Sandy Lodge promontory fort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015006

Date first listed: 30-Aug-1996


Ordnance survey map of Sandy Lodge promontory fort
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Sandy

National Grid Reference: TL 18720 47650


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

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.

The Sandy Lodge promontory fort forms part of a series of defended sites established on the Greensand ridge (and on the Chiltern escarpment to the south) during the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. It is, however, one of only two examples of promontory forts in the region, relying for its defence primarily on the natural topography. Despite some damage caused by the old sand quarry the promontory fort remains substantially complete, and trial excavations have demonstrated the good survival of archaeological features. This work has indicated both the date of the fort's construction and the duration of occupation, and demonstrated far earlier use of the spur in the Mesolithic period. Further information concerning the earlier period of activity may be found on the old ground surface sealed beneath the Iron Age bank across the spur. Comparison with other hillforts in the region, and in particular the two nearby examples (Galley Hill and Caesar's Camp), will provide important information concerning their development, the nature of their use and their relationship to the settlement of the surrounding countryside. These three hillforts clearly demonstrate the importance of the Greensand ridge in the later prehistoric period, and although unlikely to be sequential in use, represent a continued focus of activity prior to the establishment of the Roman settlement below the ridge at Sandy. The site is accessible to the public, its elevated position providing the visitor with a clear impression of the site in relation to its surroundings.


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


The Iron Age promontory fort is located on the edge of the Greensand ridge above Sandy, 130m south west of the The Lodge. It occupies the tip of a narrow spur which extends southwards from the ridge and commands wide views across the valley of the River Ivel to the west and Biggleswade Common to the south. The promontory fort was originally roughly oval in plan, although part of the north western side was destroyed by a sand quarry in the 19th century. Otherwise, the fort is largely defined by the topography of the spur. The relatively level area of the interior measures approximately 75m east to west and 150m north to south, surrounded by steep natural scarps on all but the northern side. There is no evidence for a bank around the rim of the plateau, although a timber palisade would have provided sufficient defence in addition to the gradients. The southern end is marked by a steep slope which descends some 25m to the foot of the spur, while to the east and west equally severe slopes lead into dry valleys which divide further spurs along the edge of the Greensand ridge. The fort is separated from the high ground to the north by a broad ditch, around 10m wide and 3m deep, which is cut across the neck of the spur and linked to the head of the dry valley to the east. Small scale excavations in 1969 demonstrated that the terminal of this valley had been artificially enlarged during the construction of the ditch, and that material from the ditch itself was used to form the bank which flanks its southern edge. The bank measures around 2m in height and 10m in width. A trial trench placed across the western end in 1969 showed that it is composed almost entirely of sand, stablised during construction with branches or wattle, and held in place by a small stack of turves along the inner side and a low wall of sandstone blocks along the outer edge. The ditch terminates in a rounded end 20m from the eastern side of the spur, to the west of which lay the original entrance to the monument. Trial excavation here revealed a causeway of sandstone bedrock and a single post hole which may have supported part of a gateway. The old sand quarry to the west has reduced the width of the causeway to about 10m and removed all evidence for the probable continuation of the bank and ditch. A small excavation in the centre of the fort in 1968 demonstrated the preservation, 0.45m below the present surface, of a layer of dark brown sand containing fragments of Early Iron Age pottery and numerous flint blades and flakes largely dating from the Mesolithic period. The excavated sections of the ditch, bank and entrance causeway were devoid of pottery but contained further flint artefacts, doubtless disturbed from earlier contexts during the construction process. The date range of the pottery, combined with the simplicity of the fort's construction, is thought to indicate that the fort was established very early in the Iron Age. Furthermore, evidence for rapid silting up in the ditch and a lack of significant erosion over the causeway is taken to suggest that the fort either remained in use for only a short period, or was never completed. The dry valley to the west of the promontory fort separates the monument from a broadly parallel spur, the southern tip of which is occupied by a second Iron Age hillfort (the subject of a separate scheduling). These two sites are only about 150m apart and would be intervisible in the absence of the present woodland, although the second fort (Galley Hill) is believed to be later in date. A third hillfort known as Caesar's Camp, also the subject of a separate scheduling, lies approximately 1.5km to the north west.

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: 27163

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dyer, J, 'Bedfordshire Archaeology' in Excavations at Sandy Lodge, Bedfordshire, , Vol. 6, (1971), 9-15

End of official listing