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Hillfort and 19th century folly on Saxonbury Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Rotherfield, East Sussex

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Latitude: 51.0742 / 51°4'27"N

Longitude: 0.2509 / 0°15'3"E

OS Eastings: 557781.230388

OS Northings: 132952.304175

OS Grid: TQ577329

Mapcode National: GBR MQJ.Q6L

Mapcode Global: FRA C6D8.ZGS

Entry Name: Hillfort and 19th century folly on Saxonbury Hill

Scheduled Date: 23 February 1933

Last Amended: 20 May 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014525

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27027

County: East Sussex

Civil Parish: Rotherfield

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Mark Cross St Mark

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort dating to the Iron Age and
a 19th century folly, Listed at Grade II, situated on a sandstone hill which
forms part of the High Weald of East Sussex. The hillfort defences, which
survive in earthwork form as a bank surrounded by an outer ditch, enclose a
north-south aligned, roughly oval level area of c.1ha. The bank, shown by
part excavation in 1929-30 to be constructed of earth and stones, is c.5m
wide and survives to a height of up to 1.5m. The ditch, which has become
partly infilled over the years, measures c.6m wide and c.1m deep, and is
encircled by a slight counterscarp bank c.3m wide and 0.2m high, indicating
the periodic recutting of the ditch during the active life of the fort. Access
to the interior is provided by a slightly inturned entrance through the south
eastern ramparts c.10m wide. Remains relating to the occupation and economy of
the fort, such as houses, storage pits, granaries, and stock enclosures, will
survive within the interior in buried form. Iron Age pottery sherds discovered
here during the excavation confirm the date of the monument, whilst around 200
pieces of iron slag suggest that iron was also produced by the hillfort's
The part excavation also revealed the buried foundations of an earlier,
prehistoric enclosure underlying the north western sector of the later
hillfort. This has a north west-south east aligned, oval-shaped dry stone wall
c.5m wide enclosing an area of around 0.2ha, with possible entrances to the
north and south. The masonry footings of an earlier building were also
discovered beneath the south western wall of the enclosure.
The 19th century folly is situated at the centre of the hillfort and
is a tall, brick-built circular tower of five stages which taper towards the
top. Built in the gothic style in 1828, the folly, which was also used as an
observation tower, is one of a series of follies built in this part of their
estate by the Abergavenny family. The tower, which has a sandstone plinth and
dressings, is punctuated with roll-moulded bands between stages, and is lit by
internally splayed, arrowslit windows. The tower is topped by a parapet with
false machicolations, and capped by a conical iron roof, which is reported to
have been originally covered in sheet copper. Access is provided by an arched
doorway headed by dated stone shields and a central coronet. A central, newel
staircase spans the full height of the tower, although this has become
derelict over the years. The base of the tower has been repaired in modern

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.

Follies are a feature of large country estates dating mainly to the 18th and
19th centuries, often situated in parkland on high points within a planned
landscape. Designed to be visible from a distance, usually from the country
house, follies were architectural status symbols, the design of which
reflected artistic aspirations and changing fashions. They are an important,
historic component of the built environment, illustrating a considerable level
of investment in ornament and display.
The hillfort on Saxonbury Hill survives well, despite some damage caused by
extensive tree cover, and has been shown by part excavation to contain
archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the period of
its construction and use. The smaller, underlying prehistoric enclosure
provides evidence for an earlier phase in the utilisation of the hilltop, and
its close, stratigraphic relationship with the later hillfort illustrates the
development of larger and ever more defensive forms of enclosure during the
later prehistoric period. Despite its relatively derelict condition, the early
19th century folly represents an accomplished and attractive rendering of the
then fashionable, gothic architectural style.

Source: Historic England

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