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Norbury: a slight univallate hillfort immediately east of Padbury Mill

A Scheduled Monument in Padbury, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.9645 / 51°57'52"N

Longitude: -0.9662 / 0°57'58"W

OS Eastings: 471121.944915

OS Northings: 230061.661606

OS Grid: SP711300

Mapcode National: GBR BZG.VYT

Mapcode Global: VHDT9.6WKD

Entry Name: Norbury: a slight univallate hillfort immediately east of Padbury Mill

Scheduled Date: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017514

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29407

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Padbury

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Padbury

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort located on the south
western outskirts of the village of Padbury, immediately east of Padbury Mill.

The hillfort, which was first identified as a prehistoric enclosure in 1929,
stands on a slight plateau bounded on the north western side by a meander of
the Padbury Brook. The hillfort's perimeter can be traced across the pasture
to the south, where it forms an oval circuit measuring some 200m from north to
south and 250m from east to west. The boundary earthworks are thought to have
been designed to enhance the natural topography and to have included an inner
bank surrounded by an external ditch, except on the north western side where a
single outward scarp faces the brook. The ditch has been largely infilled,
although one section, measuring some 8m to 12m in width and 0.8m deep, remains
visible around the northern part of the boundary. The bank can still be traced
on the eastern side of the perimeter (to the south of the access road to
Padbury Mill), where it measures about 10m in width and 0.4m high. The bank is
known to have stood up to 1m in height around the south western side, although
it was pushed into the ditch in the 1940s when the interior was briefly
cultivated. The boundary on this side is now marked by a pronounced scarp
which descends some 1.8m towards the line of the infilled ditch. The south
eastern quarter of the ramparts, together with a small area of the interior,
was completely destroyed by a 19th century clay quarry and brickworks (now
abandoned), and this area is not included in the scheduling. There is no
visible evidence of habitation within the interior of the hillfort, which is
generally level apart from a slight slope toward the brook.

The name `Norbury' was first recorded on a map of the All Soul's College
Estates dated 1591, and is believed to derive from the old English terms
`noro', meaning north, and `burgh', meaning a stronghold or fortified place.
Evidently, the site remained notable for its defences long after its
abandonment. The map evidence also proves that the site cannot date from the
Civil War, as local tradition holds; although it could conceivably have seen
some reuse during that period.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the metalled
surface of the road leading across the centre of the hillfort towards Padbury
Mill, the remains of the sheep wash alongside the brook, and all fences, fence
posts and gates; although the ground beneath all these features 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 episodes of ploughing and quarry damage to part of the monument,
Norbury slight univallate hillfort survives well. The circuit of defences is
clearly marked and the ditch, in particular, will remain exceptionally well
preserved beneath layers of accumulated and dumped soil. Buried features
related to the period of occupation will survive within the interior, and
these, together with the earlier fills of the surrounding ditch, will contain
artefactual evidence indicating the date of the hillfort's construction and
illustrating the duration and character of its use. Environmental evidence
relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed and the
economy of its inhabitants may survive in the ditch fill and on the old land
surface sealed beneath sections of the bank.

The hillfort's location on a low lying plateau rather than a summit or ridge
is somewhat unusual, although far from unique in the region. Comparisons
between this site and similar examples near Burnham to the south, at Maids
Moreton to the north and near Dunstable to the east will provide valuable
information concerning the function of these low lying sites, especially in
relation to the more strongly defended hillforts which proliferated along the
adjacent Chiltern Hills in the same period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Myres, J N L, 'Report of the 37th Congress' in Congress of Archaeological Societies, (1930), 11
Copy in SMR file, Gowling, W, 0783 Letter to the owners' agent from curator of Bucks Museum, (1964)
Field visit notes and comments, Farley, M, 0783 Padbury Earthwork Enclosure, (1984)
Ordnance Survey antiq model & surveyor's notes, JRL, SP 73 SW 5, (1971)
SMR entry, 5785 Brick and tile works, Padbury, (1980)

Source: Historic England

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