Multivallate hillfort at Hunsbury Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012150

Date first listed: 18-Aug-1882

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Jul-1995


Ordnance survey map of Multivallate hillfort at Hunsbury Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Northamptonshire

District: Northampton (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: SP 73792 58361


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between 5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection of the power struggle between competing elites. Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts, oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered, for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens. Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture occurred on many sites. Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere. In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of national importance.

The multivallate hillfort at Hunsbury Hill is an important example of this rare class of monument in Northamptonshire. Partial excavation at the site has indicated that, despite former quarrying operations, the earthwork defences will retain valuable information for the construction techniques employed during the Iron Age whilst the undisturbed parts of the interior will retain structural and artefactual evidence for the occupation of the hillfort and the economy of its inhabitants.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument at Hunsbury is situated on the summit of a prominent hill overlooking the Nene Valley and includes the earthwork and buried remains of a multivallate Iron Age hillfort. The defensive earthworks enclose a central area of approximately 1.6ha and include an inner rampart, a ditch, and intermittent traces of a second rampart or counterscarp bank. There are also late 19th century references to an outer ditch and, although much of the surrounding area has been quarried for ironstone, the southern and eastern parts of this outer ditch, which measures approximately 12m wide, are thought to survive as buried features and are included in the scheduling. The inner rampart rises to a height of 3.7m above the interior and, except for its eastern section, the rear of the rampart has been modified by ironstone quarrying in the interior of the site. The inner ditch measures up to 15m wide and, in the north western part of the site, where sections of the ditch have been partly infilled with later material, it will survive as a buried feature. It is now approximately 2m deep, although, in 1952, an excavation across the north eastern defences indicated that it was originally 8m deep and that the inner rampart was of timber-laced construction. In 1988, an excavation in the north western part of the site recovered evidence that the inner rampart replaced an earlier bank which, at some stage, had been burnt. The outer rampart measures up to 2.5m high and is best preserved in the northern part of the site. Its southern and south western sections and the outer ditch have been overlaid by a former driftway. Access into the interior of the hillfort is by means of causeways through the north western, northern and south eastern defences. The north western entrance is considered to have been created by the quarry company in order to provide a tramway access to the interior, whereas the northern or south eastern entrances may mark the sites of original entrances. No internal earthworks associated with the hillfort's occupation are visible, but buried remains will survive in the south eastern part of the interior, an area not affected by earlier quarrying operations. Finds recovered from the site, many from circular pits, include pottery, animal bone, iron currency bars and domestic and industrial artefacts such as quern stones, sickles, tweezers, rings and bracelets. The large quantity of finds constitute one of the most important groups of Iron Age material in the Midlands.

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: 17132

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , The County of Northampton, (1985), 269
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , The County of Northampton, (1985), 34
Jackson, D A, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in Archaeology in Northampton, , Vol. 23, (1991), 108

End of official listing