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Harting Beacon: a hilltop enclosure, Anglo-Saxon burial mound and telegraph station on Beacon and Pen Hills

A Scheduled Monument in Harting, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.9582 / 50°57'29"N

Longitude: -0.8523 / 0°51'8"W

OS Eastings: 480703.749555

OS Northings: 118269.20752

OS Grid: SU807182

Mapcode National: GBR CCT.TLH

Mapcode Global: FRA 963K.V3R

Entry Name: Harting Beacon: a hilltop enclosure, Anglo-Saxon burial mound and telegraph station on Beacon and Pen Hills

Scheduled Date: 28 September 1954

Last Amended: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015915

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29278

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Harting

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Elsted St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes a prehistoric hilltop enclosure and its associated
outworks and approach road, a hlaew, or Anglo-Saxon burial mound, and a late
18th-early 19th century telegraph station situated on a chalk saddle which
forms part of a ridge of the Sussex Downs. The hilltop enclosure lies on
Beacon Hill and forms the western part of the monument. Dating to the Late
Bronze Age (eighth-sixth centuries BC), the enclosure is a north-south
aligned, roughly rectangular, gently sloping area of c.10ha, bounded by an
earth and chalk rubble bank that would originally have been reinforced with
timber. This survives mainly as a low scarp up to c.6m wide. The bank is
surrounded by a now largely infilled, flat-bottomed ditch up to c.3m wide and
c.3m deep. Modern ploughing has partly levelled the ramparts, particularly on
the southern side of the enclosure.
Investigations of the enclosure between 1948-52 and 1976-77 identified traces
of a large timber gateway situated within the original, causewayed entrance
through the western ramparts. Evidence for the remodelling of the entrance and
ramparts during the Late Bronze Age was also discovered. The entrance is
approached from the north west by an engineered road running across the
hillslope, surviving as a terraced way up to c.25m wide. Traces of occupation
revealed by the excavations within the interior of the enclosure included four
and six-posted wooden structures, interpreted as raised granaries, and
infilled rubbish pits. Found within these were fragments of Late Bronze Age
pottery, spindle whorls, animal bone and iron slag. Regular modern ploughing
has caused some disturbance to the southern part of the enclosure.
Constructed across the eastern slope of Beacon Hill and the western slope of
Pen Hill are a group of complex linear earthworks up to c.127m long,
interpreted as contemporary outworks associated with the enclosure defences.
The most visually impressive of these lie on Pen Hill and survive as three,
closely spaced parallel banks up to c.0.75m high and c.6m wide, flanked to the
east by ditches up to c.0.5m deep and c.2.5m wide.
The later, Anglo-Saxon hlaew, or burial mound, which is situated in the south
eastern corner of the earlier enclosure, has been levelled by modern
ploughing. Records suggest that the hlaew had a circular mound c.10m in
diameter and 0.3m high. An excavation carried out in 1976 showed that this had
been constructed over a grave containing an extended inhumation burial
disturbed by an earlier, antiquarian excavation. The mound was found to have
been encircled by a narrow, now infilled quarry ditch.
Constructed on the summit of Beacon Hill within the northern part of the
earlier enclosure, the telegraph station dates to c.1796 and survives as
rectangular earthworks enclosing a group of sandstone, concrete and rendered
brick footings. These represent, amongst other things, associated military
installations, the remains of the building on which the telegraphing
apparatus, a metal superstructure surmounted by six shutters, was sited.
Telegraphing involved opening or closing the shutters so as to form
prearranged, coded signals visible from neighbouring stations. The station was
one of a series linking the naval base at Portsmouth with the Admiralty Office
in London during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1814). A modern memorial bollard
has been sited on one of the earlier foundation platforms.
The modern fences which cross the monument, the Ordnance Survey triangulation
pillar and the memorial bollard are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath these features 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

Hilltop enclosures are defined as sub-rectangular or elongated areas of
ground, usually between 10ha and 40ha in size, situated on hilltops or
plateaux and surrounded by slight univallate earthworks. They date to between
the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth-fifth centuries BC) and are usually
interpreted as stock enclosures or sites where agricultural produce was
stored. Many examples of hilltop enclosures may have developed into more
strongly defended sites later in the Iron Age period and are therefore often
difficult to recognise in their original form. The earthworks generally
consist of a bank separated from an external ditch by a level berm. Access to
the interior was generally provided by two or three entrances which consisted
of simple gaps in the rampart. Evidence for internal features is largely
dependent on excavation, and to date this has included large areas of sparsely
scattered features including post and stakeholes, hearths and pits.
Rectangular or square buildings are also evident; these are generally defined
by between four and six postholes and are thought to have supported raised
granaries. Hilltop enclosures are rare, with between 25 and 30 examples
recorded nationally. A greater number may exist but these could have been
developed into hillforts later in the Iron Age and could only be confirmed by
detailed survey or excavation. The majority of known examples are located in
two regions, on the chalk downland of Wessex and Sussex and in the Cotswolds.
More scattered examples are found in north-east Oxfordshire and north
Northamptonshire. This class of monument has not been recorded outside
England. In view of the rarity of hilltop enclosures and their importance in
understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all
examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of
national importance.

Despite some disturbance by modern ploughing, the hilltop enclosure on Beacon
and Pen Hills survives comparatively well with little subsequent remodelling,
and, unusually, is closely associated with a group of contemporary outworks.
Part excavation has demonstrated that it retains important archaeological and
environmental information relating to the original use of the monument and the
landscape in which it was constructed. Harting Beacon lies c.1km to the east
of a broadly contemporary multiple cross dyke, and the close association of
these monuments will provide evidence for the relationship between land
division and settlement in this area of downland during the later prehistoric
period. The survival of later structures sited within the earlier hilltop
enclosure, including the nationally rare Anglo-Saxon hlaew and the Napoleonic
telegraph station, helps to illustrate the continuing strategic importance of
the hilltop into the medieval and post-medieval periods.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ede, J, Archaeological Landscape Survey, Harting Estate, (1995)
Barrett, J C, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in The Pottery of the Later Bronze Age in Lowland Britain, , Vol. 46, (1980), 297-319
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Miss Keef's Excavations at Harting Beacon & Nearby Sites 1948-52, , Vol. 121, (1983), 199-202
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations at Harting Beacon, West Sussex, 2nd Season 1977, , Vol. 117, (1979), 21-36
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations Inside Harting Beacon Hillfort, West Sussex, 1976, , Vol. 116, (1978), 225-240
Bedwin, O, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Miss Keef's Excavations at Harting Beacon & Nearby Sites 1948-52, , Vol. 121, (1980), 199-202

Source: Historic England

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