A slight univallate hillfort known as Prittlewell Camp, 500m east of Sutton Road crematorium


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.

Southend-on-Sea (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 88991 87828

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 having been reduced by ploughing and obscured by dumping, the slight univallate hillfort known as Prittlewell Camp remains substantially intact and will retain significant archaeological information. The circuit of defences is clearly defined by earthworks to the south and west and evidence exists for the buried remains of the remaining part of the circuit. Buried features related to the period of occupation will survive beneath the ploughsoil of the interior and these, together with the earlier fills of the surrounding ditch, will contain evidence for the date of the hillfort's construction and for the duration and character of its use. Environmental evidence reflecting the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set and the economy of its inhabitants may also survive in these buried deposits and on the old land surface sealed beneath the bank.

The hillfort's location on a low-lying plateau rather than a summit or ridge is somewhat unusual, although far from unique within the low-lying topography of the region. Comparison between these sites and, more specifically, with other forms of contemporary habitation between the Roach and the Thames, will provide valuable information concerning the hillfort's position in the settlement pattern and social structure of the period.

Although the interpretation of the 'Look-out' mound as the base of a medieval post mill has not been proven, evidence from the 1929 excavation does support this conclusion. Such mounds were designed to raise the windmill and to stabilise a vertical post (or tree) which allowed the superstructure to be turned to face the wind. Post mills are known to have existed from the 12th century onwards and although no medieval examples of the timber superstructure survive today, their appearance is recorded in contemporary illustrations. Examples of mounds which retain organic remains or form components of other sites are considered worthy of protection. The mound at Prittlewell, located on the line of the earlier defences, provides an interesting insight into the subsequent use of the hillfort and the medieval economy of the surrounding area.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort of the later Bronze Age or Early Iron Age which is located on the northern outskirts of Southend-on-Sea, some 500m east of the Sutton Road crematorium.

The monument occupies the northern edge of a broad terrace which is not particularly elevated and yet commands extensive views over the valley of the River Roach to the north, east and west. The monument has been recognised as a prehistoric enclosure since at least 1893, when pottery from the `oppidum' (defended settlement) at Prittlewell was exhibited at a meeting of the Essex Field Club.

The hillfort is nearly circular in plan, measuring approximately 250m in diameter. The south western third of the perimeter is defined by an earthen bank and external ditch which survive within a wooded belt. The bank averages 3.5m in width and 0.9m high. The ditch is less clearly visible, having been partly used as a corporation dump in the 1920s, although some sections remain exposed and measure up to 4m in width and 1.4m in depth.

The northern and eastern sections of the ramparts have been reduced by ploughing, although undulations marking the line of the defences were noted in the early part of this century and the line of the bank has been recorded from the air as a cropmark (a variation in crop growth caused by buried features). Observation of a pipeline trench to the Barling Outfall Works in 1929 revealed that the external ditch may not have continued around this side of the hillfort, perhaps as the approach from this side was already restricted by marshy land.

A trial trench, cut through the southern ramparts and across the southern edge of the interior in 1929, provided evidence for the composition of the bank and the original profile of the ditch.

The excavators also examined a pronounced mound (known locally as `The Look-out') situated on the south eastern part of the perimeter. This mound, which measures some 20m in diameter and 1.5m high, was found to be completely artificial and to contain quantities of tile and medieval pottery spanning the period from the 13th to the 15th century. A depression in the centre of the level summit was found to have resulted from a previous, unrecorded excavation. The excavators were unable to account for the origin of the mound, although the evidence which they recorded is now thought to indicate the base of a medieval post mill, sited on the highest point on the ramparts in order to take advantage of the prevailing wind.

All fences and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
Mepham, W A, 'Trans Southend-on-Sea & District Antiq & Hist Soc' in Prittlewell Camp: Report of Excations 1929, (1930), 29-48
Mepham, W A, 'Trans Southend-on-Sea & District Antiq & Hist Soc' in Prittlewell Camp: Report of Excations 1929, (1930), 29-48
Wymer, J J, Brown, N R, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in Settlement and Economy in South East Essex 1500BC - AD1500, (1995), 157
Wymer, J J, Brown, N R, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in Settlement and Economy in South East Essex 1500BC - AD1500, (1995), 157
Oblique monochrome (copy in SMR), RAF, 58/192/P1/5041, (1949)
RCHME, Inventory of Historic Monuments in Essex, (1923)
Recent discovery of AP evidence, Gould, S (ECC Archaeology), Cropmark evidence at Prittlewell Camp, (1997)


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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