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
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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
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
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
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