A hilltop enclosed by Iron Age cross dykes, an associated field system and Bronze Age barrows at Butser Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

East Hampshire (District Authority)
East Hampshire (District Authority)
East Meon
East Hampshire (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SU 71652 19141

Reasons for Designation

Cross dykes occur in upland areas throughout England, running across ridges and spurs, and consisting of one or more banks. The earliest date to the Bronze Age and are normally interpreted as boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities, although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or defensive earthworks. The monument at Butser Hill is unusual in that a set of cross dykes enclose an area of land similar in scale to that of some of the larger Iron Age hillforts. Hillforts and similar sites such as Butser are generally regarded as having functioned as centres of occupation, stock enclosures, redistribution centres or places of refuge. As such they may contain evidence of a variety of internal features including buildings supported by an arrangement of posts and interpreted as granaries, timber or stone round houses, storage pits and hearths as well as scattered post holes, stakeholes and gullies. Despite cultivation of much of the summit plateau, the cross dykes which partly enclose the hilltop survive well, as do the lynchets of the associated field system on the lower slopes. The establishment of an experimental Iron Age farm on Little Butser in the 1970s has greatly increased our understanding of these remains as well as providing a broad overview of land use and subsistence in the Iron Age. The bell barrow and hollow ways to the east and north east are also well-preserved while the levelled bowl barrows will contain archaeological remains in buried features such as the encircling ditches. Partial excavations on Butser Hill have demonstrated that archaeological evidence survives relating to the construction and use of the visible earthworks as well as to contemporary land use and earlier occupation.


The monument includes a hilltop which was partly enclosed by cross dykes in the Iron Age, an associated field system, also of Iron Age date, three Bronze Age barrows, two of which have been levelled, a number of intercutting hollow ways which cross the eastern hillside, and two hollow ways traversing the north eastern spur. The hollow ways are dated to the post-medieval period but may have earlier origins. The earliest occupation of the hill is represented by a scatter of Mesolithic and Neolithic flintwork. Subsequently, in the Bronze Age, three round barrows were built. Two of these have been levelled but the ditches and burial pits will survive as buried features. The third, a bell barrow is visible as a irregular mound c.30m in diameter and up to 1.5m high. The ditch, from which material was quarried during the construction of the barrow, has become infilled but will survive as a buried feature and its position is possibly represented by an 8m long and 4m wide depression of the barrow mound. In the Iron Age period approximately 30ha of the hilltop were partly enclosed by cross dykes built across the ridge between Butser and Hilhampton Down and on three of the hill's six spurs. The cross dykes, which vary in length between 320m and c.75m, consist usually of a ditch and single low bank, although the two earthworks on the Hilhampton ridge, the easiest access to the hilltop, are more substantial. Here, the outer cross dyke is 90m long and comprises a ditch up to 8m wide and 1m deep, flanked on either side by banks up to 6m wide. Some 90m to the north east, the second, inner, earthwork consists of a 320m long bank and ditch set in a segmented, south west facing arc. The 13m wide bank lies on the uphill side of a ditch up to 11m wide. Both earthworks terminate above steep coombes. Two cross dykes on the west flank of the north western spur are 265m and 128m long respectively, the longer one 80m upslope of the shorter. The higher earthwork has a short right-angled offset section at its southern end. Both features consist of a ditch and single bank on the downslope side, both ditches being up to 4m wide. The bank of the longer earthwork is up to 7.5m wide; the bank of the shorter cross dyke is 6m wide. Both features stop at a steep coombe to the north; to the south, they cease on less steep ground north of Limekiln Lane. The cross dyke on the southern spur of the hill has an overall length of c.100m, but is in two interrupted sections, 25m (western) and 50m (eastern) long respectively. The feature comprises an irregular low bank up to 6m wide on the upslope side of a 5m wide shallow ditch. The cross dyke on the north eastern spur of the hill is 98m long and consists of a 3m wide bank on the downslope side of a 4m wide ditch. The earthwork cuts across one hollow way and is cut by another. The field system, represented by lynchets marking former field boundaries, extends over c.29ha on the lower south eastern slopes of the hill. The lynchets, which form a generally sub-rectangular field pattern, are up to 450m long and survive to a maximum height of 2m. A series of intercutting post-medieval hollow ways crosses the eastern slope of the hill north of the field system. Now truncated by the deep cutting for the A3 road, the hollow ways would originally have climbed the hillside from the Petersfield-Horndean road. The northernmost and deepest track cuts c.5m into the hillside on the upslope side. The bases of tracks are up to 1.75m wide and, in some, traces of shallow ruts are preserved. Excluded from the scheduling are the radio station buildings and mast; toilet block; metalled roads and car parks; fences, steps, gates, stiles, ramps and associated posts; bridleway, and footpath, marker and sign posts; beacon post; above-ground water tanks and reservoirs; telegraph poles and cables, although the ground beneath all these feaures is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Bradley, R, 'Hants Newsletter' in The trial excavation of two earthworks on Butser Hill, (1974), 83-84
Bradley, R, 'Hants Newsletter' in The trial excavation of two earthworks on Butser Hill, (1974), 83-84
Bradley, R, 'CBA Groups 12 and 13 Archaeol Review' in Buriton, Little Butser, , Vol. 6, (1971), 22
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in Hampshire Barrows, , Vol. 14, (1940), 358
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in Hampshire Barrows, , Vol. 14, (1939), 210
Piggott, S, 'Antiquity' in Butser Hill, , Vol. 4, (1930), 197-198
Piggott, S, 'Antiquity' in Butser Hill, , Vol. 4, (1930), 199
Piggott, S, 'Antiquity' in Butser Hill, , Vol. 4, (1930), 193-196
Piggott, S, 'Antiquity' in Butser Hill, , Vol. 4, (1930), 192
Ordnance Survey, SU 72 SW 6, (1963)


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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