Ambresbury Banks slight univallate hillfort


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.

Epping Forest (District Authority)
Epping Upland
Epping Forest (District Authority)
Waltham Abbey
National Grid Reference:
TL 43789 00306

Reasons for Designation

Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes, generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth - fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally. Although on a national scale the number is low, in Devon they comprise one of the major classes of hillfort. In other areas where the distribution is relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different classes occur within the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern England, the Welsh Marches, central and southern England. In view of the rarity of slight univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which survive comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The earthwork ramparts and below ground features of Ambresbury Banks slight univallate hillfort survive well. Partial excavation has confirmed the date and extent of surviving archaeological deposits and the survival of evidence relating to the construction and use of the monument. The silts around the internal spring have been shown to preserve environmental evidence which can greatly add to our understanding of the landscape in which the monument was constructed as well as preserving organic artefactual information which will provide insight into the lifestyle of its inhabitants.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort which is located on a ridge of sand and gravel which runs north east-south west through Epping Forest. The hillfort lies on the south east side of the crest of the ridge, situated between 109m and 116m OD. Loughton camp, another slight univallate hillfort (the subject of a separate scheduling), similar both in size and construction, lies c.3kms to the SSW.

The earthwork defences surround an enclosed, roughly oval, area of c.5ha. The interior is mainly level, with the land sloping gently away to the south east. The head of a small valley is enclosed within the interior, from which a stream flows south east through a gap in the bank. The defences include an inner bank which stands up to 2.2m high and 13m wide surrounded by a partially infilled ditch c.1m deep and between 7m and 10m wide. Beyond this is a counterscarp bank which in places survives up to 1m high and c.5m wide.

The highest part of the ramparts is in the north corner. The north and east corners turn quite sharply lending the east part of the site a sub-rectangular form. A single original entrance is located in the north west although other more recent gaps in the ramparts now exist to the south west, south and east. Partial excavation was undertaken in 1881, 1933, 1956, 1958, and in 1968. This work concentrated on and around the gaps through the ramparts and only a very small part of the interior has been excavated. An area of c.4 acres was subject to a resistivity survey in 1958.

Interpretation of the archaeological results suggests that the enclosure was laid out in a single operation. The construction was as simple as possible, the bank being unrevetted for most of its length. Only at the north west entrance was there a stone revetment, of a rectangular passage which was barred by inner and outer gates.

Pottery from the ditch silts suggests that the hillfort was in use in the second half of the first millenium BC with later use, or perhaps reuse, in the early years of the first century AD prior to the Roman Conquest.

Excluded from the scheduling are all signs and notices although the ground beneath these features 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
Alexander, J et al, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Ambresbury Banks, An Iron Age Camp In Epping Forest, , Vol. 10, (1978), 189-205


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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