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Sandy Lodge promontory fort

A Scheduled Monument in Sandy, Central Bedfordshire

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Latitude: 52.1144 / 52°6'51"N

Longitude: -0.2676 / 0°16'3"W

OS Eastings: 518722.672766

OS Northings: 247650.571549

OS Grid: TL187476

Mapcode National: GBR H3Y.K4G

Mapcode Global: VHGN0.93WX

Entry Name: Sandy Lodge promontory fort

Scheduled Date: 30 August 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015006

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27163

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Sandy

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Sandy

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The Iron Age promontory fort is located on the edge of the Greensand ridge
above Sandy, 130m south west of the The Lodge. It occupies the tip of a narrow
spur which extends southwards from the ridge and commands wide views across
the valley of the River Ivel to the west and Biggleswade Common to the south.
The promontory fort was originally roughly oval in plan, although part of the
north western side was destroyed by a sand quarry in the 19th century.
Otherwise, the fort is largely defined by the topography of the spur. The
relatively level area of the interior measures approximately 75m east to west
and 150m north to south, surrounded by steep natural scarps on all but the
northern side. There is no evidence for a bank around the rim of the plateau,
although a timber palisade would have provided sufficient defence in addition
to the gradients. The southern end is marked by a steep slope which descends
some 25m to the foot of the spur, while to the east and west equally severe
slopes lead into dry valleys which divide further spurs along the edge of the
Greensand ridge.
The fort is separated from the high ground to the north by a broad ditch,
around 10m wide and 3m deep, which is cut across the neck of the spur and
linked to the head of the dry valley to the east. Small scale excavations in
1969 demonstrated that the terminal of this valley had been artificially
enlarged during the construction of the ditch, and that material from the
ditch itself was used to form the bank which flanks its southern edge. The
bank measures around 2m in height and 10m in width. A trial trench placed
across the western end in 1969 showed that it is composed almost entirely of
sand, stablised during construction with branches or wattle, and held in place
by a small stack of turves along the inner side and a low wall of sandstone
blocks along the outer edge. The ditch terminates in a rounded end 20m from
the eastern side of the spur, to the west of which lay the original entrance
to the monument. Trial excavation here revealed a causeway of sandstone
bedrock and a single post hole which may have supported part of a gateway. The
old sand quarry to the west has reduced the width of the causeway to about 10m
and removed all evidence for the probable continuation of the bank and ditch.
A small excavation in the centre of the fort in 1968 demonstrated the
preservation, 0.45m below the present surface, of a layer of dark brown sand
containing fragments of Early Iron Age pottery and numerous flint blades and
flakes largely dating from the Mesolithic period. The excavated sections of
the ditch, bank and entrance causeway were devoid of pottery but contained
further flint artefacts, doubtless disturbed from earlier contexts during the
construction process. The date range of the pottery, combined with the
simplicity of the fort's construction, is thought to indicate that the fort
was established very early in the Iron Age. Furthermore, evidence for rapid
silting up in the ditch and a lack of significant erosion over the causeway is
taken to suggest that the fort either remained in use for only a short period,
or was never completed.
The dry valley to the west of the promontory fort separates the monument from
a broadly parallel spur, the southern tip of which is occupied by a second
Iron Age hillfort (the subject of a separate scheduling). These two sites are
only about 150m apart and would be intervisible in the absence of the present
woodland, although the second fort (Galley Hill) is believed to be later in
date. A third hillfort known as Caesar's Camp, also the subject of a separate
scheduling, lies approximately 1.5km to the north west.

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

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally
defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more
earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it
from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by
steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings
defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches
formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected
along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an
entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively
for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone-
walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings
used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally
Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth
century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with
other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status,
probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest
that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display
as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded
examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of
the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all
examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally

The Sandy Lodge promontory fort forms part of a series of defended sites
established on the Greensand ridge (and on the Chiltern escarpment to the
south) during the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. It is, however, one of
only two examples of promontory forts in the region, relying for its defence
primarily on the natural topography. Despite some damage caused by the old
sand quarry the promontory fort remains substantially complete, and trial
excavations have demonstrated the good survival of archaeological features.
This work has indicated both the date of the fort's construction and the
duration of occupation, and demonstrated far earlier use of the spur in the
Mesolithic period. Further information concerning the earlier period of
activity may be found on the old ground surface sealed beneath the Iron Age
bank across the spur.
Comparison with other hillforts in the region, and in particular the two
nearby examples (Galley Hill and Caesar's Camp), will provide important
information concerning their development, the nature of their use and their
relationship to the settlement of the surrounding countryside. These three
hillforts clearly demonstrate the importance of the Greensand ridge in the
later prehistoric period, and although unlikely to be sequential in use,
represent a continued focus of activity prior to the establishment of the
Roman settlement below the ridge at Sandy.
The site is accessible to the public, its elevated position providing the
visitor with a clear impression of the site in relation to its surroundings.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dyer, J, 'Bedfordshire Archaeology' in Excavations at Sandy Lodge, Bedfordshire, , Vol. 6, (1971), 9-15

Source: Historic England

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