Cissbury Ring hillfort, prehistoric flint mine and associated remains
- 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
- Arun (District Authority)
- West Sussex
- Worthing (District Authority)
- National Park:
- SOUTH DOWNS
- National Grid Reference:
- TQ 13953 07947
Reasons for Designation
Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and
surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions.
They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used
between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for
earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the
ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on
such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with
display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of
redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen.
The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of
slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may
survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and
between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or
two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned
ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the
passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by
outworks. 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. Large
univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded
nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the
chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is
marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further
examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north.
Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in
their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual
components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their
importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron
Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed
to be of national importance.
The large univallate hillfort at Cissbury survives well, despite some damage caused by ploughing and by tree and scrub encroachment. Part excavation and a detailed survey of the earthworks have shown the hillfort to contain information about the landscape in which it was constructed and about its contemporary and later use. The locations for hillforts were often utilised in the earlier prehistoric period, and here, unusually, an extensive area of Neolithic flint mines was established, one of only about 20 examples recorded nationally. Also prior to the hillfort's construction, but more common in hilltop locations, was the siting of a bowl barrow, a type of Bronze Age burial mound. The environs of the hillfort, in the period immediately after its initial occupation, have also been covered by the survey, revealing an area of field system and, within the hillfort, a later Roman settlement. Again, not surprisingly for a hilltop location on the south coast, the monument's strategic importance continued into modern times with the siting of a beacon, an infantry post during the Napoleonic War and a heavy anti-aircraft gun position in World War II. Together these remains illustrate the changing function of the hilltop over more than two millennia.
The monument includes a large univallate hillfort and its associated field
systems dating to the Iron Age and the Roman period (c.400 BC-AD 450), an
earlier prehistoric flint mine, a Bronze Age bowl barrow, traces of later
medieval cultivation, a post-medieval beacon, a Napoleonic advanced infantry
post and a World War II anti-aircraft gun position. These survive in earthwork
and buried form and are situated on a clay-with-flints capped chalk spur which
projects from the southern edge of the Sussex Downs, c.3km north of the
Channel coast at Worthing. This location commands extensive views across the
coastal plain to the south and the downland and Weald to the north.
Part excavation carried out during the 19th and early 20th centuries has
indicated that the hillfort was constructed during the Middle Iron Age (c.400
BC). The north east-south west aligned, roughly oval fort covers an area of
c.24ha, and its defences survive in the form of a bank measuring from 1.3m to
3.9m high and c.4m wide, a ditch and a counterscarp bank. The bank is largest
on the defensively vulnerable south eastern side, where the surrounding ground
slopes away more gradually. Surrounding the bank is a steeply-faced, flat-
bottomed ditch c.5m wide and c.2m deep, edged by a counterscarp bank up to 3m
wide and 1.5m high. The ramparts have been disturbed in places by later paths,
concrete steps and tracks, and a concrete building foundation located in the
ditch to the north west is associated with modern reuse of the hillfort during
World War II. The fort was entered by two gateways to the south and east,
indicated by causeways over the ditch and gaps in the ramparts, measuring
4m and 1.5m wide, flanked by raised, inturned bank terminals.
Ranging over the south western portion of the hillfort and down the slope to
the south and west of the ramparts, the earlier Neolithic flint mine has been
partly disturbed by the subsequent construction of the hillfort and its later
uses. The mines survive as a group of at least 270 roughly circular hollows
ranging from 3m to 36m in diameter and up to 3m deep. These have been shown by
part excavation to be the partly infilled remains of shafts dug into the
ground to reach the underlying seams of flint. The excavations revealed that
horizontal galleries radiating from the main vertical shafts had been dug in
order to follow the flint seams. The shafts are surrounded by irregularly
dumped spoil heaps up to c.3.5m high, and smaller mounds and hollows will
represent flint working areas. Struck flint flakes have been noted around some
of the shaft heads.
The Bronze Age bowl barrow is situated c.100m to the south east of the eastern
hillfort entrance, and has a roughly circular mound c.10m in diameter and
c.0.3m high, partly disturbed on its north eastern side by a trackway. The
mound, which shows signs of past part excavation, is surrounded by a ditch
from which material used to construct the barrow was excavated. This has
become infilled over the years, but survives as a buried feature up to 2m
Part excavations and an earthwork survey have revealed that the hillfort was
in use as a settlement site during the later Roman period (AD 43-450). This is
indicated by a group of at least 11 closely spaced, sub-rectangular
depressions, representing Romano-British buildings, each measuring c.11m by 5m
and up to 1m deep, situated in the eastern sector of the hillfort, near the
eastern entrance. These are closely associated with two rectangular enclosures
up to 30m long, defined by banks 0.4m high and 2m wide. Two further sub-
rectangular enclosures in the northern section of the fort, the largest of
which is surrounded by a double bank and measures 50m by 38m, are also
considered to date to the Roman period. The excavations indicated that the
hillfort ramparts were strengthened and remodelled at this time. Much of the
hillfort was being cultivated by the first century BC, and most of the
interior shows traces of a regular aggregate field system. The individual
field boundaries are indicated by banks up to 2m high, defining sub-
rectangular plots of 0.2ha-0.5ha. These are traversed by an associated
trackway up to 9m wide, flanked on each side by a narrow bank which runs from
the southern entrance for c.250m towards the north eastern corner of the fort.
Three, now dry, stock-watering ponds, one of which is rectangular in shape and
surrounded by a low bank, have been identified within the hillfort interior.
The field systems associated with the hillfort also extend down the slope to
the south east of the hillfort, here taking the form of parallel contour
Surveys have also shown traces of medieval ridge and furrow in the western and
eastern portions of the earlier hillfort. This later cultivation will have
partly disturbed the underlying remains in these areas. Associated with the
ridge and furrow are faint traces of part of a medieval hollow way and a
series of strip lynchets running roughly north to south across the hillslope
to the south east of the hillfort's eastern gateway.
Later reuse of the hilltop is indicated by a circular earthwork situated in
the south western sector of the hillfort, which measures 21m in diameter and
is defined by a narrow ditch 0.5m deep surrounded by a circular bank up to 3m
wide and 0.4m high. This has been interpreted as Cissbury Ring Beacon,
mentioned in the writings of John Aubrey, the 17th century historian.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Cissbury Ring was reused as one of a number of
advanced infantry posts then deployed along the Channel coast. During World
War II an anti-aircraft gun position was sited in the hillfort, the remains of
which are traceable as at least three circular banks c.10m in diameter
situated in the north eastern sector of the fort. Ploughing of the hilltop
resumed during and immediately after World War II, and will have partly
disturbed the underlying, earlier deposits.
The surfaces of all modern concrete steps and paths, all modern seats, gates,
fences, stiles, signs, marker stones and the Ordnance Survey trig point are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Donachie, J D, Field, D J, A Survey of Cissbury Ring, Worthing, West Sussex, (1993)
NMR, source 1, RCHME, TQ 10 NW 52, (1934)
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