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Chanctonbury Ring hillfort and Romano-Celtic temples

A Scheduled Monument in Wiston, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8968 / 50°53'48"N

Longitude: -0.3813 / 0°22'52"W

OS Eastings: 513931.890046

OS Northings: 112065.294695

OS Grid: TQ139120

Mapcode National: GBR HLJ.LFS

Mapcode Global: FRA B62Q.Z40

Entry Name: Chanctonbury Ring hillfort and Romano-Celtic temples

Scheduled Date: 29 July 1946

Last Amended: 13 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015114

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27091

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Wiston

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Washington St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort dating to the Early Iron
Age, reused during the later Roman period as a temple precinct and situated
towards the middle of a roughly west-east aligned chalk ridge forming part
of the Sussex Downs. The hillfort and temple, which survive as earthworks and
buried remains, enjoy extensive views towards the Channel coast c.8km to the
south and the Weald to the north.
The roughly circular hillfort defences enclose an area of c.1.5ha and are
formed by a bank c.10m wide and up to c.0.8m high, surrounded by a ditch
around 8m wide and c.0.7m deep. Subsequent quarrying and the siting of four
anti-aircraft gun emplacements on the monument during World War II have caused
some disturbance to the southern and south western ramparts. Investigations
carried out in 1909 showed the bank to be constructed of dumped chalk rubble
and flinty-clay excavated from the surrounding ditch. A simple 6m wide gap in
the ramparts on the eastern side of the monument represents the original
entrance. The analysis of pottery sherds found in the ditch and contemporary
refuse pits uncovered by the 1909 excavations and during further
investigations in 1977, 1989 and 1990, suggests that the hillfort was in use
from the sixth to fourth centuries BC. Further structures associated with this
period will survive in buried form within the interior, although World War II
training activities, including practice trenching, will have caused some
disturbance in these areas. After a period of abandonment between the mid-
fourth century BC and the mid-first century AD, the hillfort ramparts were
revamped and a revetment of regular chalk blocks was built along the inner
side of the bank. The earlier fort was then reused as a temenos, or sacred
precinct, within which at least two Romano-Celtic temples were constructed.
These were discovered during the 1909 excavations, surviving mainly as buried
wall footings of mortared flint rubble. The centrally located main temple
building was west-east aligned and had a rectangular central cella, or inner
chamber, measuring c.9m by c.7m, surrounded to the west, north and east by an
ambulatory, or enclosed covered walkway with a rammed chalk floor c.3m wide.
The external face of the ambulatory wall was found to have been rendered with
red plaster. The entrance to the building was on its eastern side, in line
with the original gateway through the hillfort ramparts. Around 5m to the
north east was a small NNE-SSW aligned rectangular structure measuring c.3m by
c.1m with a door its NNE side, interpreted as an oven or furnace. Around 6m to
the north east was a large circular rubbish pit c.3.5m in diameter. Finds
associated with the temple include fragments of clay roof tile, window glass,
oyster shells, pottery sherds and coins, which suggest that it was in use from
the mid-first to late fourth centuries AD.
The second temple building was c.30m to the south west of the central temple
and was also west-east aligned. Although much of the building material was
removed after the temple had fallen out of use, the 1990 investigations
indicated that it was polygonal in shape, with sides measuring c.8m. The
temple had an attached rectangular annexe on its eastern side, with a
tessellated floor of greensand cubes. Quantities of bone fragments originating
exclusively from the heads and jaws of pigs were found within the temple,
suggesting that it may have been dedicated to a cult of the boar.
The monument is a well known local landscape feature, visible on the skyline
as the site of a stand of beech trees first planted in 1760 by the then owner,
Charles Goring. The trees have been continually replanted by the Goring family
up to the present day. The modern fence situated within the monument is
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it 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.

Romano-Celtic temples were built to meet the spiritual needs of the
communities they served by venerating the god or spirit considered to dwell in
a particular place. The temple building was regarded as the treasure house of
its deity and priests rather than as a congregational building and any
religious activities, including private worship, commumal gatherings,
sanctuary and healing, took place outside.
Romano-Celtic temples included the temple building and a surrounding sacred
precinct or temenos which could be square, circular, rectangular or polygonal
in ground plan. The temple building invariably faced due east and was the
focus of the site, although it did not necessarily occupy the central position
in the temenos. It comprised a cella, or inner temple chamber, and ambulatory
or walkway around the cella and sometimes annexes or antechambers. The
buildings were constructed of a variety of materials, including stone, cob and
timber, and walls were often plastered and painted both internally and
externally. Some temenoi enclosed other buildings, often substantial and built
in materials and styles similar to those of the temple; these are generally
interpreted as priests' houses, shops or guest houses.
Romano-Celtic temples were built and used throughout the Roman period from the
mid first century AD to the late fourth/early fifth century AD, with
individual examples being used for relatively long periods of time. They were
widespread through southern and eastern England, although there are no
examples in the far south west and they are rare nationally with only about
150 sites recorded in England. In view of their rarity and their importance in
contributing to the complete picture of Roman religious practice, including
its continuity from Iron Age practice, all Romano-Celtic temples with
surviving archaeological potential are considered to be of national
Chanctonbury Ring hillfort and Romano-Celtic temples survive well, despite
some disturbance by World War II activities and the action of tree roots, and
part excavation has shown the monument to contain archaeological remains and
environmental evidence relating to the ways in which it was constructed and
used. The monument forms part of a group of prehistoric, Roman and early
medieval earthworks situated on Chanctonbury Hill, including two cross dykes
and a number of round barrows and hlaews or Saxon barrows, which are the
subjects of separate schedulings. The close association of these monuments
will provide important evidence for the changing relationships between
ceremonial and burial practices and land division in this area of downland
over a period of c.1,500 years.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Caring For Our Built Heritage' in Excavations at Chanctonbury Ring Hillfort, (1993), 58-60
'Caring For Our Built Heritage' in Excavations at Chanctonbury Ring Hillfort, (1993)
Bedwin, O, 'Britannia' in Excavations a Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex, 1977, (1980), 173-231
Bedwin, O, 'Britannia' in Excavations a Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex, 1977, (1980), 173-231
Mitchell, G S, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations At Chanctonbury Ring, 1909, , Vol. 53, (1910), 131-137
letter to EH 23.5.91 from WS Cnty Arc, Taylor, M, MKT/Kl.530, (1991)
unpublished report, Rudling, D, Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex. Assess Excavs, Dec 1989, (1989)
unpublished report, Rudling, D, Chanctonbury Ring, Wiston, West Sussex. Assess Excavs, Dec 1989, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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