Small multivallate hillfort 460m east of Old Abbey Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017880

Date first listed: 19-Mar-1999


Ordnance survey map of Small multivallate hillfort 460m east of Old Abbey Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Lincolnshire

District: East Lindsey (District Authority)

Parish: Woodhall Spa

National Grid Reference: TF 19572 60991


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

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Although the hillfort 460m east of Old Abbey Farm has been reduced by ploughing, the ditch system, causeways and interior remain undisturbed beneath the present ground surface. Archaeological investigations of a similar site 2.5km to the south east at Tattershall Thorpe indicate that the buried ditches will survive well and that the fills of these ditches will contain artefactual evidence relating to the dating, construction, period of use and function of the monument. It is thought that the same fills will retain high levels of organic material, providing valuable environmental evidence to illustrate both activities focussed on the site, and the exploitation of the landscape in which the monument was set. The interior of the enclosure will contain further environmental and artefactual evidence together with features such as pits, post holes and surfaces. These remains will contribute to an understanding of the function and use of the site, and a comparison with the information derived from the Tattershall Thorpe monument may have significance for the study of land use and agricultural practices in the area during the Iron Age.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of a small multivallate hillfort 460m east of Old Abbey Farm. It is situated in a prominent position on the western side of the Southrey gravel terrace between the rivers Witham and Bain. Although the monument's system of ramparts has been reduced by ploughing and can no longer be seen on the ground, the three infilled and buried ditches are clearly visible from the air as a series of cropmarks. These cropmarks, which are areas of enhanced growth resulting from higher levels of moisture retained by the underlying archaeological features, have been recorded on aerial photographs since 1948. Orientated north west-south east, the hillfort is roughly oval in shape, measuring about 120m long by 90m wide overall, and it is estimated that the width of the defences between the inner and outer ditches is at least 30m. Aerial photographs show that the outermost ditch is broken by a causeway to the south east, aligned with a further causeway across the middle ditch. The middle ditch is also broken to the south and at two points on the northern arc. The innermost ditch circuit is, however, complete and access to the central area may therefore have required a bridge. The gaps between the ditches would have been occupied by banks constructed from the upcast, with a possible third bank around the edge of the interior. No archaeological investigations have taken place at the site, but the results of excavations at a similar monument at Tattershall Thorpe (the subject of a separate scheduling) some 2.5km to the south east, and also on the Southrey terrace, may provide some insights into the monument's construction and use. These comparable Iron Age enclosures may have been used as occasional refuges in troubled times, although their primary function was as seasonal stock corrals, perhaps with only intermittent human occupation. The elaborate bank and ditch defences may have served not only to contain the animals but also to deter both predators and cattle rustlers, and the substantial earthworks may also have been intended to reflect the status of the group. Environmental evidence from the ditches at Tattershall Thorpe indicates that the area was not ideal for crop cultivation, and a community whose economy and prestige was based on stock rearing would have invested considerable time and effort in the construction of suitable means of containment and protection of animals. Furthermore, the proximity of the two similar sites in the same ecosystem implies that both shared the same primary function. No dating evidence is yet available for this monument, but it seems likely to have been at least broadly contemporary with that at Tattershall Thorpe, and may even have been within the control of the same community.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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.

Legacy System number: 29728

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Chowne, P, Girling, M, Greig, J, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Excavations At An I A Defended Enclosure At Tattershall Thorpe, , Vol. 52, (1986), 159-88
oblique monochrome print, St Joseph J K, BT/58, (1948)
oblique monochrome print, St Joseph, J K, CDK 46, (1977)

End of official listing