Norsebury Ring hillfort


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.

Winchester (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 49120 40092

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.

Norsebury Ring hillfort survives comparatively well, despite some disturbance by subsequent ploughing. It has been demonstrated by magnetometer survey to retain significant archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the original construction and use of the monument, and the landscape in which it was constructed. Fieldwalking of the monument has further demonstrated the survival of pottery and other finds demonstrating the occupation of the site from the Bronze Age to the post-medieval period.


The monument includes a small univallate hillfort dating to the Iron Age (700 BC-AD 43), situated on an east-west aligned chalk ridge which flanks the River Dever to the south. The roughly trapezoid shaped hillfort encloses an area of approximately 4ha of level ground and commands extensive views in all directions except to the east. Disturbance caused by later trackways and modern ploughing has damaged the defences, particularly to the east and south, where they survive only as a low bank or scarp, a ploughed-out ditch and faint traces of a slight outer bank. To the north and west the defences are better preserved and survive as an inner rampart and outer counterscarp bank separated by a shallow ditch. Both banks are up to to 12m wide; the inner rampart is the more substantial, although reduced by ploughing, standing up to 2.5m above the ditch and up to 0.3m above the interior. Traces of a possible outer ditch are visible on the northern side, although this is more likely to be a later trackway or boundary feature. A magnetometer survey conducted by English Heritage in 1997 has demonstrated the presence of two original entrances in the ploughed-down area of the defences: a simple entrance consisting of a gap in the ramparts to the south east, and a more complex entrance to the south west consisting of an inturned rampart which would have formed a corridor between the inner and outer defences. The magnetometer survey also indicated the survival of significant buried remains associated with the original use of the monument including a large number of pits, hearths and ditches. These provide evidence of likely round houses, granaries, compounds, iron ore smelting hearths and other domestic and industrial activities within the interior. Fieldwalking of the monument in 1979 recovered Iron Age pottery commensurate with the hillfort's original use. Pottery indicating both earlier Bronze Age (2400-700 BC) and later Roman period (AD 43-410) settlement of the site was also recovered. Later use of the monument is also indicated by the recovery of post-medieval (16th-18th century) pottery and building materials during fieldwalking and by a similarly dated earthwork bank, probably a boundary feature or lynchet, that is included in the scheduling where it extends to the south east from the hillfort's north eastern corner. All fences, pheasant pens and feeders 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. 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:
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Books and journals
Williams-Freeman, JP, Introduction to field archaeology as illustrated by Hampshire, (1915), 388-89
Payne, A, 'Wessex Hillforts Survey Project' in Norsebury Ring, Magnetometer Survey, Sept 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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