Philpots Camp: a promontory fort and Mesolithic rock shelters 500m north west of Philpots Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014955

Date first listed: 10-Jul-1933

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Oct-1996


Ordnance survey map of Philpots Camp: a promontory fort and Mesolithic rock shelters 500m north west of Philpots Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: West Sussex

District: Mid Sussex (District Authority)

Parish: West Hoathly

National Grid Reference: TQ 34971 32240

Reasons for Designation

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone- walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally important.

Prehistoric caves and rock shelters provide some of the earliest evidence of human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 5,500 years ago, during the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. The sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the north and west of the country, although examples also exist in the softer rocks of south east England. Evidence for human occupation is often located near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms. The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or were places where material naturally accumulated from the outside. Because of the special conditions of deposition and preservation, organic and other fragile materials often survive well and in stratigraphic association. Caves and rock shelters are therefore of major importance for understanding this period. Due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and longevity as a monument type, all examples with good survival of deposits are considered to be nationally important. Despite some damage caused by past ploughing and tree growth to parts of the monument, the promontory fort and earlier prehistoric rock shelters at West Hoathly survive well, and have been shown by part excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to their construction and use.


The monument includes a promontory fort situated on a triangular, north east-south west aligned, sandstone spur which forms part of the High Weald of Sussex. To the south west and south east, the fort utilises natural defences provided by the c.5m-10m high cliffs of Lower Tunbridge Wells Sand which form the edges of the spur. To the north east, constructed across the level ground of the neck of the spur, is a curving bank flanked by an outer ditch. These survive best towards their south eastern end, where the bank is c.8m wide and up to 1m high, and the ditch c.6m wide and c.0.7m deep. The ramparts were partly excavated in 1931. This showed the bank to be constructed of dumped soil and the ditch to be originally flat bottomed and up to 2m deep. Fragments of charcoal found during the excavation indicated that the bank may have been topped by a timber palisade subsequently destroyed by burning. Access to the interior was provided by two simple gaps in the ramparts towards their north western and south eastern ends. Further remains associated with the original use of the fort can be expected to survive within the interior in buried form. A low bank running towards the south west from the south eastern end of the ramparts is considered to represent a modern woodland boundary bank. The earlier prehistoric rock shelters are situated beneath the overhanging rocks of the natural cliffs which form the south western and south eastern edges of the monument. Investigations over the years have led to the discovery of quantities of worked flint flakes and implements dating to the Mesolithic period (10,000-3,500 BC). Further contemporary buried deposits are likely to survive beneath the natural sandy floors of the shelters. 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: 27083

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hannah, I, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Philpots Camp, West Hoathly, , Vol. 73, (1932), 157-167

End of official listing