). They may be recognized by single or multiple rubble walls or earthen banks enclosing all or part of a hilltop. The boundaries often vary in size, incorporate numerous small entrance gaps and commonly include substantial natural rock outcrops and scarps in their circuit. Ditches, sometimes similarly with intermittent breaks, occasionally accompany the enclosing banks. The hillfort enclosures, up to 10ha in extent, usually contain cleared and levelled house platforms. The few recent excavations of this class of monument have revealed numerous internal timber and stake-built structures and pits associated with large quantities of undisturbed Neolithic settlement debris including animal bone, charcoal, flint artefacts, pottery and stone tools. Many of these finds or their raw materials were originally brought to the hillforts from considerable distances away. Excavations have also produced evidence for warfare at some sites. Extensive outworks are associated with most of these hillforts, either roughly concentric with the inner enclosure or connecting a series of related enclosures. Fewer than twenty earlier prehistoric hillforts are known nationally, concentrated in the uplands of south-western England from the Cotswolds and Dorset to west Cornwall, with a very few isolated possible examples elsewhere in southern England. They are a very rare monument type, highly representative of their period as one of the major sources of information on social organisation and interaction during the Neolithic period. Despite subsequent quarrying the earlier prehistoric hillfort at Penbury Knoll survives comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, territorial significance, longevity, social organisation, agricultural practices, domestic arrangements, trade, manufacturing activity, subsequent re-use and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 16 December 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument includes an earlier prehistoric hillfort situated on the gravely knoll called Penbury Knoll on the prominent chalk ridge of Pentridge Hill. The hillfort survives as an irregular shaped enclosure defined by a single earthen rampart standing up to 7.6m wide and 0.6m high and a partial ditch up to 7.6m wide and 0.9m deep enclosing an area of approximately 1.7ha. Several possible causeways are visible across the ditch and the interior of the camp has been subject to later quarrying. Surface finds of both Mesolithic and Neolithic flints and Portland Chert from Penbury Knoll have included a small tranchet axe, a non-tranchet axe, scrapers, utilised and retouched flakes, core-trimming flakes, blade cores, a knife, an awl, a pick, a truncated blade, three microliths and many waste flakes. Documentary evidence also suggests that a beacon once stood on the knoll.
Further archaeological remains in the vicinity are scheduled separately.