The Trundle hillfort, causewayed enclosure and associated remains at St Roche's Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018034

Date first listed: 23-Feb-1933

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Apr-1998


Ordnance survey map of The Trundle hillfort, causewayed enclosure and associated remains at St Roche's Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: West Sussex

District: Chichester (District Authority)

Parish: Lavant

County: West Sussex

District: Chichester (District Authority)

Parish: Singleton

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: SU 87688 11061


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Reasons for Designation

Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen. The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by outworks. 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. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north. Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Causewayed enclosures were constructed mainly during the middle part of the Neolithic period (c.3000-2400 BC) but they often continued in use into later periods. Between 50 and 70 causewayed enclosures are recorded nationally, mainly in southern and eastern England. They vary considerably in size (from 1 to 28 hectares) and were apparently used for a variety of functions, including settlement, defence, and ceremonial and funerary purposes. However, all comprise a roughly circular to ovoid area bounded by one or more concentric rings of banks and ditches. The ditches, from which the monument class derives its name, were formed of a series of elongated pits punctuated by unexcavated causeways. Causewayed enclosures are amongst the earliest field monuments to survive as recognisable features in the modern landscape and are one of the few known Neolithic monument types. Due to their rarity, their wide diversity of plan, and their considerable age, all causewayed enclosures are considered to be nationally important.

The large univallate hillfort and Neolithic causewayed enclosure on St Roche's Hill survive well, despite some later disturbance. Investigations have indicated that the causewayed enclosure may have been the first to be constructed in Sussex, and it pre-dates the main period of construction of this type of monument by some 300 years. The close association of the hillfort and enclosure with other prehistoric monuments in the area, including cross dykes, burial mounds and the nearby Neolithic causewayed enclosure on Court Hill, will provide evidence for the relationship between settlement, burial and land division during the later prehistoric period. Part excavation and a detailed survey of the earthworks on St Roche's Hill have shown that the monument retains archaeological and environmental information relating to its use over a period of at least five thousand years. The evidence for reuse of this prominent location as a site for worship during the medieval period, and its continued use during the post-medieval period and World War II, demonstrates the strategic importance of the hilltop into modern times.


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The monument includes a large univallate hillfort dating to the Iron Age, an earlier Neolithic causewayed enclosure, a later medieval chapel, post-medieval post mill and the remains of military use during World War II. These features survive as earthworks, in buried form, and as a ruined structure above ground, and are situated on the summit of a chalk hill on the southern edge of the Sussex Downs. This location enjoys panoramic views across the surrounding landscape in which the hilltop, with its encompassing Iron Age earthworks, is a prominent feature.

The polygonal hillfort encloses an area of 5.66ha, and its defences survive in the form of a bank measuring approximately 9m wide and up to 1.8m high, surrounded by a ditch and a counterscarp bank. A slight quarry ditch follows the inner edge of the bank. The ramparts have been disturbed in places by later tracks, marl pits, and trenches associated with the reuse of the hillfort during World War II. The fort was entered by two opposing gateways to the north east and south west, which survive as causewayed gaps in the ramparts flanked by inward turning banks. Part excavation of these entrances in 1928 and 1930 revealed several phases of reconstruction of the timber gateways during the Iron Age. Further investigation and an earthwork survey have revealed that the hillfort was in use as a settlement site during this period, indicated by rubbish pits, traces of contemporary building foundations in the form of post holes and at least 15 roughly circular platforms, measuring between 5.5m and 8.5m in diameter. Finds included substantial amounts of Iron Age pottery, quern fragments, animal bones, and a few sherds of Romano-British pottery indicating that the hillfort may have been reused during the later, Roman period.

A well-preserved section of an associated linear earthwork, dating to an early period in the original use of the hillfort, extends at right angles away from the south western ramparts for around 15m. This has a ditch 3m wide and 0.3m deep, flanked on either side by a low bank.

The main Iron Age defences enclose and partly overlie the remains of an earlier Neolithic causewayed enclosure, first identified by aerial photography in 1925. Radiocarbon analysis indicates that the enclosure dates to around 3300 BC, and environmental evidence suggests that it was constructed in an area already extensively cleared of trees. An earthwork survey of 1995 has revealed that the Neolithic enclosure was defined by a pair of concentric banks with outer ditches surrounded by at least four less regular bank and ditch circuits. The area enclosed by the central circuit measures around 0.95ha and access to the interior is by way of a simple entrance to the north east. The ditch was constructed as a series of unequal`U'-shaped segments, up to 7m wide and 1.4m deep, which have become partly infilled. These are separated by frequent causeways. The ditch is flanked by an internal bank, separated from it by a 1m wide berm, which rises to a maximum height of 1.6m. An angled section of an outer ditch of the causewayed enclosure underlies and extends beyond the northern side of the later Iron Age ramparts. Part excavation of this ditch section in 1928 showed it to be `V'-shaped and almost 2.7m deep.

A further group of contemporary, associated earthworks has been revealed by aerial photography around 265m to the west of the Neolithic enclosure. At least three features have been identified, including a linear earthwork, approximately 250m of which is visible, curving across the western slope of the hill. It runs parallel to the western side of the causewayed enclosure and it is considered that it may be a continuation of the outer circuit. For most of its length this feature survives as a buried feature visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs. To the east, slight features resembling ditch segments are visible. Another linear feature, which also survives as a cropmark, extends from this area towards the south western entrance of the later hillfort with which it is considered to be contemporary.

Later reuse of the hilltop is demonstrated by the remains of a small chapel dedicated to the 14th century French saint, St Roche, renowned for his miraculous powers of curing sufferers from the plague, and after whom the hill is named. The chapel lies near the centre of the monument and survives as a roughly circular mound, measuring about 21m in diameter and 1.2m high, situated at the southern end of a surrounding, NNW-SSE aligned, quadrangular enclosure. The enclosure measures 60m by 50m, and is bounded on its southern side by the inner circuit of the Neolithic enclosure, and by slight scarps elsewhere. Situated on the mound are the buried remains of two adjacent rectangular buildings, considered to represent the site of the chapel and a later structure. Records suggest that the chapel fell into disuse by around 1570. A modern Ordnance Survey trig point is situated on raised ground on the south eastern edge of the mound on the site of an early trigonometrical station erected in 1791.

The post-medieval postmill, destroyed by lightning in 1773, survives as a low circular mound about 11m in diameter with a central depression, to the north east of the chapel mound. Historical records and cartographic evidence suggest that the hilltop was also used as the site of a beacon in the 16th to 18th centuries, and a masonic lodge and gibbet were sited here during the 18th and 19th centuries.

A large number of fox holes and slit trenches were cut into the ramparts during World War II and a nissen-type corrugated iron shelter, the concrete foundations of which survive, was erected in the northern part of the hillfort. Two VHF Direction Finding Stations were also sited within the western and north eastern sectors of the monument during World War II. Each station contained four wooden masts, one of which survives in the north eastern compound. Buildings associated with the original use of the radio stations also survive, and these, along with modern masts erected within the compounds, are used by a modern civil communication network. The radio stations are now enclosed by modern fences.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the surfaces of all modern tracks, the modern bench and its concrete foundation, all modern gates, fences, stiles, drain heads, all structures associated with the radio stations (including the surviving wooden mast), their foundations, and the Ordnance Survey trig point; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 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: 31201

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
RCHME, , Causewayed enclosure and The Trundle hillfort on St Roche's Hill, (1995)

End of official listing