A small multivallate hillfort on Southend Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of A small multivallate hillfort on Southend Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 91958 16548

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.

Although the small multivallate hillfort on Southend Hill has been ploughed, the circuit of defences is clearly marked and the ditch, in particular, will remain well preserved beneath layers of accumulated and dumped soil. Buried features related to the period of occupation will also survive within the interior, and these, together with the earlier fills of the surrounding ditch, will contain artefactual evidence illustrating the date of the hillfort's construction as well as the duration and character its use.

Southend Hill lies approximately 4km to the west of the more widely known hillfort on Ivinghoe Beacon, which excavations have shown to have been occupied from the 6th century BC. The proximity of the two sites, which are intervisible, raises interesting questions about the relationship between them (such as whether the larger and more elaborate hillfort at Southend Hill was occupied at the same time or subsequently), and has significant implications for our understanding of the development of settlement and society in the later prehistoric period. In a wider context, the Southend Hill hillfort can be seen as part of a series of hillforts, of various forms, which were established along the Chiltern escarpment in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, comparison between which will provide valuable insights into the development of prehistoric society across the region.


The monument includes the buried remains of a small multivallate hillfort located on Southend Hill, a pronounced chalk knoll rising from the Aylesbury Vale some 4km to the north of the Chiltern escarpment.

The ramparts enclosing the fort have long since been reduced by ploughing, and the site remained unknown until cropmarks (variations crop growth dependent on moisture in buried features) were recorded from the air in 1973. The cropmarks have been recorded on several occasions since, clearly demonstrating the presence of a circular enclosure of approximately 5ha, defined by a pair of concentric ditches which encircle the summit of the hill to the north of the steep southern slope. The ditches measure about 5m in width and are set 15 to 20m apart. Concentrations of chalk and clunch rubble visible in the ploughsoil to the north west and south east are thought to represent the denuded remains of the accompanying banks, which would have been constructed using natural bedrock from the ditches.

The aerial record shows faint traces of other buried features within the fort, including small circular ditches which are thought to represent structures, and curved ditches which may belong to an earlier phase of the defences.

Fragments of hand made coarseware pottery recovered from the ploughsoil within the fort indicate that occupation may have begun in the Early to Middle Iron Age (c.600-300 BC); fragments from later, wheel-thrown vessels suggest that occupation either continued into, or was resumed in the Late Iron Age (c.100 BC - AD 50).

The southern slopes of the hill were remodelled in the medieval or early post-medieval period to form an elaborate series of cultivation terraces or lynchets. The upper terrace is included in the scheduling, as it is thought to have intruded on the southern part of the fort's ramparts.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Allcroft, A H, Earthworks of England, (1908), 39
Pevsner, N, John, H, The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, (1964), 84
Farley, M, 'Records of Bucks' in Cheddington Hillfort, , Vol. 25, (1983), 179
1271: Cultivation terraces, Westend Hill, Cheddington, (1983)
Discussion with CAO and staff, Farley, M et al, (1997)
Notes on finds from MPP site visit, Farley, M, 4039 Southend Hill, (1997)
Oblique monochrome A2/26/21, Farley, M, Cheddington Hillfort, (1977)
Oblique monochrome A6/16/14, Farley, M, Cheddington Hillfort, (1982)
Oblique monochrome, St. Joseph, J K, Cheddington Hillfort, (1975)
Oblique monochrome, Wilson, DR, Cheddington Hillfort, (1973)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments in Buckinghamshire, (1912)
Rectified AP plot (Bucks Museums), Allen, L, Cheddington Hillfort, (1979)
Sketch (copy with proposal & in SMR), Went, D, SM:29410 Small multivallate hillfort on Southend Hill, (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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