Ancient Monuments

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Ambresbury Banks slight univallate hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in Epping Upland, Essex

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Latitude: 51.6831 / 51°40'59"N

Longitude: 0.0785 / 0°4'42"E

OS Eastings: 543789.952054

OS Northings: 200302.076862

OS Grid: TL437003

Mapcode National: GBR NZ.DH9

Mapcode Global: VHHML.9YWM

Entry Name: Ambresbury Banks slight univallate hillfort

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Last Amended: 4 August 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013517

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24879

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Epping Upland

Built-Up Area: Epping

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Upshire St Thomas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort which is located on a ridge
of sand and gravel which runs north east-south west through Epping Forest. The
hillfort lies on the south east side of the crest of the ridge, situated
between 109m and 116m OD. Loughton camp, another slight univallate hillfort
(the subject of a separate scheduling), similar both in size and construction,
lies c.3kms to the SSW.

The earthwork defences surround an enclosed, roughly oval, area of c.5ha. The
interior is mainly level, with the land sloping gently away to the south east.
The head of a small valley is enclosed within the interior, from which a
stream flows south east through a gap in the bank. The defences include an
inner bank which stands up to 2.2m high and 13m wide surrounded by a partially
infilled ditch c.1m deep and between 7m and 10m wide. Beyond this is a
counterscarp bank which in places survives up to 1m high and c.5m wide.

The highest part of the ramparts is in the north corner. The north and east
corners turn quite sharply lending the east part of the site a sub-rectangular
form. A single original entrance is located in the north west although other
more recent gaps in the ramparts now exist to the south west, south and east.
Partial excavation was undertaken in 1881, 1933, 1956, 1958, and in 1968. This
work concentrated on and around the gaps through the ramparts and only a very
small part of the interior has been excavated. An area of c.4 acres was
subject to a resistivity survey in 1958.

Interpretation of the archaeological results suggests that the enclosure was
laid out in a single operation. The construction was as simple as possible,
the bank being unrevetted for most of its length. Only at the north west
entrance was there a stone revetment, of a rectangular passage which was
barred by inner and outer gates.

Pottery from the ditch silts suggests that the hillfort was in use in the
second half of the first millenium BC with later use, or perhaps reuse, in the
early years of the first century AD prior to the Roman Conquest.

Excluded from the scheduling are all signs and notices although the ground
beneath these features is included.

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

The earthwork ramparts and below ground features of Ambresbury Banks slight
univallate hillfort survive well. Partial excavation has confirmed the date
and extent of surviving archaeological deposits and the survival of evidence
relating to the construction and use of the monument. The silts around the
internal spring have been shown to preserve environmental evidence which can
greatly add to our understanding of the landscape in which the monument was
constructed as well as preserving organic artefactual information which will
provide insight into the lifestyle of its inhabitants.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Alexander, J et al, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Ambresbury Banks, An Iron Age Camp In Epping Forest, , Vol. 10, (1978), 189-205

Source: Historic England

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