Ancient Monuments

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Slight univallate hillfort on Whelpley Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Ashley Green, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.7256 / 51°43'32"N

Longitude: -0.5581 / 0°33'29"W

OS Eastings: 499686.838467

OS Northings: 203965.405604

OS Grid: SP996039

Mapcode National: GBR F5K.PR0

Mapcode Global: VHFS4.8WTK

Entry Name: Slight univallate hillfort on Whelpley Hill

Scheduled Date: 11 April 1946

Last Amended: 25 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015485

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27154

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Ashley Green

Built-Up Area: Whelpley Hill

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Great Chesham

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes the visible and buried remains of a slight univallate
hillfort located on a broad plateau in the Chiltern Hills between the
Bulbourne and Chess Valleys, some 200m to the south west of the crossroads in
the centre of the village of Whelpley Hill.

The hillfort is roughly circular in plan. The interior is level and measures
approximately 120m north west to south east by 100m south west to north east.
This is encircled by a low bank, nowhere greater than 1m in height and varying
between 16m and 24m in width, narrowest around the eastern part of the
circumference. Slight traces of a platform or berm remain visible around the
inner face of the bank. The external ditch from which material for the bank
was quarried has largely been infilled, although it can still be seen as a
slight depression, 8m to 12m in width, encircling the bank.

Both the bank and the ditch were more pronounced in the early 19th century,
during which time the ramparts were lined with beech trees and referred to as
`Banks Wood'. The interior was open pasture, known as `Round Field'. In 1860
the beech trees were removed and the majority of the monument brought under
plough. By 1912 the bank had been reduced in height and the earth used to
infill the ditch, which was then 3ft (0.9m) deep. Episodes of ploughing
continued until the end of World War II reducing the bank to its present size,
and obscuring the inner edge of the ditch. A description of the site made
shortly after the trees were removed mentions five entrances, athough most of
these are now thought to have been later, superficial alterations to the
earthwork related to the use of the pasture. Only one gap in the defences now
remains. This entrance, which is c.9m wide and located in the south eastern
part of the circuit, must have formed the only complete break in the rampart
and is therefore considered to be part of the original construction of the
hillfort. A small excavation was undertaken near the entrance around 1970. The
ditch was found to be over 2m in depth, and a quantity of butchered animal
bone was discovered in the fills.

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.

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 the effect of past cultivation, the slight univallate hillfort at
Whelpley Hill will still retain valuable archaeological evidence, significant
both for the understanding of this monument and for the wider study of the
series of defended sites established across the Chiltern Hills in the Late
Bronze Age and Early Iron Age.

The defences remain visible as earthworks, and can be compared with those of
other sites in the region, which include both similar and more elaborate
designs. Features buried within the interior will provide evidence for the
function of the site and, together with the surrounding ditch, contain
artefacts from which the date and duration of occupation can be determined.
The ditch fills may also retain environmental evidence which, in conjunction
with the buried ground surface beneath the bank, may illustrate the appearance
of the landscape in which the monument was set. By comparing this evidence
with that provided by other sites in the Chilterns, it will be possible to
gain a far greater understanding of the character of these forms of monument,
and of the prehistoric societies which constructed them.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Sheahan, J, History and Topography of Buckinghamshire, (1862), 840
Bryant, S, 'The Archaeology of the Chilterns' in Settlement of the Chilterns from 1200 to 100 BC, (1994), 55
Burgess, B, 'Records of Bucks' in Parochial Notes, , Vol. 1, (1848), 30
Description of Enclosure Award, 0022 (CAS file): Letter to M. Farley, (1980)
Discussion with Bucks SMR Officer, Wise, J, (1995)
Excavation remembered by landowner, Empson, D, (1995)
Farley, M E, 0022 - field visit notes, (1974)
RCHME, Inventory of the Historic Monuments in Buckinghamshire, (1912)

Source: Historic England

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