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Multivallate hillfort at Hunsbury Hill

A Scheduled Monument in West Hunsbury, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.2185 / 52°13'6"N

Longitude: -0.9212 / 0°55'16"W

OS Eastings: 473796.961495

OS Northings: 258358.477198

OS Grid: SP737583

Mapcode National: GBR BWF.V8C

Mapcode Global: VHDS4.ZHCN

Entry Name: Multivallate hillfort at Hunsbury Hill

Scheduled Date: 18 August 1882

Last Amended: 13 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012150

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17132

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: West Hunsbury

Built-Up Area: Northampton

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Northampton St Benedict

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The monument at Hunsbury is situated on the summit of a prominent hill
overlooking the Nene Valley and includes the earthwork and buried remains of a
multivallate Iron Age hillfort.
The defensive earthworks enclose a central area of approximately 1.6ha and
include an inner rampart, a ditch, and intermittent traces of a second rampart
or counterscarp bank. There are also late 19th century references to an outer
ditch and, although much of the surrounding area has been quarried for
ironstone, the southern and eastern parts of this outer ditch, which measures
approximately 12m wide, are thought to survive as buried features and are
included in the scheduling. The inner rampart rises to a height of 3.7m above
the interior and, except for its eastern section, the rear of the rampart has
been modified by ironstone quarrying in the interior of the site.
The inner ditch measures up to 15m wide and, in the north western part of the
site, where sections of the ditch have been partly infilled with later
material, it will survive as a buried feature. It is now approximately 2m
deep, although, in 1952, an excavation across the north eastern defences
indicated that it was originally 8m deep and that the inner rampart was of
timber-laced construction. In 1988, an excavation in the north western part of
the site recovered evidence that the inner rampart replaced an earlier bank
which, at some stage, had been burnt. The outer rampart measures up to 2.5m
high and is best preserved in the northern part of the site. Its southern and
south western sections and the outer ditch have been overlaid by a former
Access into the interior of the hillfort is by means of causeways through the
north western, northern and south eastern defences. The north western entrance
is considered to have been created by the quarry company in order to provide a
tramway access to the interior, whereas the northern or south eastern
entrances may mark the sites of original entrances.
No internal earthworks associated with the hillfort's occupation are visible,
but buried remains will survive in the south eastern part of the interior, an
area not affected by earlier quarrying operations.
Finds recovered from the site, many from circular pits, include pottery,
animal bone, iron currency bars and domestic and industrial artefacts such as
quern stones, sickles, tweezers, rings and bracelets. The large quantity of
finds constitute one of the most important groups of Iron Age material in the

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 multivallate hillfort at Hunsbury Hill is an important example of this
rare class of monument in Northamptonshire. Partial excavation at the site has
indicated that, despite former quarrying operations, the earthwork defences
will retain valuable information for the construction techniques employed
during the Iron Age whilst the undisturbed parts of the interior will retain
structural and artefactual evidence for the occupation of the hillfort and the
economy of its inhabitants.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , The County of Northampton, (1985), 269
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , The County of Northampton, (1985), 34
Jackson, D A, 'Northamptonshire Archaeology' in Archaeology in Northampton, , Vol. 23, (1991), 108

Source: Historic England

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