Harting Beacon: a hilltop enclosure, Anglo-Saxon burial mound and telegraph station on Beacon and Pen Hills


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Harting Beacon: a hilltop enclosure, Anglo-Saxon burial mound and telegraph station on Beacon and Pen Hills
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Sussex
Chichester (District Authority)
Elsted and Treyford
West Sussex
Chichester (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SU 80747 18210

Reasons for Designation

Hilltop enclosures are defined as sub-rectangular or elongated areas of ground, usually between 10ha and 40ha in size, situated on hilltops or plateaux and surrounded by slight univallate earthworks. They date to between the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth-fifth centuries BC) and are usually interpreted as stock enclosures or sites where agricultural produce was stored. Many examples of hilltop enclosures may have developed into more strongly defended sites later in the Iron Age period and are therefore often difficult to recognise in their original form. The earthworks generally consist of a bank separated from an external ditch by a level berm. Access to the interior was generally provided by two or three entrances which consisted of simple gaps in the rampart. Evidence for internal features is largely dependent on excavation, and to date this has included large areas of sparsely scattered features including post and stakeholes, hearths and pits. Rectangular or square buildings are also evident; these are generally defined by between four and six postholes and are thought to have supported raised granaries. Hilltop enclosures are rare, with between 25 and 30 examples recorded nationally. A greater number may exist but these could have been developed into hillforts later in the Iron Age and could only be confirmed by detailed survey or excavation. The majority of known examples are located in two regions, on the chalk downland of Wessex and Sussex and in the Cotswolds. More scattered examples are found in north-east Oxfordshire and north Northamptonshire. This class of monument has not been recorded outside England. In view of the rarity of hilltop enclosures and their importance in understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Despite some disturbance by modern ploughing, the hilltop enclosure on Beacon and Pen Hills survives comparatively well with little subsequent remodelling, and, unusually, is closely associated with a group of contemporary outworks. Part excavation has demonstrated that it retains important archaeological and environmental information relating to the original use of the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. Harting Beacon lies c.1km to the east of a broadly contemporary multiple cross dyke, and the close association of these monuments will provide evidence for the relationship between land division and settlement in this area of downland during the later prehistoric period. The survival of later structures sited within the earlier hilltop enclosure, including the nationally rare Anglo-Saxon hlaew and the Napoleonic telegraph station, helps to illustrate the continuing strategic importance of the hilltop into the medieval and post-medieval periods.


The monument includes a prehistoric hilltop enclosure and its associated outworks and approach road, a hlaew, or Anglo-Saxon burial mound, and a late 18th-early 19th century telegraph station situated on a chalk saddle which forms part of a ridge of the Sussex Downs. The hilltop enclosure lies on Beacon Hill and forms the western part of the monument. Dating to the Late Bronze Age (eighth-sixth centuries BC), the enclosure is a north-south aligned, roughly rectangular, gently sloping area of c.10ha, bounded by an earth and chalk rubble bank that would originally have been reinforced with timber. This survives mainly as a low scarp up to c.6m wide. The bank is surrounded by a now largely infilled, flat-bottomed ditch up to c.3m wide and c.3m deep. Modern ploughing has partly levelled the ramparts, particularly on the southern side of the enclosure. Investigations of the enclosure between 1948-52 and 1976-77 identified traces of a large timber gateway situated within the original, causewayed entrance through the western ramparts. Evidence for the remodelling of the entrance and ramparts during the Late Bronze Age was also discovered. The entrance is approached from the north west by an engineered road running across the hillslope, surviving as a terraced way up to c.25m wide. Traces of occupation revealed by the excavations within the interior of the enclosure included four and six-posted wooden structures, interpreted as raised granaries, and infilled rubbish pits. Found within these were fragments of Late Bronze Age pottery, spindle whorls, animal bone and iron slag. Regular modern ploughing has caused some disturbance to the southern part of the enclosure. Constructed across the eastern slope of Beacon Hill and the western slope of Pen Hill are a group of complex linear earthworks up to c.127m long, interpreted as contemporary outworks associated with the enclosure defences. The most visually impressive of these lie on Pen Hill and survive as three, closely spaced parallel banks up to c.0.75m high and c.6m wide, flanked to the east by ditches up to c.0.5m deep and c.2.5m wide. The later, Anglo-Saxon hlaew, or burial mound, which is situated in the south eastern corner of the earlier enclosure, has been levelled by modern ploughing. Records suggest that the hlaew had a circular mound c.10m in diameter and 0.3m high. An excavation carried out in 1976 showed that this had been constructed over a grave containing an extended inhumation burial disturbed by an earlier, antiquarian excavation. The mound was found to have been encircled by a narrow, now infilled quarry ditch. Constructed on the summit of Beacon Hill within the northern part of the earlier enclosure, the telegraph station dates to c.1796 and survives as rectangular earthworks enclosing a group of sandstone, concrete and rendered brick footings. These represent, amongst other things, associated military installations, the remains of the building on which the telegraphing apparatus, a metal superstructure surmounted by six shutters, was sited. Telegraphing involved opening or closing the shutters so as to form prearranged, coded signals visible from neighbouring stations. The station was one of a series linking the naval base at Portsmouth with the Admiralty Office in London during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1814). A modern memorial bollard has been sited on one of the earlier foundation platforms. The modern fences which cross the monument, the Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar and the memorial bollard 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. 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
Ede, J, Archaeological Landscape Survey, Harting Estate, (1995)
Barrett, J C, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in The Pottery of the Later Bronze Age in Lowland Britain, , Vol. 46, (1980), 297-319
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Miss Keef's Excavations at Harting Beacon & Nearby Sites 1948-52, , Vol. 121, (1983), 199-202
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations at Harting Beacon, West Sussex, 2nd Season 1977, , Vol. 117, (1979), 21-36
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations Inside Harting Beacon Hillfort, West Sussex, 1976, , Vol. 116, (1978), 225-240
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Miss Keef's Excavations at Harting Beacon & Nearby Sites 1948-52, , Vol. 121, (1980), 199-202


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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