Hillfort and a bowl barrow on Seaford Head
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014523
Date first listed: 21-Oct-1938
Date of most recent amendment: 19-Apr-1996
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: East Sussex
District: Lewes (District Authority)
National Park: SOUTH DOWNS
National Grid Reference: TV 49473 97858
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and
surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions.
They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used
between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for
earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the
ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on
such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with
display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of
redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen.
The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of
slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may
survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and
between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or
two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned
ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the
passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by
outworks. 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. Large
univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded
nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the
chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is
marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further
examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north.
Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in
their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual
components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their
importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron
Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed
to be of national importance.
Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. The large univallate hillfort and bowl barrow on Seaford Head survive comparatively well, despite some damage caused by coastal erosion and modern recreational uses, and have been shown by part excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the period of their construction and use. Part excavation has also indicated that the hillfort represents an unusually early example of this type of monument, and has provided evidence for the utilisation of the hilltop before the fort was constructed. The survival of the earlier bowl barrow as an earthwork throughout and beyond the period in which the later hillfort was occupied illustrates a continued recognition of and respect for Bronze Age burial practices. The later, World War II concrete structure provides evidence for the defensive importance of this part of the channel coast during World War II.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the surviving earthworks and interior of a large
univallate hillfort dating to the Iron Age and an earlier, Bronze Age bowl
barrow, situated on a high, clay-capped chalk cliff facing the English
Channel. A World War II reinforced-concrete structure built within the eastern
ditch of the hillfort is also included in the scheduling.
The hillfort defences, interpreted as originally forming a complete circuit
around a hilltop which was subsequently partly eroded over the centuries by
wave action, survive to the north east of the present cliff edge in the form
of a large bank and outer ditch. These enclose a relatively level, u-shaped
area of c.4ha. The ditch, which has become partly infilled over the years,
is best preserved near the north western cliff edge, where it survives as a
depression c.8m wide and c.1m deep. The inner bank is c.10m wide and up to
3.5m high when measured from the bottom of the ditch. Two simple gaps in the
ramparts on the north western side and one to the east have been interpreted
as original entrances. The ramparts have also been disturbed in several places
by World War II activities, landscaping associated with a modern golf course
and coastal footpath erosion. The construction of the bunkers, fairways and
greens of the golf course has also partly disturbed the interior of the
hillfort, although remains relating to the occupation and economy of the fort,
such as houses, storage pits and granaries, will survive here in buried form.
Aerial photographs dating to 1946 have indicated the buried remains of
prehistoric round houses towards the centre of the monument.
Part excavation of the ramparts in 1867 and 1983 showed that the ditch was
constructed with a wide, flat bottom and was originally c.1m deeper than its
present level. Closely-spaced post holes found running along the outer face of
the earth-dumped bank suggested a supporting wooden revetment. Evidence for
the likely date of the fort's construction was provided by the discovery of
Early Iron Age (600-400 BC) pottery sherds at the bottom of the ditch, whilst
occupation debris dating to the Roman period found in the upper ditch fills
indicated a later reuse after the fort had fallen into a period of disuse. The
analysis of a layer of buried soil found beneath the bank showed that the
hilltop had been under cultivation immediately before the construction of the
The earlier bowl barrow is situated within the ramparts of the hillfort
towards its north western edge and has a roughly circular mound c.18m in
diameter and 0.5m high. The construction of a bunker has partly disturbed the
barrow on its south eastern side. Part excavation by General Pitt Rivers in
1876 led to the discovery of two small pits cut into the subsoil near the
centre of the mound. These contained charcoal, finely ground flint axe heads
and other tools, and pottery sherds dating to the Early Bronze Age. A barbed
and tanged flint arrow head was also found within the barrow.
The NNE-SSW aligned, rectangular flat-roofed concrete structure, interpreted
as a World War II shelter and/or magazine, measures 7m by 3m and stands to a
height of c.3m. Towards the SSW is a lobby entrance, while traces of a
central, rectangular concrete plinth survive within the interior. The
structure lies within the eastern ditch of the earlier hillfort and has
partly disturbed the outer face of the rampart.
Excluded from the scheduling are all safety signs, the fixtures associated
with the golf course, and the concrete marker posts near the cliff edge,
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: 27025
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations at Seaford Head Camp, East Sussex, 1983, , Vol. 124, (1986), 25-33
Price, J E, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in On Excavations in the Camp, the Tumulus, And RB Cemetery, Seaford, (1882), 167-178
Price, J E, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in On Excavations in the Camp, the Tumulus, And RB Cemetery, Seaford, (1882), 172-6
Source 3, RCHME, TV 49 NE 13, (1905)
Source 4b (map), RCHME, TV 49 NE 13, (1587)
Source 5 (Air Photos), RCHME, TV 49 NE 13, (1946)
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