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:
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 wide. 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 lynchets. 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 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:
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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

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