Hillfort on King John's Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020314

Date first listed: 26-Oct-1971

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Oct-2001


Ordnance survey map of Hillfort on King John's Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hampshire

District: East Hampshire (District Authority)

Parish: Worldham

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: SU 75598 37686


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.

The hillfort on King John's Hill is unusually small in area and the defences, both natural and artificial, are relatively slight. In this respect the monument falls between the comparatively high status settlement indicated by a fort and several classes of smaller defended settlements and enclosed farmsteads found throughout south western and central southern England. It survives well, despite some disturbance by subsequent quarrying, and partial excavation has shown that it retains archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument's original construction and use and its subsequent re-occupation during the later medieval and post-medieval periods. The traditional association of the site with one of King John's hunting lodges, for which some archaeological evidence survives, demonstrates the continued importance of the monument during the medieval period and illustrates an aspect of the activities of medieval nobility. Usually located within or adjacent to a deer park, the construction of such lodges and the laying out of associated parks attained a peak period of popularity between 1200 and 1350, coinciding with a time of considerable prosperity among the aristocracy, that still exerts a powerful influence on the pattern of the modern landscape.


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


The monument includes a small multivallate hillfort of Late Iron Age date, prominently situated on the summit of King John's Hill, a steep sided, Greensand tor rising 700m east of East Worldham. The simple fort defences completely enclosed the flat summit of the hill, forming a roughly oval, north-south aligned interior area of approximately 0.8ha. Subsequent quarrying for malm has caused significant disturbance to the northern part of the monument, removing the defences in this area. Elsewhere, the defences survive as two concentric scarps separated by a broad ledge, except to the north east where access to the interior is obtained by way of a steep spur which is cut at the base by a slight transverse ditch. This ditch extends into a later boundary feature that curves around the eastern base of the hill, enclosing a series of irregular, possibly natural terraces on the fort's lower flank. Partial excavation of the monument in 1939 and 1947 yielded fragments of pottery and other items indicating a Late Iron Age date of around 100 BC, and revealed two infilled storage pits. Further buried remains associated with the original use of the monument, including traces of round houses, compounds, granaries, iron ore smelting hearths and outbuildings, can be expected to survive within the interior of the fort. The excavations also revealed debris and buried structural remains associated with at least two later phases of use of the monument. These include fragments of medieval pottery dated to the 13th and 14th centuries, squared ashlar blocks, and other building materials that lend support to a local tradition that King John had a royal hunting lodge built on the hill's summit. Further support is lent by documentary evidence which records the existence of a deer park at East Worldham from at least 1372. The excavations also revealed several short lengths of rough stone wall, rammed malm floors, an oven and stoke hole made of burnt clay or mortar, and numerous bricks, tiles and other building materials dated to the Tudor and post-medieval periods. The modern fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 34137

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
History of the King's Works, (1963), 929
Maitland Muller, M, 'Alton Museum Report' in Alton Museum Report, (1950)
Maitland Muller, M, 'Alton Museum Report' in Alton Museum Report, (1950), 5
Williams-Freeman, J, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in King John's Hill, East Worldham, (1940), 398-99
Williams-Freeman, J, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in King John's Hill, East Worldham, (1940), 398-99
Ferguson, Maj. V, Letter to JP Williams-Freeman, (1939)
Ferguson, Maj. V, Letter to JP Williams-Freeman, (1939)

End of official listing