Defended prehistoric settlement at Shoeburyness, known as the Danish Camp


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Southend-on-Sea (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 93808 84544

Reasons for Designation

The defended prehistoric settlement at Shoeburyness, although low-lying, belongs to the class of prehistoric monuments known as `slight univallate hillforts'. These are fortified enclosures, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha and surrounded by a single boundary of substantial, but not especially imposing earthworks. Locations vary from hilltops in central southern and south western parts of England to near sea level around the fen margins of East Anglia, and the interpretations of their functions include stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. In general these monuments date between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.

The earthworks normally include a rampart and external ditch, while access to the interior is usually provided by one or two entrances comprising either simple gaps or in-turned rampart terminals. Portal gateways have occasionally been revealed by the excavation, although more elaborate features, like overlapping ramparts and outworks, are limited to only a few examples. Internal features include timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered post holes, stake holes and gullies, and square or rectangular buildings supported by four or six posts (represented by post holes) normally interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally, with concentrations in Devon (where they are the major class of hillfort) and in Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the Chilterns (where they occur alongside other classes). Although particularly rare in south eastern England, the slight univallate hillfort, sometimes (but not invariably) located on elevated ground, is the predominant form of defended settlement. In view of their rarity and their importance in understanding the development of Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all slight univallate hillforts which survive comparatively well and have the potential for the recovery of further archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

The defended prehistoric settlement at Shoeburyness has been denuded by the development of the 19th century military complex, although the southern half of the enclosure has been shown to survive extremely well and to retain significant and valuable archaeological information. The original appearance of the rampart is reflected in the two standing sections, and the associated length of the perimeter ditch will remain preserved beneath layers of accumulated and dumped soil. Numerous buried features related to periods of occupation survive in the interior, and these (together will the earlier fills of the surrounding ditch) contain artefactual evidence illustrating the date of the hillfort's construction as well as the duration and character of its use. In particular, the recent investigations have revealed a range of artefacts and environmental evidence which illustrate human presence in the Middle and Late Bronze Age and a variety of domestic activities in the Middle Iron Age, including an assemblage of pottery vessels which demonstrate extensive trading links with southern central England. Environmental evidence has also shown something of the appearance and utilisation of the landscape in which the monument was set, further indications of which will remain sealed within deposits in the enclosure and on the original ground surface buried beneath the surviving sections of bank. Evidence of later use, or reuse, of the enclosure in the Late Iron Age and Roman periods is of particular interest for the study of the impact of the Roman invasion and subsequent provincial government on the native population; the brief reoccupation of the site in the Anglo-Saxon period, although currently unsupported by archaeological evidence, also remains a possibility.


The monument includes the buried and visible remains of the known extent of a defended prehistoric settlement located on the north shore of the Thames Estuary, on the eastern side of Shoebury Ness, a broad promontory at the eastern end of the Southend Flat.

The settlement, which many 19th century antiquarians associated with historical references to a Danish Camp, lay in a rural setting until 1849 when Shoebury Ness was adopted as a range finding station by the Board of Ordnance and later developed into a complex of barracks and weapon ranges. The visible remains of the Iron Age settlement were probably reduced at this time leaving only two sections of the perimeter bank, or rampart, standing. This bank is thought to have originally continued north and east, following a line to East Gate and Rampart Street, and enclosed a sub-rectangular area of coastal land measuring some 450m in length. The width of the enclosure cannot be ascertained as the south eastern arm (if any existed) is presumed lost to coastal erosion. The surviving section of the north west bank, parallel to the shore line and flanking Warrior Square Road, now lies some 150m-200m inland. It measures approximately 80m in length with an average height of 2m and width of 11m. The second upstanding section, part of the southern arm of the enclosure, lies some 150m to the south alongside Beach Road. This bank is similar in width although slightly lower overall, with some evidence of remodelling associated with two mid-19th century magazine buildings and a blast mound situated immediately to the south. The bank is flanked by an external ditch, now largely buried, which was shown by exploratory excavations in 1876 to be 12m wide and nearly 3m deep. More recent trial excavations (1999) have found pottery assemblages dating from the Middle and Late Bronze Age in association with the rampart.

The area enclosed by these surviving banks, was investigated in 1998 as part of a wider archaeological evaluation of the Shoeburyness Barracks. Trial trenches were excavated to sample approximately 4% of this area and revealed a dense pattern of well preserved Iron Age features, including evidence of four round houses (identifiable from characteristic drainage gullies), two post- built structures, several boundary ditches and numerous post holes and pits. Fragments from a range of local and imported pottery vessels date the main phase of occupation to the Middle Iron Age (around the period 400-200 BC). Within this period, evidence was found to indicate a variety of domestic activities, including spinning, weaving, salt manufacture, cereal processing and butchery. Indications were also found that the interior of the defended settlement was subdivided, with some areas set apart for storage, particular dwellings or communal activities.

Slight evidence of earlier prehistoric activity, dating from both the Mesolithic period and the late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, was found within the area of the settlement, although such evidence was also found beyond the ramparts and is probably representative of more general utilisation of the marshland which formerly covered the promontory. Evidence was also found of some form of occupation within the ramparts in the Late Iron Age, and of continued use after the Roman invasion. Material related to the demolition of a substantial Romanised structure, which had incorporated wattle and daub walls and a tiled roof, was found amidst later medieval debris in the south western corner of the settlement. Since no traces of such a structure were revealed by the other trenches or by geophysical survey, it is thought that this building may have stood to the east, seaward of Mess Road, where fragments of Roman pottery and Roman coins were discovered in the 1930s during the building work on the 19th century Officers' Mess (a Grade II Listed Building). This area is of interest not only for the location of the Roman structure but also for the continuation of Iron Age settlement activity towards the shoreline. It is therefore included in the scheduling. Trial trenches in the northern part of the settlement (as defined by the putative line of the ramparts to the north of Chapel Road) found considerable modern disturbance and no evidence of surviving Iron Age features. This northern area is therefore not included in the scheduling.

The former interpretation of the monument as a `Danish Camp' is based on entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. These record the expulsion of Danish forces from their base at Benfleet in AD 893 and their subsequent regrouping, under the Viking leader Haesten, at a fort near Shoebury. Although the prehistoric earthwork might have been adopted for this purpose, the evidence for this period currently consists of only two fragments of Anglo-Saxon pottery (found during the 1998 investigation), and cannot be said to support this theory.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are all buildings, including the Grade II Listed Commandant's House and the Officer's Mess, the Mess range, the houses and garages on Chapel Road, the electricity sub-station at the junction of Mess Road and Chapel Road and the air raid shelters located to east, south and west of the recreation ground, all modern laid surfaces of roads, driveways, paths and tennis courts, and all bollards, railings, fences and boundary walls; the ground beneath all these features is, however, 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.

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Books and journals
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Barker, P P, 'Archaeological Evaluation at The Old Ranges, Shoeburyness' in Geophysical Survey at Shoeburyness Barracks, , Vol. Vol 2, (1999)
Letter: Morris to Giffords (on file), Morris, E, Pottery Assessment Report, Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Letter: Morris to Giffords (on file), Morris, E, Pottery Assessment Report, Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments, Essex, (1923)


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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