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Defended prehistoric settlement at Shoeburyness, known as the Danish Camp

A Scheduled Monument in Shoeburyness, Southend-on-Sea

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Latitude: 51.5266 / 51°31'35"N

Longitude: 0.7923 / 0°47'32"E

OS Eastings: 593794.904848

OS Northings: 184544.583083

OS Grid: TQ937845

Mapcode National: GBR RR4.94N

Mapcode Global: VHKHN.PW7M

Entry Name: Defended prehistoric settlement at Shoeburyness, known as the Danish Camp

Scheduled Date: 1 November 1966

Last Amended: 30 November 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017206

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29444

County: Southend-on-Sea

Electoral Ward/Division: Shoeburyness

Built-Up Area: Southend-on-Sea

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: South Shoebury St Andrew with St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes the buried and visible remains of the known extent of a
defended prehistoric settlement located on the north shore of the Thames
Estuary, on the eastern side of Shoebury Ness, a broad promontory at the
eastern end of the Southend Flat.

The settlement, which many 19th century antiquarians associated with
historical references to a Danish Camp, lay in a rural setting until 1849 when
Shoebury Ness was adopted as a range finding station by the Board of Ordnance
and later developed into a complex of barracks and weapon ranges. The visible
remains of the Iron Age settlement were probably reduced at this time leaving
only two sections of the perimeter bank, or rampart, standing. This bank is
thought to have originally continued north and east, following a line to East
Gate and Rampart Street, and enclosed a sub-rectangular area of coastal land
measuring some 450m in length. The width of the enclosure cannot be
ascertained as the south eastern arm (if any existed) is presumed lost to
coastal erosion. The surviving section of the north west bank, parallel to
the shore line and flanking Warrior Square Road, now lies some 150m-200m
inland. It measures approximately 80m in length with an average height of 2m
and width of 11m. The second upstanding section, part of the southern arm of
the enclosure, lies some 150m to the south alongside Beach Road. This bank is
similar in width although slightly lower overall, with some evidence of
remodelling associated with two mid-19th century magazine buildings and a
blast mound situated immediately to the south. The bank is flanked by an
external ditch, now largely buried, which was shown by exploratory excavations
in 1876 to be 12m wide and nearly 3m deep. More recent trial excavations
(1999) have found pottery assemblages dating from the Middle and Late Bronze
Age in association with the rampart.

The area enclosed by these surviving banks, was investigated in 1998 as part
of a wider archaeological evaluation of the Shoeburyness Barracks. Trial
trenches were excavated to sample approximately 4% of this area and revealed a
dense pattern of well preserved Iron Age features, including evidence of four
round houses (identifiable from characteristic drainage gullies), two post-
built structures, several boundary ditches and numerous post holes and pits.
Fragments from a range of local and imported pottery vessels date the main
phase of occupation to the Middle Iron Age (around the period 400-200 BC).
Within this period, evidence was found to indicate a variety of domestic
activities, including spinning, weaving, salt manufacture, cereal processing
and butchery. Indications were also found that the interior of the defended
settlement was subdivided, with some areas set apart for storage, particular
dwellings or communal activities.

Slight evidence of earlier prehistoric activity, dating from both the
Mesolithic period and the late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, was found within
the area of the settlement, although such evidence was also found beyond the
ramparts and is probably representative of more general utilisation of the
marshland which formerly covered the promontory. Evidence was also found of
some form of occupation within the ramparts in the Late Iron Age, and of
continued use after the Roman invasion. Material related to the demolition of
a substantial Romanised structure, which had incorporated wattle and daub
walls and a tiled roof, was found amidst later medieval debris in the south
western corner of the settlement. Since no traces of such a structure were
revealed by the other trenches or by geophysical survey, it is thought that
this building may have stood to the east, seaward of Mess Road, where
fragments of Roman pottery and Roman coins were discovered in the 1930s during
the building work on the 19th century Officers' Mess (a Grade II Listed
Building). This area is of interest not only for the location of the Roman
structure but also for the continuation of Iron Age settlement activity
towards the shoreline. It is therefore included in the scheduling. Trial
trenches in the northern part of the settlement (as defined by the putative
line of the ramparts to the north of Chapel Road) found considerable modern
disturbance and no evidence of surviving Iron Age features. This northern
area is therefore not included in the scheduling.

The former interpretation of the monument as a `Danish Camp' is based on
entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. These record the expulsion of Danish
forces from their base at Benfleet in AD 893 and their subsequent regrouping,
under the Viking leader Haesten, at a fort near Shoebury. Although the
prehistoric earthwork might have been adopted for this purpose, the evidence
for this period currently consists of only two fragments of Anglo-Saxon
pottery (found during the 1998 investigation), and cannot be said to support
this theory.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are all
buildings, including the Grade II Listed Commandant's House and the Officer's
Mess, the Mess range, the houses and garages on Chapel Road, the electricity
sub-station at the junction of Mess Road and Chapel Road and the air raid
shelters located to east, south and west of the recreation ground, all modern
laid surfaces of roads, driveways, paths and tennis courts, and all bollards,
railings, fences and boundary walls; the ground beneath all these features is,
however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The defended prehistoric settlement at Shoeburyness, although low-lying,
belongs to the class of prehistoric monuments known as `slight univallate
hillforts'. These are fortified enclosures, ranging in size between 1ha and
10ha and surrounded by a single boundary of substantial, but not especially
imposing earthworks. Locations vary from hilltops in central southern and
south western parts of England to near sea level around the fen margins of
East Anglia, and the interpretations of their functions include stock
enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent
settlements. In general these monuments date between the Late Bronze Age and
the Early Iron Age.

The earthworks normally include a rampart and external ditch, while access to
the interior is usually provided by one or two entrances comprising either
simple gaps or in-turned rampart terminals. Portal gateways have occasionally
been revealed by the excavation, although more elaborate features, like
overlapping ramparts and outworks, are limited to only a few examples.
Internal features include timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and
hearths; scattered post holes, stake holes and gullies, and square or
rectangular buildings supported by four or six posts (represented by post
holes) normally interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate
hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally, with
concentrations in Devon (where they are the major class of hillfort) and in
Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the Chilterns (where they occur alongside
other classes). Although particularly rare in south eastern England, the
slight univallate hillfort, sometimes (but not invariably) located on elevated
ground, is the predominant form of defended settlement. In view of their
rarity and their importance in understanding the development of Bronze Age and
Iron Age communities, all slight univallate hillforts which survive
comparatively well and have the potential for the recovery of further
archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

The defended prehistoric settlement at Shoeburyness has been denuded by the
development of the 19th century military complex, although the southern half
of the enclosure has been shown to survive extremely well and to retain
significant and valuable archaeological information. The original appearance
of the rampart is reflected in the two standing sections, and the associated
length of the perimeter ditch will remain preserved beneath layers of
accumulated and dumped soil. Numerous buried features related to periods of
occupation survive in the interior, and these (together will the earlier fills
of the surrounding ditch) contain artefactual evidence illustrating the date
of the hillfort's construction as well as the duration and character of its
use. In particular, the recent investigations have revealed a range of
artefacts and environmental evidence which illustrate human presence in the
Middle and Late Bronze Age and a variety of domestic activities in the Middle
Iron Age, including an assemblage of pottery vessels which demonstrate
extensive trading links with southern central England. Environmental evidence
has also shown something of the appearance and utilisation of the landscape in
which the monument was set, further indications of which will remain sealed
within deposits in the enclosure and on the original ground surface buried
beneath the surviving sections of bank. Evidence of later use, or reuse, of
the enclosure in the Late Iron Age and Roman periods is of particular interest
for the study of the impact of the Roman invasion and subsequent provincial
government on the native population; the brief reoccupation of the site in the
Anglo-Saxon period, although currently unsupported by archaeological evidence,
also remains a possibility.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Perkins, J, Archaeological Evaluation at the Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Barker, P P, 'Archaeological Evaluation at The Old Ranges, Shoeburyness' in Geophysical Survey at Shoeburyness Barracks, , Vol. Vol 2, (1999)
Letter: Morris to Giffords (on file), Morris, E, Pottery Assessment Report, Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Letter: Morris to Giffords (on file), Morris, E, Pottery Assessment Report, Old Ranges, Shoeburyness, (1999)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments, Essex, (1923)

Source: Historic England

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