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
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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)
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
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
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
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)
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