Burpham camp


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Sussex
Arun (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
TQ 03920 08544


Iron Age promontory fort and Anglo-Saxon burh at Burpham, 385m south of Burpham Lodge

Reasons for Designation

The Iron Age promontory fort at Burpham is an example of an inland fort where the natural defensive qualities of the land were utilised and the site was reoccupied as a burh in the Anglo-Saxon period. Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. Coastal situations and inland topographic settings defined by natural cliffs are used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone-walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD.

Anglo-Saxon centres, usually known as burhs, are defended urban areas that are characterised by a planned, ordered layout, sometimes including a regular grid of streets. They date mainly from the late ninth century AD, as King Alfred's response to the threat of Danish invasion. They include large towns covering around 58ha, and smaller forts ranging in size from 1ha-9.5ha. Most original buildings, including churches, dwellings and outbuildings, were simple timber structures, traces of which may survive in the form of fragile below ground features such as post holes, sill-beam slots and pits. Burhs are one of the earliest groups of planned medieval towns in western Europe. Despite partial disturbance by agricultural activity and some modern development, the Iron Age promontory fort and Anglo-Saxon burh at Burpham survive well. It is known by partial excavation to contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the fort, its re-use as a burh in the Saxon period, and the landscape in which it was constructed. There has been limited modern development and disturbance on the site and it holds a high degree of archaeological potential for further investigation. The entry of Burpham in the Burghal Hideage confirms its importance in the Anglo-Saxon period and its place in the early history of England.


See Details


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17/10/14. 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.

DESCRIPTION The monument includes an Iron Age promontory fort, later occupied as an Anglo-Saxon burh, surviving as earthworks and below-ground archaeological remains. It is situated on a long, narrow, elevated area of land, which extends southwards from the village of Burpham and overlooks the flood plain of the River Arun to the west and south, and the valley of a tributary stream to the east.

The promontory fort is bounded by steep natural cliffs on all but the north side. It is about 700m long north-south by 250m long east-west, reducing to 50m towards the centre and widening again to about 150m at the south end. The north end is enclosed by an earthen rampart, formed of a bank up to 7m high with an external ditch, and with an entrance cut into the rampart at the centre. The interior of the fort falls gently southwards, the cliffs reducing in height from about 15 m to 4.5 m. To compensate for the weakening natural defences southwards, a bank encircles the southern half of the promontory at the base of the cliffs. This bank is up to about 8m wide and 1m high, but has been reduced by flood waters and an inner ditch present here has silted up. Partial excavation was carried out on the site in the 19th century. Sherds of late Saxon pottery were found within the interior of the fort in around the mid 20th century. In 1972-3 partial excavation was carried prior to the erection of a cricket pavilion at the northern end of the site. About 170 postholes were uncovered. These are thought to represent two separate buildings, lying end to end and parallel to the bank. One of the ‘buildings’ was rectangular in plan with a small ‘room’ partitioned off at the west end. The side walls were constructed of double posts and a small, double-sided, extension was attached to the south wall. The second ‘building’ was of the same structural type. Two deep pits were also discovered, probably later in date and containing late Saxon and early Norman pottery. The interior of the fort is likely to have been re-occupied in the late Saxon period and was probably the site of the burh at Burpham. Burpham is mentioned in the early 10th century Burghal Hideage list (a survey of defended places), as a burh holding 720 hides. There is a recreation ground and car park at the north end of the fort.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
WS 48
Legacy System:


West Sussex HER 1974 - MWS3790. NMR TQ00NW11, TQ00NW128, TQ00NW32. PastScape 392654, 623234, 392693.


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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