Hillfort and 19th century folly on Saxonbury Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014525

Date first listed: 23-Feb-1933

Date of most recent amendment: 20-May-1996


Ordnance survey map of Hillfort and 19th century folly on Saxonbury 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.

County: East Sussex

District: Wealden (District Authority)

Parish: Rotherfield

National Grid Reference: TQ 57782 32954


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.

Follies are a feature of large country estates dating mainly to the 18th and 19th centuries, often situated in parkland on high points within a planned landscape. Designed to be visible from a distance, usually from the country house, follies were architectural status symbols, the design of which reflected artistic aspirations and changing fashions. They are an important, historic component of the built environment, illustrating a considerable level of investment in ornament and display. The hillfort on Saxonbury Hill survives well, despite some damage caused by extensive tree cover, and has been shown by part excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the period of its construction and use. The smaller, underlying prehistoric enclosure provides evidence for an earlier phase in the utilisation of the hilltop, and its close, stratigraphic relationship with the later hillfort illustrates the development of larger and ever more defensive forms of enclosure during the later prehistoric period. Despite its relatively derelict condition, the early 19th century folly represents an accomplished and attractive rendering of the then fashionable, gothic architectural style.


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The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort dating to the Iron Age and a 19th century folly, Listed at Grade II, situated on a sandstone hill which forms part of the High Weald of East Sussex. The hillfort defences, which survive in earthwork form as a bank surrounded by an outer ditch, enclose a north-south aligned, roughly oval level area of c.1ha. The bank, shown by part excavation in 1929-30 to be constructed of earth and stones, is c.5m wide and survives to a height of up to 1.5m. The ditch, which has become partly infilled over the years, measures c.6m wide and c.1m deep, and is encircled by a slight counterscarp bank c.3m wide and 0.2m high, indicating the periodic recutting of the ditch during the active life of the fort. Access to the interior is provided by a slightly inturned entrance through the south eastern ramparts c.10m wide. Remains relating to the occupation and economy of the fort, such as houses, storage pits, granaries, and stock enclosures, will survive within the interior in buried form. Iron Age pottery sherds discovered here during the excavation confirm the date of the monument, whilst around 200 pieces of iron slag suggest that iron was also produced by the hillfort's inhabitants. The part excavation also revealed the buried foundations of an earlier, prehistoric enclosure underlying the north western sector of the later hillfort. This has a north west-south east aligned, oval-shaped dry stone wall c.5m wide enclosing an area of around 0.2ha, with possible entrances to the north and south. The masonry footings of an earlier building were also discovered beneath the south western wall of the enclosure. The 19th century folly is situated at the centre of the hillfort and is a tall, brick-built circular tower of five stages which taper towards the top. Built in the gothic style in 1828, the folly, which was also used as an observation tower, is one of a series of follies built in this part of their estate by the Abergavenny family. The tower, which has a sandstone plinth and dressings, is punctuated with roll-moulded bands between stages, and is lit by internally splayed, arrowslit windows. The tower is topped by a parapet with false machicolations, and capped by a conical iron roof, which is reported to have been originally covered in sheet copper. Access is provided by an arched doorway headed by dated stone shields and a central coronet. A central, newel staircase spans the full height of the tower, although this has become derelict over the years. The base of the tower has been repaired in modern brick.

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: 27027

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing