Bronze Age enclosure, associated linear earthworks and field system, and a later dewpond on Tenants Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Bronze Age enclosure, associated linear earthworks and field system, and a later dewpond on Tenants Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Dorset (District Authority)
Kingston Russell
National Grid Reference:
SY 57697 88189

Reasons for Designation

Hilltop enclosures are defined as sub-rectangular or elongated areas of ground, usually between 10ha and 40ha in size, situated on hilltops or plateaux and surrounded by slight univallate earthworks. They date to between the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth-fifth centuries BC) and are usually interpreted as stock enclosures or sites where agricultural produce was stored. Many examples of hilltop enclosures may have developed into more strongly defended sites later in the Iron Age period and are therefore often difficult to recognise in their original form. The earthworks generally consist of a bank separated from an external ditch by a level berm. Access to the interior was generally provided by two or three entrances which consisted of simple gaps in the rampart. Evidence for internal features is largely dependent on excavation, and to date this has included large areas of sparsely scattered features including post and stakeholes, hearths and pits. Rectangular or square buildings are also evident; these are generally defined by between four and six postholes and are thought to have supported raised granaries. Hilltop enclosures are rare, with between 25 and 30 examples recorded nationally. A greater number may exist but these could have been developed into hillforts later in the Iron Age and could only be confirmed by detailed survey or excavation. The majority of known examples are located in two regions, on the chalk downland of Wessex and Sussex and in the Cotswolds. More scattered examples are found in north-east Oxfordshire and north Northamptonshire. This class of monument has not been recorded outside England. In view of the rarity of hilltop enclosures and their importance in understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The Bronze Age enclosure, associated linear earthworks and field system on Tenants Hill survive well as upstanding earthworks and associated buried remains. The enclosure represents one of only three such sites recorded in Dorset and is one of few examples recorded nationally to have associated earthwork remains. Although relatively common nationally, with large numbers recorded in southern counties, the dewpond is a well preserved example of its class.


The monument includes an enclosure, interpreted as being of Bronze Age date, associated linear earthworks and field system and a later, medieval, dewpond situated on the South Dorset Downs on a north facing chalk ridge overlooking the Bride Valley. The dewpond is situated to the south of the enclosure and the field system to the west. The enclosure, which occupies the upper north facing slope of Tenants Hill, has a gently sloping interior with maximum dimensions of 38m from north to south and 37m from east to west. It is defined by a bank constructed of earth, chalk and flint which has maximum dimensions of 8m in width, c.0.6m internal height and c.1.5m external height. The enclosure is surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried during the construction of the monument. This survives as an earthwork on the southern, south eastern, western and north western sides of the enclosure, with average dimensions of 3.5m in width and c.0.5m in depth. On the north eastern side, the ditch has become infilled but will survive as a buried feature. The bank and ditch are broken only by an entrance 4.8m wide on the eastern side. Also on the eastern side of the enclosure is a short stretch of curvilinear bank with maximum dimensions of 15m long, 3m wide and c.0.3m high. The bank runs parallel with the entrance of the enclosure and is attached to the ditch on the south eastern side. This together with the position of a slight causeway across the adjacent area of ditch, directs access into the enclosure from the north. To the east of the curvilinear bank is a longer linear bank 60m in length, c.0.5m high and 5m wide. At the northern end the bank runs parallel with the adjacent curvilinear earthwork, the two banks producing what appears as a channel 5m wide and 12m long. Beyond this, the bank changes in orientation to run to NNE-SSW. At its southern end this eastern bank abuts a dewpond. This is a circular feature defined by an outer bank 2.5m wide and c.0.5m high, enclosing a sunken internal area 10m in diameter and c.1m deep. There is an entrance 1.5m wide on the southern side which leads into the interior. On the south western side of the enclosure is an area of field system which occupies the upper part of the north facing slope. The field system is visible as three lynchets or terraces in the hillside. These are between 30m and 100m long and c.0.5m-1.2m high. The field system is known from survey to have included traces of several different phases of activity. It is likely to have first been used in conjunction with the enclosure and then developed over an extended period, probably during the Iron Age, Romano-British and medieval periods. Excluded from the scheduling are all fence posts and gates relating to the modern field boundaries, although the underlying ground is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 126
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 126
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 126
Depiction on Ordnance Survey Map,
Mention date of enclosure,
Mention interpretation as a hutcircle,
Title: Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Ordnance Survey depiction


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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