Norbury: a slight univallate hillfort immediately east of Padbury Mill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017514

Date first listed: 16-Jan-1998


Ordnance survey map of Norbury: a slight univallate hillfort immediately east of Padbury Mill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)

Parish: Gawcott with Lenborough

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)

Parish: Padbury

National Grid Reference: SP 71132 29955


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 episodes of ploughing and quarry damage to part of the monument, Norbury slight univallate hillfort survives well. The circuit of defences is clearly marked and the ditch, in particular, will remain exceptionally well preserved beneath layers of accumulated and dumped soil. Buried features related to the period of occupation will survive within the interior, and these, together with the earlier fills of the surrounding ditch, will contain artefactual evidence indicating the date of the hillfort's construction and illustrating the duration and character of its use. Environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed and the economy of its inhabitants may survive in the ditch fill and on the old land surface sealed beneath sections of the bank.

The hillfort's location on a low lying plateau rather than a summit or ridge is somewhat unusual, although far from unique in the region. Comparisons between this site and similar examples near Burnham to the south, at Maids Moreton to the north and near Dunstable to the east will provide valuable information concerning the function of these low lying sites, especially in relation to the more strongly defended hillforts which proliferated along the adjacent Chiltern Hills in the same period.


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


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort located on the south western outskirts of the village of Padbury, immediately east of Padbury Mill.

The hillfort, which was first identified as a prehistoric enclosure in 1929, stands on a slight plateau bounded on the north western side by a meander of the Padbury Brook. The hillfort's perimeter can be traced across the pasture to the south, where it forms an oval circuit measuring some 200m from north to south and 250m from east to west. The boundary earthworks are thought to have been designed to enhance the natural topography and to have included an inner bank surrounded by an external ditch, except on the north western side where a single outward scarp faces the brook. The ditch has been largely infilled, although one section, measuring some 8m to 12m in width and 0.8m deep, remains visible around the northern part of the boundary. The bank can still be traced on the eastern side of the perimeter (to the south of the access road to Padbury Mill), where it measures about 10m in width and 0.4m high. The bank is known to have stood up to 1m in height around the south western side, although it was pushed into the ditch in the 1940s when the interior was briefly cultivated. The boundary on this side is now marked by a pronounced scarp which descends some 1.8m towards the line of the infilled ditch. The south eastern quarter of the ramparts, together with a small area of the interior, was completely destroyed by a 19th century clay quarry and brickworks (now abandoned), and this area is not included in the scheduling. There is no visible evidence of habitation within the interior of the hillfort, which is generally level apart from a slight slope toward the brook.

The name `Norbury' was first recorded on a map of the All Soul's College Estates dated 1591, and is believed to derive from the old English terms `noro', meaning north, and `burgh', meaning a stronghold or fortified place. Evidently, the site remained notable for its defences long after its abandonment. The map evidence also proves that the site cannot date from the Civil War, as local tradition holds; although it could conceivably have seen some reuse during that period.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the metalled surface of the road leading across the centre of the hillfort towards Padbury Mill, the remains of the sheep wash alongside the brook, and all fences, fence posts and gates; although the ground beneath all 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: 29407

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Myres, J N L, 'Report of the 37th Congress' in Congress of Archaeological Societies, (1930), 11
Copy in SMR file, Gowling, W, 0783 Letter to the owners' agent from curator of Bucks Museum, (1964)
Field visit notes and comments, Farley, M, 0783 Padbury Earthwork Enclosure, (1984)
Ordnance Survey antiq model & surveyor's notes, JRL, SP 73 SW 5, (1971)
SMR entry, 5785 Brick and tile works, Padbury, (1980)

End of official listing