Hillfort, Roman villa and iron works on Garden Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014524

Date first listed: 09-Sep-1969

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Mar-1996


Ordnance survey map of Hillfort, Roman villa and iron works on Garden Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: East Sussex

District: Wealden (District Authority)

Parish: Hartfield

National Grid Reference: TQ 44467 31965


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

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.

Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates at the focus of which were groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings. The term `villa' is now commonly used to describe either the estate or the buildings themselves. The buildings usually include a well-appointed dwelling house, the design of which varies considerably according to the needs, taste and prosperity of the occupier. Most of the houses were partly or wholly stone-built, many with a timber-framed superstructure on masonry footings. Roofs were generally tiled and the house could feature tiled or mosaic floors, underfloor heating, wall plaster, glazed windows and cellars. Many had integral or separate suites of heated baths. The house was usually accompanied by a range of buildings providing accommodation for farm labourers, workshops and storage for agricultural produce. These were arranged around or alongside a courtyard and were surrounded by a complex of paddocks, pens, yards and features such as vegetable plots, granaries, wells and hearths, all approached by tracks leading from the surrounding fields. Villa buildings were constructed throughout the period of Roman occupation, from the first to the fourth centuries AD. They are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances. The least elaborate villas served as simple farmhouses whilst, for the most complex, the term `palace' is not inappropriate. Villa owners tended to be drawn from a limited elite section of Romano-British society, the majority of whom seem to have been wealthy natives with a more-or-less Romanised lifestyle, and some were built directly on the sites of Iron Age farmsteads. Roman villa buildings are widespread, with between 400-1000 examples recorded nationally. The majority of these are classified as `minor' villas to distinguish them from `major' villas. The latter were a very small group of extremely substantial and opulent villas built by the wealthiest members of Romano-British society. Minor villas are found throughout lowland Britain and occasionally beyond. Roman villas provide a valuable index of the rate, extent and degree to which native British society became Romanised, as well as indicating the sources of inspiration behind changes of taste and custom. In addition, they serve to illustrate the agrarian and economic history of the Roman province, allowing comparisons over wide areas both within and beyond Britain. As a very diverse and often long-lived type of monument, a significant proportion of the known population are identified as nationally important. An iron works is a place where iron metal was produced from iron ore by a process of direct smelting. A charcoal-fuelled furnace was needed to reach temperatures of 1200 degrees celsius and more, which enabled the separation of molten impurities from the metal to take place. Other components of the process included extraction pits, ore roasting hearths, smithing hearths and associated buildings used for processing, storage and shelter. An iron working site is most likely to remain visible on the surface as a heap or spread of waste material, mainly slag. Iron works were in operation throughout England during the period of Roman occupation from AD 43 to c.410 AD, as well as in the preceding and subsequent periods, providing iron for a wide range of civilian and military purposes, and for export. Concentrated centres of production were located in the Forest of Dean, the south eastern midlands and the Weald of East Sussex. Romano-British iron works are a comparatively rare monument type, with only around 250 examples known nationally. Although the monument has suffered some damage caused by extensive tree cover and post-medieval stone quarrying, the hillfort, villa and ironworks on Garden Hill survive well and have been shown by part excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. The slight univallate hillfort is unusual in being considered a late example of this type of monument, falling outside the normal date range, and is relatively rare in that its original defences were not subsequently rebuilt or redeveloped. The siting of the later, Roman villa within the earlier, Iron Age hillfort illustrates the continuity of settlement location between the two periods, whilst the production of iron here in both the Iron Age and Roman period provides evidence for the industrial importance of this area of the Weald from the late prehistoric period.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a slight univallate hillfort dating to the Iron Age, and a later, minor Roman villa and iron works situated within the Ashdown Forest on a spur of Ashdown Sand. The spur, which caps a steep natural escarpment to the north, south and east, forms part of the High Weald of East Sussex and enjoys extensive views towards the North and South Downs. The hillfort defences, which enclose a roughly rectangular, relatively level area of c.3ha, are formed by a slight bank constructed on top of the northern, southern and eastern slopes of the natural spur. This measures c.2.5m wide and up to c.0.75m high and survives best on the eastern side of the fort. Part excavation between 1969-1982 has shown that the inner face of the bank was originally revetted by a drystone wall and vertically set timbers, and enhanced by a larger drystone wall set against its outer face. The walls have become ruined over the years, but some stonework is still visible in the ramparts. Further protection was provided by a now infilled, outer ditch dug near the bottom of the steep natural slopes of the spur, which the excavation has shown to have been originally flat bottomed and up to 3.5m wide on the eastern side of the hillfort. The ditch is fronted here by a shallow, now infilled gully c.0.6m wide. Access to the interior is provided by an inturned entrance, towards the northern end of the eastern ramparts, measuring c.5m wide. Part excavation revealed two sets of stone-packed gateposts within the entrance passage, indicating a double gateway or gate tower, and a metalled roadway leading into the fort. A post-medieval cart track has caused some disturbance to the north eastern corner of the earthworks. On the southern side of the monument, a c.40m length of the hillfort defences and part of the interior of the hillfort has been destroyed by a deep, now disused post- medieval stone quarry, and this area is not included in the scheduling. On the western side of the fort, where the approach is along level ground, the hillfort defences are largely formed by a low bank fronted by a now infilled ditch, visible during dry summers as a darker area of vegetation. Towards the north western corner is an elaboration of the earthworks incorporating two parallel banks. This is interpreted as a further entrance passage, with access from the north. Iron Age occupation of the hillfort interior is represented by the buried remains of two adjacent timber-built round houses, discovered by the part excavation of the south eastern corner of the hillfort around 55m to the south west of the inturned, eastern entrance. These were shown to have been constructed on an artificially levelled platform, with each house measuring c.11m in diameter and incorporating central posts to support the roofs. The southernmost house was also found to have entrance porches on its western and eastern sides. An associated forging hearth and baking oven, both constructed within the clay make-up of the adjacent rampart, have been dated by archaeomagnetic techniques to the mid first century BC. Evidence provided by the dating of pottery sherds buried beneath the ramparts suggests that the hillfort defences were also built around this time, and the ditch fills indicate that the fortifications collapsed, or were deliberately slighted, soon after their construction. Further remains representing contemporary domestic and associated activities will survive in buried form in the unexcavated areas of the interior. These are likely to include further buildings, storage pits, raised granaries and stock enclosures. The excavations also revealed a large quantity of flint tools dating to the period c.10,000 BC-c.100 BC, providing evidence for the utilisation of the spur for hunting, domestic and agricultural purposes during the preceding prehistoric period, from the Mesolithic to the Late Iron Age. The buried foundations and lower walls of the small domestic range of a later, minor Roman villa were also discovered during the excavation of the south eastern corner of the hillfort, situated immediately to the north east of the earlier round houses. The earliest phase of the villa dates to the late first-early second century AD and consists of a rectangular, NNW-SSE aligned timber-framed building measuring 9m by 3.3m. During the second century AD, a more substantial timber range measuring 10.3m by 9.1m was constructed on a stone platform immediately to the east of the original building, which may have continued in use. Attached to the northern side of the later timber range is a roughly east-west aligned, stone-built bath suite with walls measuring 9m by up to 5.5m, the lower courses of which survive to a height of up to c.0.5m. This has four rooms; a hot room, incorporating a hot bath, and a tepid room, heated by a hypocaust, or underfloor heating system fuelled by a furnace, a cold room and cold plunge. Traces of the drainage system, including lead piping, gullies and sumps, were found to the north of the cold plunge. The fragments of an almost complete pane of Roman window-glass, now on display in the British Museum, were also found here. The cold room had walls plastered with opus signinum and a sandstone-flagged floor. During the late second and third centuries AD, the earlier villa buildings were levelled and the site cleared in advance of its reuse as a small iron works. The largest structure associated with this phase is a east-west aligned, rectangular timber building measuring 12.19m by 9.14m, situated immediately within the south eastern corner of the earlier hillfort ramparts. To the north of this are two ore-roasting hearths, a smelting furnace, a smithing hearth, a series of further, small metallurgical hearths and several pits, including one used as a water tank. Quantities of iron slag had been dumped in the areas between the furnaces, and traces of further timber structures and a rectangular enclosure interpreted as an animal pound were also found. Most pottery sherds dating to the Roman period found during the excavation represented locally made wares, but some more exotic, imported wares, such as samian and Spanish-made amphorae and mortaria were also discovered. The modern fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 27026

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Tebbutt, CF, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Garden Hill Camp, , Vol. 108, (1970), 39-49
Money, JH, Eighth interim report on excavations, 1980, unpublished report
Money, JH, Eigth interim report on excavations, 1980, unpublished report
unpublish report, Money, JH, Eighth interim report on excavations, (1980)

End of official listing