Ancient Monuments

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Slight univallate hillfort at Seven Ways Plain, Burnham Beeches.

A Scheduled Monument in Burnham, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.553 / 51°33'10"N

Longitude: -0.6352 / 0°38'6"W

OS Eastings: 494722.741038

OS Northings: 184667.306344

OS Grid: SU947846

Mapcode National: GBR F7L.N6L

Mapcode Global: VHFT1.Y72B

Entry Name: Slight univallate hillfort at Seven Ways Plain, Burnham Beeches.

Scheduled Date: 22 March 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013958

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27136

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Burnham

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Farnham Royal

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


Seven Ways Plain is situated in the southern part of Burnham Beeches, between
Victoria Drive and Lord Mayors Drive, deriving its name from the junction of
several tracks in a former woodland clearing. The hillfort stands in the
centre of this area: a broad, level spur with slight gradients descending to
the south and east, a narrow valley or coombe to the west, and higher ground
rising to the north separated by a shallow, natural hollow. A wide ditch
encircles the fort, which is roughly oval in plan measuring approximately 140m
north to south by 100m east to west. The ditch is well-defined around the
western side of the enclosure, averaging 10m in width and 0.7m in depth, and
containing deep deposits of accumulated humus and silts. Piecemeal quarrying
for gravel or brick earth has modified the north eastern part of the defences
and disrupted part of the interior, although the ditch survives well along the
southern half of the eastern side. The ditch becomes wider (12m-15m) and
shallower around the southern side of the hillfort, terminating at a narrow
causeway at the south western corner. This causeway (now crossed by a modern
footpath) has been interpreted as an original entrance. A low bank, or
rampart, c.5m wide and 0.4m high, survives along the inner edge of the ditch
for approximately 40m to the west of the causeway, and for about 10m to the
east. Similar remains of a bank survive along the northern section of the
defences where the ditch is cut into the north facing slope of the shallow
vale. The outer edge of the ditch provides a counterscarp to the slope, and is
surmounted by slight traces of an external bank.

The interior, particularly the south eastern third of the site, contains
numerous undulations, largely resulting from the construction and removal of
War Department huts erected in the 1940s when the whole of the Beeches was
fenced off for use by the army. A deep hollow way runs parallel to the eastern
side of the hillfort, some 10m from the ditch, leading into the quarried area.
Mature beeches growing along its length indicate that this route was abandoned
several centuries ago, presumably when quarrying ceased on the site. The
quarry at the northern end of the hollow way truncates a low boundary bank,
orientated north east to south west, short sections of which are also visible
crossing the eastern ditch and the interior of the fort. This feature,
evidently earlier than the hollow way and later than the enclosure, is
believed to form part of a 16th century woodland boundary leading northward
towards the village of Egypt.

All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath 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.

Despite modification caused by quarrying and wartime use, the greater part of
the Seven Ways Plain hillfort remains substantially intact. Over 75% of the
perimeter defences remain visible, and the ditch contains deep deposits of
silt in which artefacts and other evidence related to the period of occupation
will be preserved. Environmental evidence from the ditch fills and beneath the
banks will illustrate the appearance of the landscape during the lifetime of
the site, perhaps indicating the contemporary use or clearance of the ancient
woodland which is known to have existed in the area since the last Ice Age.
The interior of the monument will retain buried features reflecting the
function of the monument and containing further datable material.
The topographical location of the site, on a broad plateau, enables
comparisons with other monuments in the region which are highly significant
for the study of Late Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement patterns and social
structure. The proximity of a larger, low-lying hillfort at Gerrards Cross
(some 5.5km to the north east) is particularly significant in this respect.
The monument is accessible to the public, and provides the visitor with a
graphic demonstration of the nature of early defended settlements.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Official Guide to Burnham Beeches, (1993)
conversation with Head Keeper, Frater, M, Seven Ways Plain: Tree Ages, (1995)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments in Buckinghamshire, (1912)
Schedule entry: map and text, Countryside Commission, Burham Beeches Site of Special Scientific Interest, (1984)
Survey report held by SMR, Miller, D and Miller, D, The Camp, Seven Ways Plain, Burham, (1975)
Survey report held by SMR, Miller, D and Miller, D, The Camp, Seven Ways Plain, Burham, (1975)

Source: Historic England

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