Chanctonbury Ring hillfort and Romano-Celtic temples


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Sussex
Horsham (District Authority)
West Sussex
Horsham (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
TQ 13930 12069

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-Celtic temples were built to meet the spiritual needs of the communities they served by venerating the god or spirit considered to dwell in a particular place. The temple building was regarded as the treasure house of its deity and priests rather than as a congregational building and any religious activities, including private worship, commumal gatherings, sanctuary and healing, took place outside. Romano-Celtic temples included the temple building and a surrounding sacred precinct or temenos which could be square, circular, rectangular or polygonal in ground plan. The temple building invariably faced due east and was the focus of the site, although it did not necessarily occupy the central position in the temenos. It comprised a cella, or inner temple chamber, and ambulatory or walkway around the cella and sometimes annexes or antechambers. The buildings were constructed of a variety of materials, including stone, cob and timber, and walls were often plastered and painted both internally and externally. Some temenoi enclosed other buildings, often substantial and built in materials and styles similar to those of the temple; these are generally interpreted as priests' houses, shops or guest houses. Romano-Celtic temples were built and used throughout the Roman period from the mid first century AD to the late fourth/early fifth century AD, with individual examples being used for relatively long periods of time. They were widespread through southern and eastern England, although there are no examples in the far south west and they are rare nationally with only about 150 sites recorded in England. In view of their rarity and their importance in contributing to the complete picture of Roman religious practice, including its continuity from Iron Age practice, all Romano-Celtic temples with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be of national importance. Chanctonbury Ring hillfort and Romano-Celtic temples survive well, despite some disturbance by World War II activities and the action of tree roots, and part excavation has shown the monument to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the ways in which it was constructed and used. The monument forms part of a group of prehistoric, Roman and early medieval earthworks situated on Chanctonbury Hill, including two cross dykes and a number of round barrows and hlaews or Saxon barrows, which are the subjects of separate schedulings. The close association of these monuments will provide important evidence for the changing relationships between ceremonial and burial practices and land division in this area of downland over a period of c.1,500 years.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort dating to the Early Iron Age, reused during the later Roman period as a temple precinct and situated towards the middle of a roughly west-east aligned chalk ridge forming part of the Sussex Downs. The hillfort and temple, which survive as earthworks and buried remains, enjoy extensive views towards the Channel coast c.8km to the south and the Weald to the north. The roughly circular hillfort defences enclose an area of c.1.5ha and are formed by a bank c.10m wide and up to c.0.8m high, surrounded by a ditch around 8m wide and c.0.7m deep. Subsequent quarrying and the siting of four anti-aircraft gun emplacements on the monument during World War II have caused some disturbance to the southern and south western ramparts. Investigations carried out in 1909 showed the bank to be constructed of dumped chalk rubble and flinty-clay excavated from the surrounding ditch. A simple 6m wide gap in the ramparts on the eastern side of the monument represents the original entrance. The analysis of pottery sherds found in the ditch and contemporary refuse pits uncovered by the 1909 excavations and during further investigations in 1977, 1989 and 1990, suggests that the hillfort was in use from the sixth to fourth centuries BC. Further structures associated with this period will survive in buried form within the interior, although World War II training activities, including practice trenching, will have caused some disturbance in these areas. After a period of abandonment between the mid- fourth century BC and the mid-first century AD, the hillfort ramparts were revamped and a revetment of regular chalk blocks was built along the inner side of the bank. The earlier fort was then reused as a temenos, or sacred precinct, within which at least two Romano-Celtic temples were constructed. These were discovered during the 1909 excavations, surviving mainly as buried wall footings of mortared flint rubble. The centrally located main temple building was west-east aligned and had a rectangular central cella, or inner chamber, measuring c.9m by c.7m, surrounded to the west, north and east by an ambulatory, or enclosed covered walkway with a rammed chalk floor c.3m wide. The external face of the ambulatory wall was found to have been rendered with red plaster. The entrance to the building was on its eastern side, in line with the original gateway through the hillfort ramparts. Around 5m to the north east was a small NNE-SSW aligned rectangular structure measuring c.3m by c.1m with a door its NNE side, interpreted as an oven or furnace. Around 6m to the north east was a large circular rubbish pit c.3.5m in diameter. Finds associated with the temple include fragments of clay roof tile, window glass, oyster shells, pottery sherds and coins, which suggest that it was in use from the mid-first to late fourth centuries AD. The second temple building was c.30m to the south west of the central temple and was also west-east aligned. Although much of the building material was removed after the temple had fallen out of use, the 1990 investigations indicated that it was polygonal in shape, with sides measuring c.8m. The temple had an attached rectangular annexe on its eastern side, with a tessellated floor of greensand cubes. Quantities of bone fragments originating exclusively from the heads and jaws of pigs were found within the temple, suggesting that it may have been dedicated to a cult of the boar. The monument is a well known local landscape feature, visible on the skyline as the site of a stand of beech trees first planted in 1760 by the then owner, Charles Goring. The trees have been continually replanted by the Goring family up to the present day. The modern fence situated within the monument is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

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.

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Books and journals
'Caring For Our Built Heritage' in Excavations at Chanctonbury Ring Hillfort, (1993), 58-60
'Caring For Our Built Heritage' in Excavations at Chanctonbury Ring Hillfort, (1993)
Bedwin, O, 'Britannia' in Excavations a Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex, 1977, (1980), 173-231
Bedwin, O, 'Britannia' in Excavations a Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex, 1977, (1980), 173-231
Mitchell, G S, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations At Chanctonbury Ring, 1909, , Vol. 53, (1910), 131-137
letter to EH 23.5.91 from WS Cnty Arc, Taylor, M, MKT/Kl.530, (1991)
unpublished report, Rudling, D, Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex. Assess Excavs, Dec 1989, (1989)
unpublished report, Rudling, D, Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex. Assess Excavs, Dec 1989, (1989)


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

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