Slight univallate hillfort on Whelpley Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015485

Date first listed: 11-Apr-1946

Date of most recent amendment: 25-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Slight univallate hillfort on Whelpley Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. 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: Buckinghamshire

District: Chiltern (District Authority)

Parish: Ashley Green

National Grid Reference: SP 99685 03963


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.

Despite the effect of past cultivation, the slight univallate hillfort at Whelpley Hill will still retain valuable archaeological evidence, significant both for the understanding of this monument and for the wider study of the series of defended sites established across the Chiltern Hills in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age.

The defences remain visible as earthworks, and can be compared with those of other sites in the region, which include both similar and more elaborate designs. Features buried within the interior will provide evidence for the function of the site and, together with the surrounding ditch, contain artefacts from which the date and duration of occupation can be determined. The ditch fills may also retain environmental evidence which, in conjunction with the buried ground surface beneath the bank, may illustrate the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set. By comparing this evidence with that provided by other sites in the Chilterns, it will be possible to gain a far greater understanding of the character of these forms of monument, and of the prehistoric societies which constructed them.


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


The monument includes the visible and buried remains of a slight univallate hillfort located on a broad plateau in the Chiltern Hills between the Bulbourne and Chess Valleys, some 200m to the south west of the crossroads in the centre of the village of Whelpley Hill.

The hillfort is roughly circular in plan. The interior is level and measures approximately 120m north west to south east by 100m south west to north east. This is encircled by a low bank, nowhere greater than 1m in height and varying between 16m and 24m in width, narrowest around the eastern part of the circumference. Slight traces of a platform or berm remain visible around the inner face of the bank. The external ditch from which material for the bank was quarried has largely been infilled, although it can still be seen as a slight depression, 8m to 12m in width, encircling the bank.

Both the bank and the ditch were more pronounced in the early 19th century, during which time the ramparts were lined with beech trees and referred to as `Banks Wood'. The interior was open pasture, known as `Round Field'. In 1860 the beech trees were removed and the majority of the monument brought under plough. By 1912 the bank had been reduced in height and the earth used to infill the ditch, which was then 3ft (0.9m) deep. Episodes of ploughing continued until the end of World War II reducing the bank to its present size, and obscuring the inner edge of the ditch. A description of the site made shortly after the trees were removed mentions five entrances, athough most of these are now thought to have been later, superficial alterations to the earthwork related to the use of the pasture. Only one gap in the defences now remains. This entrance, which is c.9m wide and located in the south eastern part of the circuit, must have formed the only complete break in the rampart and is therefore considered to be part of the original construction of the hillfort. A small excavation was undertaken near the entrance around 1970. The ditch was found to be over 2m in depth, and a quantity of butchered animal bone was discovered in the fills.

All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath 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: 27154

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Sheahan, J, History and Topography of Buckinghamshire, (1862), 840
Bryant, S, 'The Archaeology of the Chilterns' in Settlement of the Chilterns from 1200 to 100 BC, (1994), 55
Burgess, B, 'Records of Bucks' in Parochial Notes, , Vol. 1, (1848), 30
Description of Enclosure Award, 0022 (CAS file): Letter to M. Farley, (1980)
Discussion with Bucks SMR Officer, Wise, J, (1995)
Excavation remembered by landowner, Empson, D, (1995)
Farley, M E, 0022 - field visit notes, (1974)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments in Buckinghamshire, (1912)

End of official listing