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Borough Hill: two Iron Age hillforts and a defended enclosure, two Bronze Age barrows, a Roman building complex and barrow cemetery

A Scheduled Monument in Daventry, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.2581 / 52°15'29"N

Longitude: -1.1388 / 1°8'19"W

OS Eastings: 458880.329741

OS Northings: 262563.514994

OS Grid: SP588625

Mapcode National: GBR 8S3.DXL

Mapcode Global: VHCVD.6HTS

Entry Name: Borough Hill: two Iron Age hillforts and a defended enclosure, two Bronze Age barrows, a Roman building complex and barrow cemetery

Scheduled Date: 5 December 1928

Last Amended: 1 September 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010696

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17145

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Daventry

Built-Up Area: Daventry

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Daventry Holy Cross

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The monument is situated on Borough Hill, a large natural eminence on the
eastern edge of Daventry. The hilltop is oblong in shape and extends over
1.5km north to south, most of which is enclosed by the defences of a large
multivallate hillfort. The defences of the large hillfort are partly overlain
by those of another, smaller, multivallate hillfort which occupies the
northern part of the hill. Both hillforts are believed to have been
constructed in the Iron Age. The monument includes the remains of the two
hillforts together with the archaeological remains of both earlier and later
date which lie within them, including two Bronze Age barrows, a Roman building
complex and barrow cemetery. Also included in the scheduling are the remains
of a small defended enclosure of Late Iron Age type which lies approximately
200m to the south east of the hillfort and is linked to it by the remains of a
hollow way. During the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods the hillfort was used
as pasture, and in the 18th century it was the site of a racecourse. In the
early 19th century the hilltop was divided into small fields and cultivated.
Since 1925 the British Broadcasting Corporation has operated a transmitting
station on Borough Hill.

The defences of the large hillfort enclose an area of approximately 54ha and
take the form of multiple banks and ditches surviving as a series of
intermittent earthworks and buried deposits. Antiquarian accounts indicate
that in the early 18th century the defences were continuous and included up to
three ditches and four banks, but by the early 19th century much of these had
been levelled by ploughing. The defences are now represented by standing
earthworks on three parts of the defensive circuit: on the south and
south east, on the west, and on the north and north east. On the south side
they include an inner bank and outer ditch about 275m in length; adjacent to
the east they are represented by a single bank which runs northwards for a
distance of over 550m. In 1712 two ditches and three banks were noted in this
part of the hillfort, but in 1991 trial excavation on the south eastern side
revealed the existence of a third ditch. On the western side of the hillfort
the earthworks of two banks and a ditch survive to a length of approximately
420m, the outer ditch continuing northwards for a further 100m. In the
northern part of the monument the defences are partly overlain by the
earthworks of the small multivallate hillfort but may be represented by the
remains of a bank which runs around the outside edge of the later earthworks;
on the north eastern side, and to the south west, two banks are evident.
Running for a distance of about 300m to the south east of the small hillfort
are the remains of two banks, the outer bank continuing southwards for a
further 170m. In the south west, north west and easternmost parts of the
monument the defences survived as standing earthworks until the early 19th
century but have subsequently been levelled; these sections will, however,
survive as buried features.

The small hillfort is triangular in shape and encloses an area of about 5ha
within the large hillfort at the northernmost part of the hill. The defences
include an inner bank, ditch and outer bank; these are best preserved on the
western side, and on the south west where they are strengthened by an
additional outer bank and ditch. On the east they are overlain by the remains
of a 19th century farm and a trackway associated with it which runs northwards
across the defences. Halfway along the southern side, where the defences cross
the hill, is a gap about 35m wide representing a former entranceway.

The interior of the large hillfort is now mainly level, but trial excavation
has demonstrated the survival of buried archaeological features relating to
the occupation of the hill in the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. In the
southern part of the hillfort, near the highest point of the hill, are the
buried remains of a Bronze Age bowl barrow; in the early 19th century it
survived as a substantial earthwork but was subsequently levelled by
ploughing. Another bowl barrow is situated in the northern part of the
monument at the entrance to the small hillfort; it survives as a low mound
about 10m in diameter. Two human burials were discovered in the mound during
partial excavation in 1823.

Situated in the south western part of the small hillfort are the buried
remains of a building complex orientated north-south. Partial excavation in
the 19th century revealed structural remains of Roman date, including stone
walls, roof tiles, painted wall plaster and mosaic and tessellated pavements.
At the southern end of the complex a baths suite was identified. Finds from
the site included pottery of the second to fourth centuries AD and coins of
the late-third to mid-fourth centuries. These features are considered to
represent the remains of a Roman villa.

Near the centre of the large hillfort, over 400m to the south of the building
complex, are the remains of a Roman barrow cemetery. In the early 18th
century there were 18 mounds surviving to a height of over 0.6m, the majority
aligned in a row running north-south along the natural contour of the hill. In
the 19th century they were levelled by ploughing, but trial excavations in
1991 demonstrated that they survive as below-ground features. Some of the
barrows were partially excavated in 1823 with the discovery of human
cremations and pottery vessels dating from the second century AD.

Further archaeological features lying within the defences of the large
hillfort include the remains of an earthwork enclosure which formerly occupied
the area to the north east of the barrow cemetery. The northern corner of the
enclosure survives as an earthwork while the remainder has been levelled by
19th century ploughing. This feature pre-dates the division of the hilltop
into small fields which had taken place by the early 19th century, and is
considered to be associated with the earlier use of the hill for pasture.
Crossing the southern part of the hill from south west to north east are the
buried remains of a trackway which survived as an earthwork in the early 19th
century and was identified by trial excavation in 1991. It is still evident
as an earthwork at the hillfort's eastern perimeter where it indicates a
former entrance through the defences.

Running south eastwards from the south eastern corner of the large hillfort
are the earthworks of a hollow way. It takes the form of a linear depression
about 5m wide and up to 1m deep which runs for a distance of over 300m along
the spur of the hill. It is followed on the south side by a bank about 3m
wide and 1m high. Together with the southern defences of the hillfort, these
features mark part of the boundary of an Anglo-Saxon estate which is recorded
in documents of the mid-tenth century and earlier. During trial excavation in
1991 the hollow way was found to overlie, and follow the course of, an earlier

On the northern side of the hollow way, about 250m from the large hillfort and
overlooking the natural scarp of the hill, are the remains of a small
quadrangular enclosure. It was described in the early 18th century as a
substantial earthwork with an internal bank and entrances on the east and
west, but by the early 19th century had been nearly completely levelled. It is
now represented by a rectilinear ditch which survives on three sides as a
slight earthwork about 5m wide and up to 1m deep; on the fourth, western side
it has been largely infilled. It encloses an area of approximately 0.25ha
which is now roughly level. Trial excavation of the ditch in 1991 revealed it
to be nearly 3m deep with a pronounced V-shaped section. This enclosure is
characteristic of a group of enclosures of the Late Iron Age (known as Wootton
Hill Style enclosures), which partly functioned as defended look-outs where
the view from the adjacent hillfort was limited.

The greater part of the BBC security compound is totally excluded from the
scheduling. The BBC building 5XX and associated buildings, all fences, gates
and the single surviving transmission mast in the southern part of the site
along with its stays and wires are excluded from the scheduling although the
ground beneath all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between
5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of
concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron
Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC
and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of
permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection
of the power struggle between competing elites.
Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have
ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances
although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may
comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts,
oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally
include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or
circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered,
for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as
raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain
evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include
platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens.
Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial
activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture
occurred on many sites.
Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded
nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh
Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere.
In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in
understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of
national importance.

The large multivallate hillfort on Borough Hill is one of the largest in the
country, and much of the defences survive as substantial earthworks. Trial
excavation of both the defences and the interior has also demonstrated the
survival of significant below-ground remains, including organic material,
while leaving the majority of deposits intact. Structural and artefactual
evidence for the occupation and development of the site is therefore retained,
and the defensive ditches will preserve environmental evidence relating to the
economy of the site's inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived. Our
understanding of the site and its uses are further enhanced by the rare
survival of an outlying defended enclosure of the Wootton Hill Style.

The remains of the large hillfort are associated with a variety of other
archaeological features which illustrate its development over a long period.
The small multivallate hillfort which partly overlies it is a good example of
a rare class of monument which is generally regarded as indicative of
high-status settlement. The remains of the Roman building complex which lie
within it provide evidence for its reuse as a high-status settlement at a
later period, preserved in the form of substantial structural features which
have only partly been excavated. The remains of the Roman barrows to the
south represent one of the largest Roman barrow cemeteries in the country and,
when viewed alongside the remains of the buildings at the northern end of the
site, will provide valuable insights into the relationships between the living
and the dead in this unusual topographical context.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jackson, D A, Borough Hill Daventry: An Archaeological Evaluation for the BBC, (1991)
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in The Roman Barrow Cemetery on Borough Hill, Daventry, , Vol. 12, (1977), 185-190
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in The Roman Barrow Cemetery on Borough Hill, Daventry, , Vol. 12, (1977), 185-190
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in The Roman Barrow Cemetery on Borough Hill, Daventry, , Vol. 12, (1977), 185-190
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in The Roman Barrow Cemetery on Borough Hill, Daventry, , Vol. 12, (1977)
Brown, A E, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in The Roman Barrow Cemetery on Borough Hill, Daventry, , Vol. 12, (1977), 185-190
Brown, A E, Key, TR, Orr, C, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in Some Anglo-Saxon Estates And Their Boundaries In S-W Northants, , Vol. 12, (1977), 155-176
Dix, B, Jackson, D, 'Midlands Prehistory: Some recent and current researches' in Some Late-Iron Age Defended Enclosures in Northamptonshire, , Vol. B.S. 204, (1989), 158-168
Jackson, D, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in An Iron Age Enclosure at Wootton Hill Farm, Northampton, , Vol. 22, (1990), 3-21
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of N, Archaeological Sites in North-West Northamptonshire, (1981)

Source: Historic England

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